This book is a study of design initiatives and policies in five US West Coast cities — Seattle (including Bellevue), Portland, San Francisco, Irvine and San Diego—all of which have had particularly interesting urban design experience of relevance to practice in Britain and other countries. Although these cities are not a representative sample of all American design practice, they provide a rich vein of ideas about recent policy development and current initiatives which will stimulate thought about the formulation of effective design controls. The presentation of substantial extracts from key documents that underpin design controls in the five cities will be of interest, inspiration and practical use to academics and practitioners who want to know more about American practice and who want to contribute to improvements in the standards and quality of urban design policies and design control. The opening chapter provides a national context and a comparative framework for the study, with a focus on international perspectives, American planning systems and the development of criteria for comparison and evaluation. The five subsequent chapters take each city in turn, briefly reviewing the salient characteristics of each one before presenting an account of how planning and design policy have evolved in the last twenty-five years; key features of the contemporary systems of design control are highlighted and a summary evaluation is made. The focus in the case studies is on how policy and guidance have been formulated, structured and presented in the various documents that make up the policy framework, how the process of control operates, and how both respond to the criticisms commonly made of design and control. This final chapter draws general conclusions about the experience of the studied cities of wider relevance to American design review practice, but which are of interest to those engaged in design review and policy formulation everywhere.
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