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New regulations for promoting Good City Form? Insights from the process and product of form-based code adoption

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The main purpose of this dissertation is to assess the effectiveness of form-based codes in contributing to good urban form. Cities are increasingly adopting form-based codes as an alternative to conventional zoning to guide future development, however there is yet not a comprehensive evaluation of its effectiveness in doing so. Moreover, there is little empirical evidence that form-based codes are being adopted for the public good. I use a two-pronged approach to examine the planning process involved in developing form-based codes and the product of this process, the adopted codes, within the theoretical frameworks of the theory of good city form (Lynch, 1984) and the theory of the city as a growth machine (Logan & Molotch, 2007). I use mixed methods to examine multiple case studies for the extent to which form-based codes integrate principles of good city form, and for evidence of the influence of the growth machine in the planning process of form-based codes. Through analysis of planning documents, interviews, and other media sources, the findings reveal that form-based codes do not necessarily promote principles of good city form to a greater extent than conventional zoning regulations and that the growth machine does appear to compromise the potential of form-based codes in contributing to good city form. Thus, form-based codes can effectively address certain issues but are not in themselves a panacea. In the context of zoning reform efforts and policies addressing contemporary urban issues at various government levels, the adoption of form-based codes is essentially an institutional response to the contemporary problems of urban development that does not go far enough in contributing more positively to facilitate good city form. Thus, the adoption of new development regulations such as form-based codes can be seen as a missed opportunity to adopt regulations that mitigate the effects of existing conventional zoning and contribute to an urban form that meets the needs and desires of the community and society at large. This research cautions policymakers and planners contemplating the adoption of form-based codes of the potential ineffectiveness of form-based regulations in achieving certain objectives for their community.

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