Multi-Family Residential Objective Design Standard

Design Standards Pic 1

In early 2020 the Town of Windsor initiated a project to develop “residential multi-family objective design standards”, which, when adopted, will be incorporated into the Town’s Zoning Ordinance.  

The purpose of the project is to create objective standards (ones that don’t require personal or subjective judgement) related to building design.  

As a result of recent changes in State law, multi-family residential projects that meet certain requirements (including providing affordable housing units) may not be reviewed or acted on by the Planning Commission or Town Council, and may not require community input.  These projects can proceed straight to building permit. 

The objective design standards would ensure that these projects are designed to fit in with the character of Windsor.

Draft Objective Design Standards

Based on input from the community, stakeholder meetings with local developers, and the Town Council and Planning Commission, draft multi-family residential objective design standards have been prepared and are available for public review and comment.  Please click the link below to view the document and send any comments to Ellen McDowell at by June 24, 2021.

Draft Multi-Family Residential Objective Design Standards

On December 1, 2021, the Town Council will hold a public hearing to consider adoption of a Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment to include Multi- Family Residential Objective Design Standards. Please review the Public Hearing Notice.

Previous Community OutreachDesign Standards Picture 2

A three-part Community Workshop series was held beginning August 24, 2020 through October 15, 2020, and included videos and a Visual Preference Survey.  While the workshop has concluded, you can still view the videos by clicking on the following links:

  1. Multi-Family Residential Objective Design Standards Project Introduction:
  2. Getting the Housing You Want - Terms and Factors that Shape Housing:
  3. Getting the Housing You Want - Design Factors that Matter:

On November 4, 2020 a joint Planning Commission and Town Council meeting was held to provide information on the project, report out on community comments and observations, and receive input from the Commission and Council.

The Draft Multi-Family Residential Objective Design Standards will be reviewed at a joint meeting of the Planning Commission and Town Council at 6 p.m. on June 30, 2021. We invite the community to attend the meeting, which will be held via Zoom. Zoom instructions will be included on the meeting agenda.

On October 26, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to consider making a recommendation to the Town Council regarding amending the Zoning Ordinance to add the draft Multi-Family Residential Objective Design Standards. Notification regarding the Planning Commission meeting, will be sent to existing Town e-mail distribution groups. Please review the Public Hearing Notice.

If you would like to be added to the e-mail distribution list please contact Ellen McDowell, Planner II, at

Project Documents


In 2017, Governor Brown signed a 15-bill housing package aimed at addressing the State’s housing shortage and high housing costs.  Specifically, it included Senate Bill (SB) 2, also known as the Building Homes and Jobs Act, which established a $75 recording fee on real estate documents to increase the supply of affordable homes in California. The purpose of the SB 2 year one planninDesign Standards Picture 3g money was to provide funding and technical assistance to all local governments in California to help cities and counties prepare, adopt and implement plans and process improvements that streamline housing approvals and accelerate housing production, streamline the approval of affordable housing development and facilitate housing affordability.

In January 2018, SB 35 went into effect, which requires local jurisdictions who have not met their Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) requirements to use a streamlined ministerial review process for qualifying multi-family housing developments.  This means that a project would go straight to building permits, with no discretionary review by the Planning Commission or Council, and no required notification to adjacent property owners.  

These projects are required to comply with the Town's objective planning and design standards, provide specified levels of affordable housing, and meet other specific requirements.  Since that time, additional housing legislation has been enacted that also requires the use of ministerial review and objective design standards.

In November 2019, the Town of Windsor was awarded $160,000 in grant funding through SB 2 to create multi-family residential objective design and development standards. 

While the Town of Windsor does have objective development standards, such as required setbacks and building heights, which are part of the Town’s Zoning Ordinance, the Town does not currently have objective “design” standards.  As a result, multi-family projects proposing under SB 35, or other streamlined ministerial processes, would not be held to the same design criteria and policies that other similar projects would through the Town’s discretionary review process (Site Plan and Design Review that is typically reviewed by the Planning Commission and includes notification and involvement of surrounding property owners and the community).  To ensure that these projects are designed to fit in with the character of Windsor, the Town must adopt objective design standards to be incorporated into the Zoning Ordinance.  

The SB 2 grant funding is providing an opportunity for the Town to hire a consultant to assist in the development of objective design standards.  

Along with input from the Windsor community, the Planning Commission and Town Council, and local housing builders, the project will utilize the Town’s existing Zoning Ordinance as a basis to produce objective design standards and guidelines.  

Mintier Harnish, a local consulting firm out of Sacramento that specializes in planning, development, land use and environmental issues, was hired to assist the Town in the development of the multi-family residential objective design standards.