Design Review

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Design Review

The Pasadena Municipal Code requires design review of new construction and alterations throughout the City. To determine if a project will require design review, please review the thresholds listed in the zoning code. The map above illustrates the areas of the city where design review may be required. In addition to the specific thresholds for these areas, all multi-family development projects consisting of 3 or more total units and any new building over 5,000 square feet in size citywide require design review. Depending on the size of the project, design review may be conducted by city staff or at a public hearing before the Design Commission, a group of nine citizens appointed by the Mayor & City Council.

The goals and policies in the Land Use Element of the General Plan support high quality building design in Pasadena. Detailed design guidelines have been adopted for various areas of the city to assist architects, developers, city staff, the Design Commission and the public understand how to achieve high quality building designs. Visit our design guidelines page to view and download the guidelines that apply to each area of the city.

There are three phases of Design Review:

  1. Preliminary Consultation

Applications for design review that involve new construction or major alterations to existing buildings are required to go through a preliminary consultation process to obtain comments on the proposed design concept prior to preparing detailed drawings for the formal decision-making phases of Design Review.

  1. Concept Design Review

Concept Design Review is the primary step in the Design Review process. Applications for Concept Design Review normally address the basic design of a project, including compatibility with surroundings, massing, proportion, siting, void-to-void relationships, and compliance with applicable design guidelines.  A project must first go through Preliminary Consultation before applying for Concept Design Review.

  1. Final Design Review

Final Design Review is the final phase of the Design Review process. It normally focuses on construction details, finishes, materials, landscaping, and on consistency of the project with the design approved during Concept Design Review (as well as compliance with the conditions of the approved Concept Design Review).

Design Guidelines

Design guidelines for Neighborhood Commercial and Multi-family Residential Districts were adopted by the City Council on October 19, 2009. These new guidelines also apply to all specific plan areas except the Central District Specific Plan area. In the seven areas with specific plans, there are design guidelines within the specific plan documents which apply to each of these areas. The goals and policies of the Land-use Element of the General Plan also apply to all applications for design review. These goals and policies, which include general statements of urban-design objectives, are supplemented by the more detailed guidelines described above.

Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties
These guidelines apply to projects that affect designated or eligible historic buildings and may also apply to adjacent sites.

All design guidelines are part of an area’s specific plan. Please note: The design guidelines for the North Lake, East Pasadena and West Gateway Specific Plan areas are not currently available electronically, but hard copies may be obtained from the Permit Center.

Central District – These design guidelines apply to projects in the Central District Specific Plan area.

East Colorado Boulevard – These design guidelines apply to projects in the East Colorado Specific Plan area. The Design Guidelines for Neighborhood Commercial & Multi-family Residential Districts also apply in this area.

Citywide Design Principles – General design principles from the land use element of the General Plan.  These principles apply to all design review projects citywide.

Design Guidelines For Historic Districts in Pasadena – Design Guidelines for Historic Districts in the City of Pasadena, California, April 2002 with the Secretary of the Interiors Standards for Historic Preservation

East Pasadena – These design guidelines apply to projects in the East Pasadena Specific Plan area.  The Design Guidelines for Neighborhood Commercial & Multi-family Residential Districts also apply in this area.

Fair Oaks/Orange Grove – These design guidelines apply to projects in the Fair Oaks/Orange Grove Specific Plan area.  The Design Guidelines for Neighborhood Commercial & Multi-family Residential Districts also apply in this area.

Neighborhood Commercial and Multi-family Residential Districts – These design guidelines apply to projects in Neighborhood Commercial and Multi-family Residential Zoning Districts and are supplemental to design guidelines in each specific plan area except the Central District.

North Lake – These design guidelines apply to projects in the North Lake Specific Plan area.  The Design Guidelines for Neighborhood Commercial & Multi-family Residential Districts also apply in this area.

Sign Design Guidelines – Where design review is required for new signs (refer to the design review thresholds in the Zoning Code), the Sign Design Guidelines apply.

South Fair Oaks – These design guidelines apply to projects in the South Fair Oaks Specific Plan area.  The Design Guidelines for Neighborhood Commercial & Multi-family Residential Districts also apply in this area.

View all Specific Plans

Additional Requirements

Design Review Additional Requirements

The Citywide Design Principles support high quality building design in Pasadena. Detailed design guidelines have been adopted for various areas of the city to assist architects, developers, city staff, the Design Commission and the public understand how to achieve high quality building designs. Visit our design guidelines page to view and download the guidelines that apply to each area of the city.

Find Design Review Applications and Forms

Submittal requirements for design review may be found below.

Requirement Instructions
Public Notification Packet Use this packet as a guide to preparing mailing labels, radius maps and notice posters for projects that require a public hearing before the Design Commission (use the link above to view the thresholds that apply to Design Commission review).
Preliminary Consultation submittal requirements Applications for design review that involve new construction or major alterations to existing buildings are required to go through a preliminary consultation process to obtain comments on the proposed design concept prior to preparing detailed drawings for the formal decision-making phases of Design Review. These submittal requirements list the elements of a complete Preliminary Consultation submittal.
Digital 3D Model Usage Policy Applications for design review that require Design Commission review must include a 3D digital model of the proposed new building. This document describes how the city will use 3D models that are submitted with applications for design review and other entitlements. Applicants are required to sign the document and submit it with their application. Acceptable file formats for 3D models are listed in the design review submittal requirements, which can be accessed below.
Concept Design Review Checklist These submittal requirements list the elements of a complete Concept Design Review submittal
Final Design Review submittal requirements These submittal requirements list the elements of a complete Final Design Review submittal
Consolidated Design Review submittal requirements:

Projects that are minor or that have extensive design requirements in the Zoning Code may, at the discretion of city staff, go through a single phase of formal design review. These submittal requirements list the elements of a complete Consolidated Design Review submittal, where authorized by staff.