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Westgate District Form Based Code Revisions
Joe recommended ways to mesh the draft Edmonds Form-Based Code for Westgate with the SR 104 transportation corridor study being done by Fehr & Peers. The City adopted the new Code in April, incorporating Joe's recommendations for design standards and right of way improvements to enhance pedestrian, bicycle and auto movement and safety, reduce parking requirements, and place-make with building form and street furnishings.

Street Graphics and Form-Based Sign Code
Working on a team with Makers, Inc., Joe helped craft a new sign code for the City of Lacey. Adopted in January of this year, the Code combines principles of form-based code and street graphics to improve visibility for area businesses while respecting site and building context and protecting the quality of the visual environment.

Land Use Code Update Project
Joe was retained by the City of Fife to update, clarify and streamline its development code processes. After extensive review of the Code and conversations with the City staff, Joe identified over fifty issues and explained why they were problematic as written. He presented this information in a matrix format that cited section, rationale for needed change, and recommended strikethrough and underlining edits to code text to make process improvements.

Comprehensive Plan issue scoping process
Joe is assisting the City of Bainbridge Island with "Navigate Bainbridge," the City's Plan Update. An important early phase was identifying which issues and ideas to include in the scope of the Update. Joe helped design, moderated, and tabulated the public input from six "listening sessions" in February and March. After amendment and adoption by the City Council, this scope provided the road map to which issues to focus on for the balance of the project.

Regulatory Tools for Infill Development
In conjunction with the Thurston Regional Planning Agency and the Washington State Department of Commerce, Joe presented a session on "Regulatory Tools for Infill Development." He discussed the importance of vision, context and character in crafting the right tools for success. He provided an overview of traditional codes, design regulations and form-based codes, and tips for parking and storm water management. His remarks will be online soon, but his powerpoint is available HERE

Mercer Island Town Center Vision Update
The evolution of Mercer Island's Town Center into a mid-rise, mixed use district has implemented comprehensive plan policies and codes adopted in the 1990's. The City Council wished to update the Vision to prepare for the coming twenty years, including anticipated impacts of the light rail station due to open in 2023. The City retained Joe to help a city council committee to frame the issues, design and conduct a community conversation about Town Center, and facilitate a policy discussion for the full council at a retreat.

Lacey Woodland District Regulatory Strategy
Working as part of a team with Inova Planning, Joe worked with a citizens advisory committee and city staff to prepare a Subarea Plan for the City of Lacey's Woodland District. He laid the framework for a future hybrid form-based code for the district with a regulatory strategy. The first phase of that strategy is currently underway as Joe is working with Lacey on a city-wide sign code that will incorporate both form-based and street-graphic principles. In September this project received a Governor's Smart Growth Award.

Tsai Comprehensive Plan Amendment
Joe successfully advocated for an amendment to the City of Bellevue comprehensive plan to increase the density permitted on the Tsai property from R20 to R30. This amendment enabled the addition of units to the existing Bellevue Heights Apartments. He demonstrated that the changed circumstances justified a review of the proposal, and persuaded both the Planning Commission and City Council that the amendment is consistent with City policies calling for infill housing, transit-supportive development, and context-sensitive design.

Association of Washington Cities video series
In order to help city elected officials prepare for the mandated update of their comprehensive plans and development regulations, AWC retained Joe to design and produce a series of training videos. The dozen videos provide an overview of state requirements, choices available to cities in the updates, and a series of discussion questions to help them decide the scope, schedule and budget for their local efforts.

Town of La Conner Shoreline Master Program Update
Working as part of a team with the Town's administrator and habitat experts from GeoEngineers, Joe re-drafted the Town's Shoreline Master Program to reflect new environmental information, guidance from the DOE Shoreline Guidelines, and the community's character and land use priorities. The draft SMP articulates a Vision for the Town's shoreline that balances state mandates to protect the shoreline and maximize public access while recognizing the unique circumstances of the Swinomish Channel and La Conner's Historic District.

City of Everett Vision 2040 developers' forum
As part of the update of their comprehensive plans by mid-2015, cities in Snohomish, Pierce and King counties are responding to policy direction in Vision 2040, the adopted regional plan. The regional expectation is Everett will become the metropolitan city for Snohomish County and significantly increase its population beyond currently planned capacity. Joe was retained as part of a consultant team to identify existing and ongoing trends and what strategies for infill and redevelopment the City could pursue to encourage development. He facilitated a forum with representatives of six prominent development firms to identify Everett's existing "brand," assets, and challenges as well as what steps the City could take to attract future investment and population.

Clark County Planning Commissioners Workshop
To help prepare for their periodic plan updates, Joe presented "GMA 101, Comprehensive Planning 101, and Planning Commission Best Practices" to a workshop of commissioners, elected officials, and staff from Clark County and the cities of Vancouver, Ridgefield, Woodland, and Camas. The purpose, structure, and evolution of the Growth Management, Shoreline Management and State Environmental Policy Acts were explained. Joe explained the key differences between comprehensive plans and development regulations, the range of choices available to local governments and measures available to implement plans. Best practices for planning commission operations were illustrated with a "mock planning commission hearing" that engaged workshop participants in an entertaining hands-on learning experience.

Kitsap County Comprehensive Plan GMA Strategy
At the direction of the Court of Appeals and the Growth Management Hearings Board, Kitsap County was required to amend its Comprehensive Plan, including the size and density of its urban growth areas and its capital facilities provisions. In the summer of 2012, the Board of County Commissioners retained Joe for an expert assessment of whether the County’s draft amendments fell within the range of GMA compliant choices. After analyzing the relevant orders, the draft amended plan, the environmental impact statement, and the specific language of the statute, Joe prepared a report which answered specific questions, outlined strategies for achieving compliance, and methods to communicate the county’s good faith effort and reasoning for consideration at the Growth Board’s compliance hearing.

Professional Ethics for Practicing Planners
The controversial nature of land use planning sometimes subjects planning practitioners to a variety of political pressures and ethical dilemmas. Joe was retained by the Snohomish County planning department to present a session on professional planning ethics to enable its senior managers to model and foster ethical conduct. After a brief review of different professional codes of ethics, Joe reviewed the major precepts of the American Planning Association Code of Ethics, and led the group in applying the principles to several hypothetical workplace scenarios.


Shoreline Town Center Subarea Plan & Hybrid Code

Joe drafted the City of Shoreline's Town Center Subarea Plan and led a team of staff and consultants in creating an Hybrid Design & Form Development Code, Planned Action EIS and Ordinance, adopted in 2011. The Plan is profusely illustrated with maps, photos, and diagrams to convey the desired vision of a mixed-use, mid-rise Town Center that is attractive, walkable and economically vibrant. The Plan called for property tax exemption to stimulate residential development and the creation of a farmer’s market, both of which were launched in 2012. The innovative Hybrid Design & Form based code uses illustrated design standards, administrative design review, right-sized parking requirements, and a planned action ordinance to attract private investment by making the permit process timely, fair and predictable. The Town Center Plan and Code received a 2012 Governor’s Smart Communities Award.

City of Shoreline Comprehensive Plan Visioning Process
The City kicked off the update of its city-wide Comprehensive Plan in 2009 with an extensive and innovative public visioning process. Joe designed an outreach program by scripting and producing a “vision video” to frame the key issues for a focused public discussion about a preferred future for Shoreline, and coordinated an intensive round of 18 “community conversations” over a six week period. Working with city staff and planning commissioners, Joe distilled a series of common themes from the extensive public input, which were subsequently reviewed and refined at three public forums, and finally drafted into narrative to be adopted as the preamble to the city-wide comprehensive plan. This Vision provided direction and sideboards to the City’s Comprehensive Plan Update which was completed by the end of 2012.
View the Vision Video here.

City of Kirkland Waterfront Public Access Program
Kirkland’s extensive Lake Washington public access trail is the result of the City’s policy framework and implementing actions, all of which Joe drafted and implemented during his tenure as the City’s planning director. He wrote clear and practical public access requirements into Kirkland’s development code, designed public access easement signs and maps to mark these dedicated public paths across private property, and worked with proponents and designers of projects large and small to seamlessly integrate waterfront public access with private site and building designs. As a result of Joe’s efforts, the public now has access to over 40% of Kirkland’s 5.3 miles of Lake Washington waterfront, half on city parks and half on improved, signed and maintained public access easements.

Kirkland Downtown Plan and Design Guidelines
Joe Tovar’s work in the 1980’s laid the policy and regulatory groundwork for the complete, compact and connected district that Downtown Kirkland has become. The Downtown Plan and design guidelines shaped a place scaled to the pedestrian, with shops, restaurants, public spaces, and walkways arranged along an east-west pedestrian corridor. This east-west pedestrian spine links Marina Park, the Metro transit center, King Count Library, and Kirkland Performing Arts Center, and makes north-south connections to mid-rise office and residential buildings on adjacent hillsides north and south of downtown. Joe pioneered the use of a new Administrative Design Review Process and Downtown Design Guidelines which have shaped the design details of the many projects, both public and private, built over the past twenty years.