Rather than strictly regulating new buildings, the guidelines are intended as a tool for the community and developers, says City Planning. They stress 'attractive building design' and elements like pedestrian scale and streetscape activation, sustainability and contextual sensitivity, while frowning upon parking lots, blank walls and out-of-scale development.
Some critics say that if the guidelines are nonbinding, they will have little impact. Others say the recommendations are hostile to single-family home neighborhoods and are tantamount to a prescription for unwarranted density. On both sides are complaints that the guidelines are being rushed through the approval process without enough public input.
In any case, there is a definitive need for a citywide approach to design, writes Sam Lubell:
"The guidelines' necessity became apparent during the city's ongoing process to update the more than 20 specific plans for its 35 community plan areas. Many of these plans have overlapping design elements, while others have no design guidelines at all. The guidelines could reduce confusion and fill in the gaps."