Design Review: Guiding Better Development

PAS Report 591

By Mark Hinshaw, FAICP, Marya Morris, FAICP

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When APA first published a PAS Report on design review in 1995, this tool of local land-use regulation was still in its adolescence. Since then, thousands of communities have used design review to enhance local character, strengthen established neighborhoods, shape new districts, and protect and leverage the value of the built environment.

Design Review: Guiding Better Development presents design review as it has evolved into its current state of use. It offers an updated explanation of design review, along with what has been learned from decades of its widespread application.

Authors Mark Hinshaw, FAICP, and Marya Morris, FAICP, define and describe three different models of design review and explore its legal background and history. They break down the design review process into six basic components and detail the important elements of each step; they also demystify the differences between design standards and design guidelines and explain how to develop both. Case studies from 10 U.S. cities showcase a wide range of design review processes at work, and strategies beyond design review suggest ways to further improve the quality of the built environment and public realm.

By blending public and private objectives for community design, appearance, and function, design review helps to ensure that both existing and new development can work together to create vibrant, dynamic, and appealing places to live and work. This PAS report will help planners craft effective design review processes to better direct the quality and character of development in their communities.


Executive Summary (pdf)

About the Authors

Mark Hinshaw, FAICP, FAIA, has been in practice for 44 years, focusing on urban design policies, programs, and projects. He has helped many cities set up design review procedures along with standards and guidelines. He authored the first PAS Report on design review, published in 1995. For five years, he chaired the Design Review Board for Downtown Seattle. As a consultant, he has been involved in presenting proposals to various decision-making bodies. Other aspects of his practice include downtown planning, urban design plans for corridors, waterfronts, and subareas, as well as designs for specific public spaces. An author, he has published two books, Citistate Seattle and True Urbanism. He has written numerous articles for professional publications, including Planning magazine, and chapters of books on urban design. For 12 years he wrote a regular column on urban development for the Seattle Times. Hinshaw is now retired and lives in an ancient hill town in Italy.

Marya Morris, FAICP, is a planning and zoning consultant in the Chicago area. She has prepared zoning, design, and development standards for communities of all sizes. Prior to becoming a consultant she worked for many years at the American Planning Association, where she conducted research for practicing planners and authored dozens of PAS Reports and articles on topics including the public health/built environment connection, smart growth planning and regulation, state planning enabling legislation, and sign regulations. She is a frequent contributing writer and editor for planning publications. She served on the Glencoe (Illinois) Plan Commission from 2009 to 2017. In her spare time Morris performs at live storytelling events and is a two-time Moth StorySlam winner. She has also appeared in two independent films, both of which will be released in 2019.

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
July 1, 2018
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Chapter 1: Introduction
What Is Design Review?
The Purpose of Design Review
The Value of Design Review
Major Types of Design Review
Design Standards Versus Guidelines
The Issue of Cost
About This Report

Chapter 2: Background and Legal Foundations
Historical Precedents and Attempts at Creating Quality
Early Forms of Design Review
Legal Foundations
Relation to Plans and Policies
Design Review Research and Theory

Chapter 3: Structure of the Design Review Process
Elements of a Design Review Ordinance
Triggering Mechanisms
Submittal Requirements
Review of Proposal
Record of Decision
Administrative Appeals

Chapter 4: Design Standards and Design Guidelines
Design Standards
Design Guidelines
Using Both Standards and Guidelines

Chapter 5: Case Examples
Austin, Texas
Portland, Oregon
Bellevue, Washington
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Lenexa, Kansas
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Bozeman, Montana

Chapter 6: Design Review and Beyond
Other Methods of Encouraging Good Design
Future Directions

Appendix: Design Review Code Examples