Downtown Design Guidelines and Architectural Standards

July 23 Workshop Banner

Upcoming Virtual Community Workshop!

We are hosting our first ever Virtual Community Workshop to seek your input on the future look and feel of downtown! While we wish we could join the community in person, we are excited to explore a safe alternative for gathering your input and ideas. Join us on Thursday, July 23 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. via ZOOM.

Advance RSVP is required. Please register here:

We are also offering a take-up workshop toolkit as an alternative to those who do not have access or do not feel comfortable using a virtual platform. Details can be found here.

About the Update to the Downtown Design Guidelines and Standards

In 2012, the City contracted with Winter & Company to develop and adopt Downtown Design Guidelines and Architectural Standards to regulate the look and feel of new buildings in the downtown area. As presented in 2012, the purpose of the design standards was "to enhance the effectiveness of the Smartcode in downtown by adding context-sensitive design standards, supplemented with design guidelines for special cases, and revising the signage standards for the downtown area." The standards and guidelines adopted in 2012 were carried over into the new San Marcos Development Code in 2018 and into Appendix A of the San Marcos Design Manual. Both standards and guidelines are utilized when reviewing new development in the downtown area.

2020 Update

In January, 2020, the San Marcos City Council provided direction to update the design standards and guidelines using the guidance of the previous consultants, Winter & Company. The update to the design standards and guidelines is intended to include new standards to address design issues, new graphics to clearly illustrate the standards and guidelines, and shall be tailored to various contexts within downtown.
Design Contexts Map
Key topics to be addressed include:
  • Massing of larger buildings to promote compatibility with traditional scale of downtown;
  • Variety in articulation of facades to be more in scale with design traditions;
  • Treatment of building materials;
  • Street level design to provide sense of place and activate the public realm; and
  • Transitions from higher density zones to abutting sensitive edges.