Neighborhood Character and Design Review

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What's New

For a recent update on this effort discussing an upcoming November 19 Council Study Session, go here.

For a blog post about the July 2018 Council Study Session, go here.


In Redwood City, hundreds of property owners improve their homes every year. Most of these  improvements  are  relatively  minor,  and  include  kitchen  remodels,  new  roofs, window replacements and other interior renovations. In addition, each year, there are also dozens of major additions to single-family homes, as well as complete tear down and rebuilds of homes on existing single-family lots. Generally, during a good economy, the City issues more permits (both small and large), than during down economic years. Given that the region is going into its eighth year of a growing economy, the City has received continued requests for large additions or tear downs and rebuilds, particularly in neighborhoods with high property values. These larger projects usually generate more neighborhood concerns. Concerns generally focus on compatibility issues, such as the size and architectural style of the home compared to neighboring homes. 

In July, City Council held a study session to discuss neighborhood compatibility and the design review processes for major additions and single-family homes. At this study session, City staff provided an overview on the City’s current design review process for single-family home projects. 

The visual below highlights the current approval process for single-family home improvements: 

Planning Flowchart

City staff is researching approaches in other communities, exploring a number of neighborhood character and design review process changes and the City Attorney’s Office is researching the feasibility of other short-term measures to support neighborhood character.

Other City staff work underway, include:  

  • Developing Site Planning and Architectural Factors
  • Creating Residential Design Guidelines 
  • Potentially Changing the Zoning Code

Helpful Documents

July 23 City Council Staff Report

July 23 City Council Presentation

Tips for Success: Single-Family Home Architectural Permit

Example of Revisions Required During Architectural Permit Process

Example: 253 Iris Street