The City of Gardens Revisited

city of gardens diagrams

AR4736/630 Urban Policy 1, Fall 2015

This course will illustrate how certain urban policy goals and regulations can result in very specific architectural outcomes, by investigating Pasadena’s “City of Gardens Ordinance.” Adopted in 1989, this pioneering “form-based” zoning code governs multi-family housing between 16 and 48 units per acre. For more than two decades, City of Gardens has guided the production of dozens of housing projects in Pasadena, and is now enshrined as part of City’s RM District General Development Standards (17.22.060).

The City of Gardens standards are framed around a fundamental idea: multi-family projects shall have a clearly defined rectangular courtyard garden, enclosed by a building for at least 50 percent of its perimeter and defined in size as a percentage of the lot area. Additionally, the garden must be visible from the street. The code thus centers on the design of a common courtyard toward a larger theme of Pasadena as a “City of Gardens.”

This course will investigate the architectural intentions and consequences of the City of Gardens Ordinance. We visit with architects, planners and activists who helped write the City of Gardens code to learn where it comes from, what historic precedents inspired it and what problems it attempted solve. We will visit offices and projects produced by architects and developers familiar with City of Gardens to understand their experience working with this Ordinance. We will meet with City Planners and Design Commissioners to hear how they review City of Gardens projects and what strengths and shortcomings they believe the code has.

Students will prepare a series of case studies and a preliminary design for a City of Gardens project to test this learned experience themselves. Ultimately the course will aim to produce a series of recommendations for revising the City of Gardens Ordinance to ensure its relevancy for another twenty years.

Texts and Reading Material:

Participating Architects, Developers, and Consultants:

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One response to “The City of Gardens Revisited

  1. Pingback: 2016 in Review | Delirious LA·

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