Rheem Park Objective Design Standards Project

Figure 1; Rheem Park Area

Rheem Park

The Rheem Park Objective Design Standards project is an element of the Comprehensive Advanced Planning Initiative that the Town has been working on over the past year and a half, which included updating of the Town’s Housing Element.  The intent of the Rheem Park Design Standards is to address recent Senate Bill 330 (SB 330), to provide a certainty of review and to retain local control in an objective manner. SB 330 requires the Town to review new housing development projects for compliance with objective, quantifiable, written development standards, conditions, and policies. These standards must be able to be applied without ambiguity or subjectivity. If an application consistent with the General Plan and zoning meets objective requirements, it cannot be denied or conditioned in a manner that would lessen the intensity of housing.

The draft Rheem Park Design Standards are anticipated to be adopted as a new Chapter 8.210 of the Moraga Planning and Zoning Code. The intent is to have consistency in the overall design and appearance of the entire area as projects redevelop or propose improvements. The standards will apply to the entirety of the Rheem Park Area (Figure 1). Most parcels in the Rheem Park Area, where the Rheem Park Design Standards will apply, will be within either the Rheem Mixed Commercial-Residential (RMCR) or the Rheem Mixed Office-Residential (RMOR) zoning districts.

The Rheem Park area is currently zoned commercial, office and low-density multi-family residential, but the newly adopted zoning with RMOR and RMCR Districts will allow higher density multi-family residential uses, with office uses and a range of commercial uses. The allowance for higher density multi-family residential use creates a need for objective design standards over and above what is required in the base zoning districts. The reason for this is that the state Housing Accountability Act (HAA), which was first adopted in 1982 but has been subsequently amended and strengthened by laws such as SB 330 and SB 167, has enacted certain restrictions on municipalities regarding the processing of housing development applications. Municipalities may not deny housing development applications that are consistent with adopted general plan and zoning standards or condition such applications in a manner that would lessen the intensity of housing. Objective standards are now the primary mechanism to enforce community design goals that were previously implemented through processes like subjective design guidelines. In addition to state law, there is also a benefit to the Town in putting forth a clear and positive design vision for such an important community site as Rheem Park, ensuring that a baseline of good site design and architecture is accomplished in any future project. 

Process of Creating of Rheem Park Design Standards

The proposed Rheem Park Design Standards were drafted by the consultant team and Town staff in late 2022 and early 2023 as part of the Comprehensive Advanced Planning Initiative. The consultant team reviewed and adapted a number of sources when creating the current draft design standards, including:

  • Objective design standards already adopted for the Moraga Center Specific Plan area as Chapter 8.200 of the Moraga Municipal Code and updated MCSP Design Guidelines;
  • Applicable multifamily and mixed-use guidelines and concepts from Moraga’s existing townwide Design Guidelines, adapted to ensure they are objective and applicable to the Rheem Center;
  • Objective design standards and concepts recently adopted by municipalities throughout the region, including Lafayette and Danville were looked at for approaches. Additional standards were referenced for best current practices such as Palo Alto, San Leandro, Walnut Creek, Gilroy, Marin County, and several other municipalities; 
  • Site visits to shopping centers that were recently updated.
  • The best practices toolkit for creating objective design standards developed by the state office of Housing and Community Development and state Office of Planning and Research. 

The consultant team and staff reviewed these sources while seeking to ensure best practices in design of a walkable, mixed-use district. In addition, the Standards have been organized by topic and include a statement of intent for each topic, to enable staff, elected officials, community members, and developers to better understand the goals and content of the standards.

Town staff and the consultant team have initiated a series of one-on-one stakeholder meetings with Rheem Park Area major property owners that have expressed interest redeveloping their properties during the Comprehensive Advanced Planning Initiative process over the past year and a half. Meetings began the week of January 30th and will continue through the end of the week of February 13th. Staff will continue to work with the major property owners throughout the process. Input from stakeholder meetings will inform the final adopted standards and will be summarized and brought before the Planning Commission and Town Council when the ordinance is being recommended for adoption. 

Public Meetings


2//7/2023 Planning Commission Study Session