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Urban Design Program

A Note about COVID-19 

Due to COVID-19 related impacts, a number of employees are in furlough or temporary layoff status. For help reaching a specific City employee, dial 311 from within Tacoma city limits or (253) 591-5000 from anywhere else. However, if you have specific questions about during this period, please reach out to the Planning Division Manager, Brian Boudet, at bboudet@cityoftacoma.org.



About the Project

The Urban Design Program is a proposed long-term program with a focus on delivering urban design services to customers in the Planning and Development Services Department, to other City departments, and through external public and private partnerships. The initial phase of this project will focus on the development of a Design Review Program and will include extensive public engagement, design guidelines, administrative procedures, and municipal code amendments.


Current Status

2020 - After the development of the Interim Summary Report, the project team is continuing to meet with the advisory groups (Project Advisory Group, TAC, Planning Commission). The Interim Summary Report is available for review below (in the documents section) and provides the findings from Phase I of the program development and the background information that will inform the remaining development through to implementation. Please review and contact staff with any questions.     


2019 - Consultants were brought on to develop a work plan and initiate the program development. Staff worked with stakeholder committees and conducted public outreach in the summer and fall. 


2018 - Staff was hired to bring additional expertise to the project.


2017 - Project budget was approved by the City Council.


2016 - The Design Review Analysis Manual was completed to identify the key components and options for a design review program.


Upcoming Meetings

To be determined.


Recent Meetings

Project Advisory Group Workshops: Online via Zoom Video Conference 

Dates: Tuesday, March 31, 2020 at 5:30 PM and Thursday, April 2, 2020 at 5:30 PM

Due to the restrictions on holding in-person meetings during this time, the PAG was able to conduct these workshops online. The discussion was focused on secondary architectural features and how they can be regulated through Design Review. Because the PAG functions strictly as an advisory entity with all decisions about the program being made at the Planning Commission and City Council Levels, the working documents linked above provide a progress update for the program as it continues to be developed but do not represent any binding decisions. 


Planning Commission Meeting: Wednesday March 4, 2020 at 5:30 PM at the Tacoma Municipal Building, Council Chambers (first floor).

Project Advisory Group Meeting: Tuesday February 18, 2020 at 5:30 PM at the Tacoma Municipal Building, Room 335.



Latest News

Upcoming Meetings 


Please check back soon.


Recent Meetings


Planning Commission 

September 18, 2019  


Project Advisory Group Meeting

September 17, 2019 

South End Neighborhood Council

September 16, 2019


North End Neighborhood Council

September 9, 2019 


Northeast Neighborhood Council

August 8, 2019 


Project Advisory Group Meeting

August 6, 2019 



Design review with a set of design standards or guidelines has proven to be an effective community development tool.  The City of Tacoma understands the role of design review in community building: throughout the One Tacoma Plan and Tacoma 2025, policy guidance highlights design review as opportunity to create unique places, promote innovation and quality, and imbue public space with features and amenities that promote the health and vitality of residents and visitors.


In 2016, the City contracted with Makers Architecture and Urban Design to examine a number of “design review” options that Tacoma could undertake. The analysis is based on Tacoma’s current regulatory framework, recent development trends, comments from stakeholders (including staff, public officials, architects and others from the development industry, and other community members), and a review of other communities’ design review programs.


This Design Review Analysis Manual is organized into six sections to consider and discuss fundamental questions that must be considered in establishing a design review process:

  1. Design guidelines content, organization and format;
  2. Applicability: What projects must undergo design review;
  3. Project review responsibilities: Who conducts the design review for different types of projects;
  4. Public involvement: Opportunities for citizen review and input;
  5. Design Review Board (DRB) review process and procedures (if a DRB is established);
  6. Design review program administration costs. 

Review the full Design Review Analysis Manual for the report and background information.


UDS Logo

Staff Contact

Mesa Sherriff

(253) 591-5480