Residential Design Guidelines

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Residential Development

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) 

Floor Area Ratio (FAR)

What's New

The City is drafting the Residential Design Guidelines based on feedback received to date. Staff plan to release the draft for community input in late summer 2020, with adoption in late fall 2020.

Provide input by adding ideas of your favorite homes to the City's Pinterest board here. Photos may also be emailed here with a note describing why you like it.

Want to stay informed about single family residential policies, sign up here. Scroll down to learn about the project and more ways to participate in the process.

Upcoming Events

None scheduled at this time. Upcoming events will be virtual in response to COVID-19. 

What are Residential Design Guidelines?

Design guidelines are a set of parameters for overall design, massing, scale, and proportions of single-family homes. They are intended to promote appropriate, high quality site and building design, convey design expectations, and ensure consistent application of those expectations. Specific design elements that may be addressed include building bulk and massing, setbacks, upper story step-backs, façade articulation, roof design, window placement, garage placement, paving, and landscaping. These guidelines would apply to new two-story homes and second-story additions and remodels.

To date, the City has prepared a Residential Design Study - Neighborhood Documentation and Observations, available here. This design study documents the range of home types found in different areas of Redwood City, providing an inventory of existing conditions and identifying design elements that contribute to neighborhood compatibility. By documenting and isolating residential design elements for discussion, the design study lays the foundation for regulating each element through the development of design guidelines.

Why is the City developing Residential Design Guidelines?

In response to concerns regarding neighborhood compatibility, the City is preparing a set of design guidelines to ensure that residential single-family additions, remodels, and new homes fit the neighborhood context. The Design Guidelines will let homeowners and designers know what is expected when it comes to overall design, massing, scale, and proportions of single-family homes.

What is the time frame for developing the Guidelines?

The City began this process in June 2019 with a completion goal of June 2020.

 Timeline graphic

The process will result in:

  • An illustrated set of design guidelines that will provide specific guidance to decision-makers, staff, and applicants in the project design and decision-making process.
  • Updated development standards that are consistent with and supportive the Design Guidelines
  • Updated Architectural Permit findings that are consistent with and supportive of the Design Guidelines

How can I Participate?

Neighborhood Walk-Shops

The City created a "walk-shop" for each neighborhood. Residents are encouraged to download a walk-shop, walk around your neighborhood and record designs, streetscapes, architecture, etc. that you think looks good.

Once complete, the walk-shop can be emailed to staff, dropped off with your Neighborhood Association Chair, or mailed to City Hall. The walk-shops already have the return address printed on them, so simply fold it in half, add a stamp, and place it in the mail!

Interactive Digital Walk-Shop

If you don't have time to walk the neighborhood or prefer a more tech-savvy approach, try our Interactive Digital Walk-Shops! Just click the image below to launch the interactive map and drop pins indicating which homes best exemplify good design.
Design Survey

Pinterest Board

Another way to provide input is by adding your ideas to the City of Redwood City Residential Design Guidelines Pinterest board here. Users must be signed into an account or create a new account. Once logged into Pinterest, post pins of favorite designs seen around Redwood City, or re-pin other ideas to the board. 

Past Meetings and Events

  • February 4, 2020 - Planning Commission hearing (summary of outreach and next steps)     
  • September 25, 2019 - Community Workshop  
  • September 7, 2019 - Farmers Market - Information booth to learn more about the study and provide input
  • August 28, 2019 - Open House and Joint Study Session with the Planning Commission and Architectural Advisory Committee [notice, presentation]
  • August 13-14 - Information Gathering Sessions


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 Findings. Status: Council adopted the Guiding Principles on December 3, 2018

Short-Term (completed): Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Amendments creating additional height and size limitation for second story ADUs with privacy provisions for exterior balconies and windows. Status: Council adopted ADU amendments on August 26, 2019 which went into effect September 25, 2019. See handout here.

Short-Term (completed): Floor Area Ratio (FAR) Ordinance requiring Planning Commission review and action if a home size exceeds an established size threshold. Status: Council adopted an FAR Urgency Ordinance effective as of August 26, 2019. See handout here.

Long-Term (in-progress): 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 began summer of 2019 with the goal of adopted guidelines by summer of 2020.


Frequently Asked Questions


Residential Design Guideline Materials  

Helpful Documents