Participatory Mapping for General Planning and Zoning

Zoning is a global land use planning and regulatory mechanism whose purpose is to provide for orderly community growth and development by segregating land uses that are deemed incompatible. Participatory mapping methods are ideally suited to identify land uses that are consistent with zoning regulations from a social acceptability perspective. The figure below shows a workflow process by which a participatory mapping process can support general land use planning and zoning decisions.

Figure 1. A workflow process for using participatory mapping to inform and guide general land use planning and zoning.

In participatory mapping for planning and zoning, one seeks to describe and quantify the relationship between the mapped attributes and existing or future land uses. The terms consistency, conflict, and compatibility describe different types of analyses with mapped data. The term consistency describes the situation where the distribution of mapped attributes (e.g., land use preferences) appear conistent with current or future land uses (e.g., residential preferences are mapped in areas of residential land use). To date, consistency analysis has not been systematically applied to zoning decisions in a comprehensive land use planning process.The term conflict, or more accurately, conflict potential, describes the situation where opposing preferences for land use are mapped in the same geographic location. Conflict potential analysis has been applied to residential and tourism development, urban densification, and a wide range of natural resource land uses such as mining, tourism, forestry, recreation, and nature protection. Compatibility refers to the situation where mapped attributes appear well-suited to the existing or intended land use for the area. The most critical step in compatibility analysis is a determination about the perceived compatibility between a mapped spatial attribute and a given land use.

Consistency, conflict, and compatibility analyses can be conducted independently or in sequence to provide planning decision support. Consistency and conflict potential analyses appear most useful as diagnostic planning tools while compatibility analysis has greater potential to inform zoning decisions. These methods are described in a planning case study for the community of Avila Beach in California. The article describing these methods is published here. For more information about the study, contact Greg Brown.

Figure 2. Compatibility and conflict potential maps for zones in Avila Beach, California. OS=open space. REC=recreation. RR=rural residential. IND=industrial. RMF=residential multi-family. CR=commercial. PF=public facilities.