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Objective Design – A New Oxymoron?

May 12 @ 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM


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Transitioning from traditional design guidelines to objective design standards can be challenging. On this panel, designers and planners will discuss how to do the improbable: replace design guidelines with standards for housing and even commercial uses. What have been the results so far? What are the lessons learned? And, just like jumbo shrimp we will explore whether objective design is an oxymoron.

Building and site design has long been the last bastion of design expression. Once housing density has been established, the designers were left to create their own project on a site and then convince the agency of the merits of their vision. Some won, some lost, and for some the process was so onerous that now there is a state mandate to create ‘objective’ design standards for housing. This panel will debate on the methods of doing this, and where design flexibility can still be achieved. Certainly, there will be sarcasm, wit, humor, annoyance, and exasperation expressed during the debate, but through it all you will learn a few tips and approaches that will help you with writing objective standards. Plenty of time for questions and discussion – and we may even have some answers for you.

Planners attending this program will learn how to:

-Use HCD’s Objective Design Standards Toolkit

-Identify desired and relevant topics for Design Standards

-Create staff-friendly and usable Objective Design Standards

-Integrate public input into the process


Karen Gulley, PlaceWorks
Contact: kgulley@placeworks.com

Karen is a talented strategist and innovative problem solver with 30 years of planning and urban design experience for public sector and private sector clients. Karen’s practice areas include infill and transit-oriented design projects, corridor and downtown revitalization, and the planning for the next generation of land uses within our built environments. Her work ranges from vision plans to implementation strategies, each developed in a collaborative effort with agency staff, stakeholders, and the public. She is expert at developing tailored solutions in coding and design, project processing, negotiating conditions of approval, responding to political considerations, and handling communication between stakeholders.

As Managing Principal of PlaceWorks’ design practice, Karen collaborates with and oversees a team of multi-talented urban designers, master and site planning designers, landscape architects, economists, and creative media specialists to expand opportunities for creative solutions. Karen is also Vice Chair of ULI’s Women’s Leadership Initiative and is on the National Urban Revitalization Product Council with ULI.

Matthew Gelbman, Ascent Environmental

Matt Gelbman, AICP, is a Senior Urban Planner at Ascent Environmental with over 12 years of experience working with jurisdictions throughout California. Matt has recently led the preparation of a toolkit to provide guidance on objective design guidelines for HCD (forthcoming). In addition, he serves as the regional liaison for the San Diego Region on behalf of HCD, working directly with local jurisdictions to provide technical assistance through the SB 2 and LEAP/REAP grant programs. Matt has experience working on comprehensive plans, specific plans, and other policy planning efforts with the goal of increasing housing capacity and streamlining development approval. In addition, he is an experienced facilitator and communicator, with experience developing and executing community outreach strategies. He received a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from UC Irvine and a Bachelor of Arts from Boston University. He has served as the Professional Development Officer for the San Diego Section APA (2013 – 2017) and Vice Director for Public Information Officer for Orange Section APA (2008 – 2011).

Alan Loomis, AICP, Principal Urban Design at PlaceWorks

Alan is an award-winning urban designer and educator with 25 years of experience. As City Urban Designer at the City of Santa Monica, Alan helped lead Promenade 3.0, a strategic design plan to re-envision the iconic Third Street Promenade. Prior to that, Alan spent 12 years leading the urban design program for the City of Glendale, overseeing design review, historic preservation, citywide planning, mobility studies, and community outreach. In 2015, he was named Deputy Director of the Glendale Community Development Department to lead the newly formed Urban Design & Mobility Division, which combined transportation planning with urban design to implement complete streets.

At PlaceWorks, Alan is responsible for the urban design practice in the LA region and plays a key role in high-profile design projects throughout California. Such projects have included objective design standards, strategic plans, and specific plans for jurisdictions throughout southern California.


May 12
11:30 AM - 1:00 PM


Amy Stonich