Advisory team meeting
Photo: SF Planning

Design Review for Buildings

Design review for buildings is a team led by staff architects and includes principal and senior planners with expertise in historic preservation, current planning, and transportation. It reviews projects during a Preliminary Project Assessment (PPA), ensures that development projects comply with the Residential Design Guidelines and prior to site permit or entitlement approvals. 

The design review team works daily with planners, project applicants and their teams, and provide expertise in architectural design, neighborhood compatibility, and the development, use, and interpretation of design guidelines.

Design review meetings are not public, but all of team's comments are documented and available to the public. Project applicants will receive feedback from the design review team via the project planner in a Plan Check Letter (PCL). This assigned staff person will track with the project for consistency throughout the design review process and is available (through coordination with the project planner) to meet with an applicant to further resolve any outstanding issues prior to approvals.  

Urban Design

The Urban Design Guidelines establish that new buildings have the responsibility to sensitively respond to their context and existing patterns of development while being of their moment.


The design review team will review projects where the Urban Design Guidelines apply, among others.

Find Your Guideline by Address

To find out what design guideline(s) apply to any specific site, please look up the site in the SF Property Information Map, and:

  • select the “Zoning Information” menu item
  • scroll down to find “Design Guidelines”
  • select “More Details” under “Area Specific Design Guidelines.”

Residential Design

Planning Code Section 311 requires all projects with a residential use, located in an R-District, be reviewed for compliance with the Residential Design Guidelines (RDGs). Applications determined not to be in compliance shall be held until either the application is determined to be in compliance, is disapproved, or a recommendation for cancellation is sent to the Department of Building Inspection. Planners and design review staff review projects for compliance with the guidelines and provide recommendations about design changes necessary to comply with them.

Refer to the guidelines below for more details, or check out the Homeowners section of the Permit Corner for more general information on starting or renovating a project.