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Software Helps City Planners Visualize Parcel Potential

Software from Gridics is giving city planners access to 3D environments to help residents develop homes, analyze proposed zoning changes and development plans, and understand the potential effects of climate change.

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To tackle socioeconomic issues such as housing inequalities, maximizing underutilized land and planning development, several city planners have partnered with the software company Gridics to better understand and address these issues.

The software works by utilizing real-time interactive 3D maps to visualize parcels’ in-depth zoning and development capacity data within different cities. It also analyzes basic metrics, including specific zones and density, to complex analysis such as mixed-use buildable capacity inclusive of parking requirements.

Gridics technology allows us to geospatially analyze and apply the appropriate development and usage allowance rules as defined in the zoning ordinance at the parcel level,” said Gridics CEO Jason Doyle. “City planners, private citizens, developers and real estate professionals can get a detailed picture of what can be built and what type of business can be operated on any property in the city.”

A few cities using this tech include several Florida municipalities; Cupertino and Placer County, Calif.; and Utah's Greater Salt Lake Municipal Services District.

In Miami Beach and Bal Harbour, Fla., city planners have adopted the solution's 3D zoning map to understand zoning code changes related to sea-level rise and the broader impact of climate change on future developments.

“The technology provides transparency to the public, as the community and elected officials consider the benefits and impacts of proposed projects,” Carmen Sanchez, the deputy planning director of Miami Beach, said in a release. “Additionally, having zoning text and zoning maps integrated allows the city to update its zoning ordinance quickly and efficiently.”

Both cities also have access to Gridics online property lookup tools to deliver parcel-specific zoning data to answer citizens’ zoning questions and 3D scenario analyses to view current zoning allowances, proposed zoning changes, permit applications and development plans for compliance.

In Cupertino, residents can visit City Hall to discuss the redevelopment of their homes and utilize Gridics software to view their properties’ building potential through a 3D environment. To do this, the software looks at the zoning codes for every property in Cupertino and creates a 3D model of buildings using permitted property size, heights and setbacks.

“While this tool isn’t capable of designing a home for our residents, it does allow our residents to walk away with a better visualization of what they can do with their property based on our city’s zoning code,” said Cupertino Mayor Steven Scharf in the release.

Another use of the software in Cupertino includes city planning staff being able to change the property’s building mass based on heights, setbacks and inquiries from the property owner. Once the property has been evaluated, the city planner can provide a report that summarizes the development of the home while giving applicable code sections, visuals and other important information to residents to give to their architect.

In Placer County, the Community Development Resource Agency adopted the company's integrated zoning management platform to streamline planning, zoning and land development. Other applications include showing citizens what can be built in real time based on existing zoning ordinances and development standards.

For the Greater Salt Lake Municipal Services District, the zoning and planning platform offers digitized data and a 3D view of how regulations apply to every parcel in their managed district. This includes five townships, the town of Brighton and the unincorporated area of Salt Lake County.

All in all, the goal, Doyle said, is building better cities for the future by leveraging data to understand how zoning plays a role in the development patterns of different cities to help solve complex challenges.
Katya Maruri is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University.
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