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Do urban design guidelines help or hinder growing cities?

Richmond Jake

You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!
Interesting story about the most highly regulated city in the most highly regulated state. And check the planner speak/jargon.

In San Francisco, where architecture is a spectator sport, you might think there would be a clearly defined set of guidelines spelling out how new buildings can best fit our distinctive surroundings.

You’d be wrong. But next year, that could change.

The city’s Planning Department has embarked on its first-ever set of urban design guidelines, a two-year effort that has produced a 70-page draft. In many ways it is long overdue, making smart points that should be common sense. Yet the inherent subjectivity of such standards could muddy the waters rather than lead to better buildings, which is what we really need.

“We see them as both practical and aspirational,” Jeff Joslin, the Planning Department’s director of current planning, said of the guidelines. “Right now, we have a vast amalgam of documents that speak to design, but none that approach it in a methodical manner.”

Don’t expect “waiver” to appear in the next version of the draft. “Maybe we should talk about ‘an exception for exceptionalism’,” Joslin said. “I’ll see how that flies.”