Planning Division: Design Review Process

Frequently Asked Questions


What kinds of projects are subject to Design Review?

Section 17.20.2 of the Piedmont Municipal Code authorizes the City to perform Design Review on all projects that require a building permit unless they are specifically exempt. Typical projects subject to Design Review include:

Design Review is also required for large satellite dishes, children’s play structures, patios within the street setbacks, and parking pads, even though building permits are not always required for some of these improvements.

Design Review is not required for:

Depending on their location on your property, certain fences, trellises, patios, and walkways also may be exempt. Check with the On Duty Planner before proceeding.

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Who gets to review my plans?

Your plans are kept on file at the Public Works Counter and may be reviewed by any interested member of the public. For Staff Design Review cases, the City sends a letter to the owners of all properties adjacent to yours inviting them to review your plans. This usually includes two side yard neighbors, three houses across the street, and three neighbors to the rear of your house.

For Planning Commission cases, you must notify the owners of all properties adjacent to yours before your application can be accepted (a notification form is provided in the application packet). In addition, the City sends a letter to all property owners within a fixed radius of your house inviting them to review your plans. The radius varies from 100 to 300 feet, depending on what you are building.

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How do I know if staff or the Planning Commission will review my project?

The Planning Commission will review your project if it meets any of the following criteria:

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What happens if I also need a variance?

Planning Division Staff will notify you if you need a Variance. An additional fee will be required and “findings” will need to be made by the Planning Commission before the variance can be granted.

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What design criteria are used to evaluate my project?

Chapter 17 of the City Code specifies three criteria for evaluating projects. These relate to the aesthetics, compatibility, and safety of the project.

In addition, the City adopted Residential Design Review Guidelines in 1988 covering the following types of projects:

The guidelines consider the appropriateness of your project from three different contexts: (a) your lot; (b) your lot plus adjoining parcels (impacts on your neighbors are carefully considered); and (c) your neighborhood. All projects are evaluated in terms of their compliance with the guidelines.

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