Neighborhood Character and Design Review Next Steps

In July, the City Council held a study session to discuss neighborhood compatibility and the design review processes for major additions and single-family homes. The City Council also discussed the potential of creating a Mt. Carmel Historic District.

This blog post provides an update on City efforts to explore new neighborhood character and design review options and tools based on the initial discussion with the City Council in July.

Neighborhood Character and Design Review

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.

At the July study session, City staff provided an overview on the City’s current design review process for single-family home projects.

The visual below provides a representation of the City’s current single-family home design improvement process.

For more about the City’s current process, review the July 2018 City Council Meeting Staff Report, here.

Next Steps

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 updates on City staff work underway, include:

Developing Site Planning and Architectural Factors

City staff is developing a list of site planning and architectural factors that will be stressed when making a “neighborhood character” Architectural Permit finding. This list will be considered by the City Council later this fall.

Creating Residential Design Guidelines

City staff is also creating a scope of work for a consultant to be hired to create Residential Design Guidelines. City staff is identifying the likely cost and community engagement required for this effort and the City Council will review and consider a consultant contract late this fall. The overall process to develop design guidelines takes about a year, in order to provide multiple check-in opportunities with the City Council and community.

Changing the Zoning Code

City staff is also exploring other potential zoning code changes including limits based on Floor Area Ratio and other tools. Additional updates will be provided as more details become available regarding potential changes to the zoning code.

Potential Mt. Carmel Historic District

The General Plan organizes the City into generalized neighborhood types that embody certain architectural styles, densities, and street treatments. According to Figure BE-3 of the General Plan, the Mt. Carmel neighborhood is generally in the Historic Influence Low Density Neighborhood Typology area.

Although there is no policy that specifically states that the Mt. Carmel District should be studied as a historic neighborhood, the narrative on Page BE-208 states:

“The potential exists for creating additional historic districts within the city, particularly in areas around Downtown and El Camino Real, as well as in early neighborhoods located southwest of El Camino Real.”

City staff will be coordinating with the Mt. Carmel Neighborhood Association to provide additional information about the potential process for considering an historic district designation for Mt. Carmel. City staff have heard from many residents with both interest and concern about such a designation. City staff will be attending the next Mt. Carmel Neighborhood Association meeting.

Following the Neighborhood Association meeting, additional updates will be provided to the City Council and the community about the potential creation of a Mt. Carmel Historic District.

Learn More

For more details about the City’s Neighborhood Character and Design Review process and other resources, go here.