City Vision
Green Building designs and principles of Smart Growth are tools to make our community more sustainable by reducing resource consumption and increasing green space. The built environment can be an asset to the community, offering healthy spaces and places that connect with nature. Mayor and Council endorsed the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement in September 2006 (click here to view the Resolution). The goals related to green building and smart growth in the MCPA are guiding the City’s efforts to improve internal operations and City planning. 

Smart Growth and Green Building-related elements of the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement:

• Reduce sprawl, preserve open space, and create compact, walkable urban communities.

• Promote transportation alternatives to single-occupant car use.

• Improve municipal energy efficiency.

• Purchase only Energy Star equipment and appliances for City use.

• Practice and promote sustainable building practices, such as through the LEED program.

• Maintain urban green space and promote tree planting to increase shading and to absorb CO2

    Green building designs often focus on energy efficiency, an area in which the City has been a leader for decades. In the 1990’s, the City developed and adopted the Sustainable Energy Standard (SES) for all new City buildings. In 2006, Mayor and Council adopted a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver or higher rating for all new buildings and any renovations greater than 5,000 sq. ft. To view the policy, click here. The new Conservation Learning Center at Reid Park Zoo achieved the highest LEED standards and has a Platinum rating. These are just some of the steps the City is taking to conserve energy and maximize project design so development meets the needs of the community.

    This page is dedicated to providing information about the City of Tucson’s departments, codes, plans, programs, and resources related to Smart Growth and Green Building. Please also visit the Transportation Alternatives and theEnergy and Climate Change pages of this section for more related information.

    City Departments

    Planning and Development Services Department 
    This Department is responsible for current and long-range land use planning functions for the City of Tucson and provides assistance to the community for the building and development process, including permits, zoning, and inspections, and monitors compliance with the land use code, development standards, and building codes.

    Housing and Community Development Department
    The Department of Housing and Community Development is the City of Tucson Department responsible for administering housing, community development and social services programs.

    Advisory Committees

    • Community Design Review Committee (CDRC)

    The CDRC is composed of City departments, public and private regulatory agencies and utility companies. CDRC reviews all subdivisions and development plans except site plans.

    • Zoning Examiner
    Site Reviews
    Rezoning and Special Exceptions


    • Planning Commission
    Advise Mayor and Council and the Department of Urban Planning & Design on the adoption of long-range plans, policies, specific plans, and regulations that affect land use and development.

    Planning Commission Infill Subcommittee

    City Plans, Codes, and Programs

    Residential Gray Water Ordinance

    Requires the installation of gray water “stub-outs” in all new residential construction beginning on June 1, 2010.

    Commercial Rainwater Harvesting Ordinance

    Requires all new commercial development to prepare a landscape water budget and supply 50% of the landscape water needs with harvested rainwater beginning on June 1, 2010.

    Earthen Wall Structures Residential Building Code

    The City amended the 2006 International Residential Building Code to include Section R614: Earthen Wall Structures. This section of the Code begins on page 3 of the amendments. A full copy of the International Residential Code is available in the City Clerk’s Office.

    Houghton Area Master Plan
    The HAMP is an area plan for 10,800 acres of mostly undeveloped land on the southeast side of the city. The HAMP policies call for master planning of the land and include provisions for the preservation of washes based on the identification of ecological envelopes. This protects not only the riparian vegetation in the channel but also associated overbank vegetation.

    Master Planned Communities
    These planned communities generally contain a full range of residential and nonresidential land uses, open space, and public services and facilities. Recent master planned communities associated with neo-traditional design or new urbanism stress open space preservation, integration of land uses to reduce auto trips, a walkable pedestrian network that leads to an “urban village center,” and other design and architectural details that foster social interaction. Civano is an example of a master planned community in Tucson.

    Flexible Lot Development (FLD) option
    The purpose of the Flexible Lot Development (FLD) option is to provide greater flexibility and creativity in the design of clustered residential development by:

    A. Providing incentives to achieve community goals, such as historic and archaeological preservation, preservation of natural vegetation, barrier-free housing, development within low-income areas, and in-fill housing projects. B.Implementing the goals and objectives of the General Plan. C. Consolidating open space and providing for visual, and where achievable, physical connections to open space areas on adjacent properties. D. Efficiently using land and public facilities by means of a more economical arrangement of buildings, circulation systems, land uses, and utilities. E. Preserving to the greatest extent possible existing environmentally sensitive areas and landscape features and amenities, such as significant topography, protected peaks and ridges, natural vegetation, washes, riparian areas and floodplains, and integrating such features with structures and other improvements. F. Permitting flexible residential lot development in exchange for the preservation of natural open space and active and passive recreational amenities on the site. G. Providing usable and suitably located recreation facilities and other public and common facilities. H. Coordinating architectural styles, building forms, and building relationships within the development and with surrounding land development, and I. Encouraging high-quality development within the city.

    For more information, please contact the City’s Planning and Development Services Department.

    Downtown Area Infill Incentive District

    Mayor and Council created this Incentive District on October 24, 2006 to encourage development in the downtown area. Developments that occur within the district boundaries may be eligible for fee waivers and expedited permit processing as well as other incentives.

    Rio Nuevo Overlay District Design Standards
    Development Standard Number 9-10.0 establishes design standards for development in the Rio Nuevo and Downtown Zone.

    Infill Fee Waiver Program
    Mayor and Council initiated the Infill Fee Waiver Program in 1997. They identified an area encompassing approximately 22% of the city, where a reinvestment strategy could be used to spur building and rehabilitation. The program waives fees for plan check and building permits for single family homes.

    Urban Design Program
    The goal of this project is to update and revise the existing Design Guidelines Manual into a clearer and more usable document, which will be adopted by the Mayor and Council as official policy. This program also includes Community-Based Design Programs, which encourage a broad base of community participation and awareness of urban design through partnerships with public, private, and non-profit groups.

    Brownfields Program
    The City of Tucson, Environmental Services manages a citywide Brownfields Program, which enables successful redevelopment of adversely impacted properties. The Brownfields Program encourages infill through the redevelopment of brownfield sites. Brownfields redevelopment spurs economic benefits, revitalizes surrounding areas, and reduces development pressure on undisturbed desert areas.

    Vacant and Neglected Structures Program
    The Vacant and Neglected Structures (VANS) program involves the survey of properties with residential structures, an assessment of the structure’s state of neglect, and contact property owners to advise them of their responsibility to restore or remove the neglected structures. Expansion of this program to commercial properties is planned.

    Citywide Housing Sustainability Program
    The purpose of this project is to provide financial and technical assistance to low income homeowners faced with an urgent housing repair situation. Eligibility will be limited to cases involving owner-occupied homes within the City of Tucson, families of limited income and assets, and homes with a hazardous and/or unsanitary condition threatening the life and/or health of their present occupants.

    Back to Basics
    This program is funded through State and Federal funds which are used for neighborhood improvements that residents plan and request.

    Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program
    HUD’s funding of the City of Tucson Community Services Department’s application for the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program, will target and serve low to very-low income families with children under six years of age— residing or frequenting owner occupied or rental housing built prior to 1978.

    Other Government Programs

    Pima County Green Building Program

    Pima County Sustainable Action Plan for County Operations

    Pima County Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan

    The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, mindful of the factual correlation between growth and the consumption of natural resources, gives high priority to preserving and protecting our most important natural resources. Growth should be directed to areas with the least natural, historic, and cultural resource values.

    Arizona Growing Smarter
    In 2004, Governor Janet Napolitano requested the Growing Smarter Oversight Council initiate a statewide conversation toward a vision for Arizona, and to develop a set of Guiding Principles to help Arizona not just grow, but reach for the next level in developing quality growth.

    EPA WaterSense
    Saving water also saves energy because it takes energy to deliver water. Look for the WaterSense label to choose quality, water-efficient products.

    EPA Energy Star
    Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.


    U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement

    EPA Smart Growth
    EPA helps communities grow in ways that expand economic opportunity, protect public health and the environment, and create and enhance the places that people love. This site has information related to smart growth including: research, tools, partnerships, case studies, grants, and technical assistance.

    EPA Urban Heat Island Effect Information

    For millions of Americans living in and around cities, heat islands are of growing concern. This phenomenon describes urban and suburban temperatures that are 2 to 10°F (1 to 6°C) hotter than nearby rural areas. Fortunately, there are common-sense measures that communities can take to reduce the negative effects of heat islands.

    U.S. Green Building Council

    The U.S. Green Building Council is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community of leaders working to make green buildings available to everyone within a generation. The USGBC manages the LEED Green Building Rating System.