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Design Review Guidelines and Code Provisions

This page provides sample design guidelines for different types of development, including multifamily and commercial, downtown areas, single-familiy, historic areas, big-box retail development, and neighborhood-scale guidelines. It is part of the MRSC Design Review topic pages.

General Multifamily and Commercial Design Guidelines

The following are examples of general design review manuals and guidelines for commercial, mixed-use, and multifamily development, including some code provisions and design review processes.


  • Gig Harbor
    • Gig Harbor Municipal Code Ch. 17.99 - Design Manual - Comprehensive guidelines for various uses and transition areas 
    • Gig Harbor Municipal Code Ch. 17.98 - Design Standards and Review - Process for using design manual
  • Kennewick
    • Kennewick Municipal Code Ch. 18.75 - Residential Design Standards
    • Kennewick Municipal Code Ch. 18.78 - Commercial Design Standards
  • Kirkland
  • Olympia
    • Olympia Municipal Code Ch. 18.100 - Design Review - Projects subject to design review and design review process
    • Olympia Municipal Code Ch. 18.110 - Basic Commercial Design Criteria
  • Redmond Zoning Code Article III - Design Standards, Ch. 21.58 through Ch. 21.62 - Citywide Design Standards and Urban Center Design Standards 
  • Tumwater Municipal Code Ch. 18.43 - Design Review Guidelines - For commercial, industrial, residential, and drive-through uses
  • Westport Design Standards and Guidelines (2007) - Small community example

Out of State

  • Portland, OR Design Guidelines - Links to many different design guideline documents

Downtown Development Design Guidelines

Quite a few cities have developed specific design guidelines for their downtowns.

For further information and examples, see MRSC's topic page Downtowns Developed Around Themes.

Single-Family Design Guidelines

Single-family design guidelines generally focus on specific situations, such as development on very small lots, neo-traditional development, garage design, steep slopes or unique lot conditions, or transitional areas adjacent to more intensive uses.

Historic Preservation Design Guidelines

Design review for historic properties is common and includes development within historic districts as well as individual designated structures outside of districts. Design review of changes to historic properties addresses both preservation of key features of designated buildings and the compatibility of adjacent new development with historic buildings. Landmarks and historic district boards typically review changes to historic structures for compatibility with adopted guidelines that address important designated features of a building and/or characteristics of buildings within a historic district. Many historic preservation guidelines for design review are based on The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation. Most preservation boards have adapted The Secretary of the Interior's Standards by developing their own guidelines for changes to historic properties.

Subarea and Neighborhood Design Guidelines

In addition to specific guidelines for downtowns and business districts, quite a few communities have adopted guidelines for particular neighborhoods.

Last Modified: December 05, 2017