The world’s urban population is projected to grow rapidly in the next few decades. Today, approximately 3.9 billion people reside in urban areas. That number is projected to increase 66% by 2050, reaching approximately 6.4 billion people. To meet the housing needs of our soaring urban population, we essentially need to construct a city of one million people every five days for the next 35 years.
At Flux, we are building tools that combine data, analysis and visualization to help people more quickly develop smart, livable cities. We recently released Flux Metro, which makes it easy to understand what you can build on a piece of property by providing instant, three-dimensional visualizations of the development restrictions imposed by local zoning codes.
Local zoning codes restrict how a particular piece of property can be used. For instance, they restrict the height of a building that can be constructed on a property, how far the building must be set back from the property line, and whether the building may be used for residential, industrial, or commercial purposes.
Yet while zoning ordinances and regulations are intended to guide future land development and promote the general welfare, they are notoriously complex. Zoning codes are often amended by adding additional layers of regulation onto the already complex code, making it difficult, if not impossible, for even city planners to understand and consistently interpret. Zoning maps are two-dimensional and fail to provide a clear picture of the code’s impact on development. In short, the complexity and opacity of zoning hinders development, making building construction more costly and time-consuming.
That’s where Metro comes in. Metro provides a way for planners, developers, and residents to quickly understand and visualize the restrictions that zoning regulations place on property. Starting in downtown Austin, we aggregated data to provide users a three-dimensional visualization of the maximum buildout permitted under Austin’s Land Development Code (“LDC”), alongside a rendering of the existing landscape. Metro can automatically analyze the multitude of regulations imposed by the LDC’s base and overlay zones, watersheds, Heritage Tree Ordinance, and the like, instantly providing users key metrics like maximum building height and minimum setbacks. In short, Metro makes it quick and easy to determine if a property’s development potential suits one’s needs, warranting further due diligence.
Caption: Flux Metro Austin Preview renders the maximum buildable envelope for a parcel that is impacted by the Capitol Dominance Combining District, Capitol View Corridor Combining District, and the Heritage Tree Ordinance.
Metro also facilitates due diligence. Metro highlights the areas of the code that require further review, and lets users view the particular sections of the LDC that are relevant to property they are researching. Metro also links to authoritative sources, including deeds, entitlement history, and permitting history.
Lastly, as Metro is a web-based application and works on tablets, anyone with internet access can use it to gain a visual understanding of zoning codes and their city’s development potential.
Currently, we are developing new features to help cities make development easier for residents and developers to understand. We are actively working to expand Metro’s geographic reach and eager to partner with cities that want better tools for planners, developers, and residents.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to present at CodeX. I appreciated everyone’s thoughts. Do reach out to me with any questions, further insights, launch city suggestions, or ideas for partnership opportunities.
Kate Didech is an urban planning consultant who worked with the Flux team on the Metro launch in Austin. Kate is passionate about walkability and urban design. She has worked for Judge Sidney R. Thomas, Howard Rice, Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office, and San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org