Residential Design Guidelines

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Residential Development

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) 

Floor Area Ratio (FAR)


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 dozens of major additions to single-family homes, as well as complete tear downs 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, throughout the City. These larger projects usually generate more neighborhood concerns than smaller projects. These concerns generally focus on compatibility issues, such as the size and architectural style of the home compared to neighboring homes. 

Based on recent community input, Planning Commission concerns, and the City Council comments at July and November 2018 Study Sessions, staff is working on policies related to neighborhood compatibility and the design review process for second-story additions and two-story single-family homes. The three-phase strategy is outlined below:

Immediate (completed): Guiding Principles on the Neighborhood Character Finding. Status: Council adopted the Guiding Principles on December 3, 2018

Short-Term: Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Amendments creating additional height limitation for ADUs with privacy provisions for exterior balconies and windows. Status: Staff is presenting Planning Commission recommendations for City Council consideration on July 22.

Short-Term: Floor Area Ratio (FAR) Threshold Interim Ordinance requiring Planning Commission review and action if a home size exceeds an established size threshold. Status: Staff is presenting Planning Commission recommendations for Council consideration on August 26.

Long-Term: Residential Design Guidelines and Additional Zoning Regulations for second-story additions and new two-story single-family homes. Status: The City has hired a consultant to assist staff in the community outreach and preparation of residential design guidelines and has initiated the yearlong study. Community outreach will begin this summer (2019).

City Council Phased Approach to Preserve Affordability and Architecture Character of Redwood City Neighborhoods


Frequently Asked Questions


Helpful Documents

Planning Commission Recommendations to ADU Changes, Home Size Limits and Residential Design Guidelines Next Steps blog, go here. NEW!

For Neighborhood Character and Design Review blog, go here.

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

July 23 City Council Staff Report

July 23 City Council Presentation

Tips for Success: Single-Family Home Architectural Permit