Multi-Family Residential Objective Design Standard

Design Standards Pic 1In 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.  

The objective design standards would be required of any multi-family residential project proposed within the Town.  

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 review 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.

Community OutreachDesign Standards Picture 2

The Town of Windsor is excited to announce the first in a three-part Community Workshop series, and we invite you to join in the process! 

The Town will be posting links to two videos:

  1. Getting the Housing You Want: Terms and Factors that Shape Housing; and
  2. Getting the Housing You Want: Design Factors that Matter

The first video and a short survey can be found at the following link:

The second video and a short survey can be found at the following link:

In addition to the videos, a “Visual Preference Survey” is now available, which gives the community an opportunity to provide input regarding architectural styles and design elements:

The videos and Visual Preference Survey will remain on the website and available to view and respond to through mid-October.

In late fall, a joint Planning Commission and Town Council meeting will be scheduled to provide information on the project, report out on community comments and observations, and receive input from the Commission and Council.

Notification regarding the posting of the videos and survey, as well as the joint Commission and Council meeting, will be sent to existing Town e-mail distribution groups and through the Town’s various social media outlets (such as Facebook and Nextdoor).  

If you would like to be added to the e-mail distribution list please contact Jessica Jones, Community Development Director, 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.