Palo Alto Context-Based Design Code | Palo Alto, CA

Mixed-use and Pedestrian and Transit Oriented Overlay Zones


For Palo Alto’s Zoning Ordinance Update, VMWP developed context-based design codes for the California Avenue Pedestrian and Transit-Oriented Overlay Zone and the Palo Alto Mixed-Use Overlay Zone. The Context-Based Design Code incorporates innovative zoning techniques and a “form-based”, design-oriented approach through the development of building and site planning design prototypes. The Context-Based Design Guidelines for the PTOD Overlay District for California Avenue and the Mixed-Use Zoning Regulations provide developers and the city with key guidelines to ensure development meets the needs of Palo Alto.


Create overlay zones that allow for increased density and mixed-use buildings that respond to and enhance existing neighborhood contexts.


Update Palo Alto’s zoning ordinance through overlay zones that allow for mixed-use buildings and increased density in an appropriate and responsible way that enhances neighborhood character and walkability.


  • Innovative context-based design guidelines to mitigate increased density
  • Pedestrian focused design guidelines
  • Multi-acre design guidelines


  • Emphasizes the importance of creating walkable, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods
  • Encourages green building design principles
  • Encourages increasing density along transit corridors and in mixed-use neighborhoods


Van Meter Williams Pollack LLP