Community Design

Community Design Element

All members of the community—residents, business owners, workers, visitors, and investors— need places and spaces that are both functional and appealing. Quality design of the built environment can: protect existing investments; achieve sustainable environments; create safe, comfortable, and pleasant places where people want to live, work and recreate; and add value to the community.


The Community Design Element:

  • Distinguishes Ontario as home to a unique, highly aesthetic built environment that fosters enjoyment, financial benefit, and wellbeing for the entire community.    
  • Articulates design qualities that will create locally and regionally significant places. 
  • Utilizes community design to help achieve the Vision in the areas of economic development, land use, housing, community health, infrastructure, and transportation.


The City believes:

  • Quality design of buildings, streets, public spaces, City gateways, and open spaces is vital to prosperity and makes Ontario a place where people want to be.     
  • Strategically located urban districts that are designed around transportation systems help define Ontario’s regional identity.   
  • Ontario’s unique history and heritage – expressed in its streets, landscaping and buildings – help define the community’s identity. 
  • Well maintained property and infrastructure are required to protect and encourage community investment.  
  • A diverse mix of residential and commercial neighborhoods, centers, corridors, and districts is vital to achieving the Vision.

CD Community Design Element Sections

CD-1 Image & Identity

Ontario's Vision is to be the urban and employment center for the Inland Empire. Due to its strategic regional location, capacity for growth, and potential for intensification and urbanization of select areas, Ontario is uniquely situated to fulfill this role. However, thoughtful design choices will be required to ensure the new urban patterns and forms create distinct and complete places that complement Ontario's historic development and respects the distinct identities of the City's established viable neighborhoods.

The City’s physical form will set it apart from suburban communities in the Inland Empire by establishing new urban districts, like the Ontario Airport Metro Center, which will serve as regional employment, entertainment, and commercial hubs that are supported by a robust residential population. The planning and design of these districts should enhance the City’s image and identity within the region, state, and nation.

Existing viable neighborhoods also distinguish Ontario as a premier community with a breadth of different places for people to live, work, and play. As the City evolves, it is committed to preserving and protecting these neighborhoods, while finding ways to enhance and embrace the special character of each.

Ontario's transportation and view corridors also play an integral role in characterizing the City's image and identity. The City is traversed by three freeways, three rail lines, and two state highways, and it is home to an international airport. For many visitors, the primary image of Ontario is shaped by what is seen from these transportation systems. The experience of traveling along transportation corridors should be enhanced to communicate the distinct identities of adjacent places within the City, which will entice visitors to experience more of what Ontario has to offer. Views of the San Gabriel Mountains are visible to the north from most north-south corridors. These views provide an important tool to orient residents, employees, and visitors within the City, and they are part of Ontario's identity.

CD-1 A dynamic, progressive city containing distinct and complete places  that foster a positive sense of identity and belonging among residents, visitors, and businesses.

City Identity. We take actions that are consistent with the City being a leading urban center in Southern California while recognizing, enhancing, and preserving the character of our existing viable neighborhoods.


Place Types. We establish Place Types in urban, mixed use, and transit-oriented areas to foster the City's identity as a premier community and require new development within each Place Type to incorporate prescribed urban patterns, forms, and placemaking priorities. (Link to Community Design Element Urban, Mixed Use, and Transit-oriented Place Types Section)

CD-1.3 Existing Neighborhoods. We require the existing character of viable residential and non-residential neighborhoods be preserved, protected, and enhanced.
CD-1.4 Transportation Corridors. We will enhance our major transportation corridors within the City through landscape, hardscape, signage and lighting. The extent of enhancement should be appropriate to the use, type, and context of each corridor.
CD-1.5 View Corridors. We require all major north-south streets be designed and redeveloped to feature views of the San Gabriel Mountains, which are part of the City’s visual identity and a key to geographic orientation. Such views should be free of visual clutter, including billboards and may be enhanced by framing with trees.
CD-2 Design Quality

Ontario is made up of neighborhoods, commercial areas, public spaces, parks, and roadways that have developed over more than a century. This has resulted in an eclectic built environment with a rich blend of architectural styles including the historic downtown, residential neighborhoods, equestrian properties, commercial centers, and industrial and office complexes.

Intense urban, mixed use, and transit-oriented districts are envisioned to be added in strategic areas of the City, and agricultural areas of the City are expected to redevelop as part of Ontario's complete community. Designs for new urban districts, residential communities, sites, and buildings, will help to realize the City's Vision, improve connectivity, help to realize active transportation and public transit goals, and reflect its intended or existing role within the City by melding appropriate and high quality design, with attention to detail that would be expected in a preeminent Southern California city.

High quality design will be applied citywide to achieve distinct neighborhoods, centers, corridors, and districts. Buildings and places shall respect the site context and further the City’s Vision. This approach ensures all physical improvements, including the layout of new communities and urban districts, overall site design, landscaping, building design and orientation, architectural details, site furniture and building materials, coordinate help achieve vibrant places and enhance value and livability throughout the City.

CD-2 A high level of design quality resulting in neighborhoods, commercial areas, public spaces, parks, and streetscapes that are attractive, safe, functional, human- scale, and distinct.

Quality Building Design and Architecture. We encourage all development projects to convey visual interest and character through:

  1. Building volume, massing, and height to provide context-appropriate scale and proportion;    
  2. A true architectural style which is carried out in plan, section, and elevation through all aspects of the building and site design and appropriate for its setting; and 
  3. Exterior building materials that are articulated, high quality, durable, and appropriate for the architectural style.

Neighborhood Design. We create distinct residential neighborhoods that promote a sense of community and identity by emphasizing access, connectivity, livability, and social interaction through such elements as:

  1. A pattern of smaller, walkable blocks that promote activity, safety, and access to nearby amenities and services;
  2. Varied parcel sizes and lot configurations to accommodate a diversity of housing types;
  3. Traffic calming measures to slow traffic and promote walkability while maintaining acceptable traffic flows and emergency evacuation access;
  4. Floor plans that encourage views onto the street and de-emphasize the visual and physical dominance of garages (introducing the front porch as the “outdoor living room”), as appropriate; and
  5. Landscaped parkways, with sidewalks separated from the curb and designed to maximize safety, comfort, and aesthetics for all users.
CD-2.3 Commercial Areas. We desire commercial areas and centers to be distinctive, pedestrian friendly, functional, and vibrant with a range of businesses, places to gather, and connectivity to the neighborhoods they serve.
CD-2.4 Urban, Mixed Use, and Transit-oriented Areas. We establish Place Types to require mixed use, urban, and transit-oriented areas to be designed and developed as pedestrian oriented areas that are integrated with adjacent neighborhoods and promote a vibrant, comfortable, and functional environment, as defined for each Place Type. (Link to Community Design Element Urban, Mixed Use, and Transit-oriented Place Types Section)
CD-2.5 Streetscapes. We design new and, when necessary, retrofit existing streets to improve walkability, bicycling and transit integration, strengthen connectivity, and enhance community identity through improvements to the public right-of-way such as sidewalks, street trees, parkways, curbs, street lighting and street furniture.

Connectivity. We promote development of local street patterns, multimodal networks, and connected public spaces that create and unify neighborhoods, rather than divide them, and create cohesive and continuous corridors, rather than independent “islands” through the following means:

  1. Local street networks that provide access both between subdivisions and within neighborhoods and discourage through traffic;
  2. A local street system that is logical and understandable for the user. A grid system is preferred to avoid circuitous and confusing travel paths between internal neighborhood areas and adjacent arterials and to provide adequate emergency and evacuation access; and
  3. Pedestrian and bicycle networks that provide convenient access to neighborhoods and nearby destinations, such as schools, parks, other public spaces, commercial areas, and transit stops.
CD-2.7 Sustainability. We collaborate with the development community to design and build neighborhoods, streetscapes, sites, outdoor spaces, landscaping, and buildings to reduce energy demand through solar orientation, maximum use of natural daylight, passive solar and natural ventilation, building form, mechanical and structural systems, building materials, and construction techniques.
CD-2.8 Safe Design. We incorporate defensible space design into new and existing developments to ensure the maximum safe travel and visibility on pathways, corridors, and open space and at building entrances and parking areas by avoiding physically and visually isolated spaces, maintaining visibility and accessibility, and using lighting.
CD-2.9 Landscape Design. We encourage durable, sustainable, and drought-tolerant landscaping materials and designs that enhance the aesthetics of structures, create and define public and private spaces, and provide shade and environmental benefits.

Parking Areas. We require all development, including single-family residential, to minimize the visual impact of surface, structured, and garage parking areas visible from the public realm in an aesthetically pleasing, safe and environmentally sensitive manner. Examples include:

  1. Surface parking: Shade trees, pervious surfaces, urban run-off capture and infiltration, and pedestrian paths to guide users through the parking field.
  2. Structured parking: facade articulation, screening, appropriate lighting, and landscaping.
  3. Garage parking: providing access to single-family residential garages through alley access, recessing garages from the frontage to emphasize front doors or active living spaces.
CD-2.11 Entry Statements. We encourage the inclusion of amenities, signage, and landscaping at the entry to neighborhoods, commercial centers, mixed use areas, industrial developments, and public places that reinforce them as uniquely identifiable places.
CD-2.12 Site and Building Signage. We encourage the use of sign programs that utilize complementary materials, colors, and themes. Project signage should be designed to effectively communicate and direct users to various aspects of the development and complement the character of the structures.
CD-2.13 Entitlement Process. We work collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure a high degree of certainty in the efficient review and timely processing of all development plans and permits.
CD-2.14 Availability of Information. We provide easy access to information for developers, builders and the public about design quality, construction quality, and sustainable building practices.
CD-2.15 Leverage Professional and Trade Organizations. We support excellence in design and construction quality through collaboration with trade and professional organizations that provide expertise, resources and programs for developers, builders, and the public.
CD-2.16 Transit Stops. We require transit stops be conveniently located, well lit, safe, and clearly accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists, and people of all abilities.
CD-3 Urban, Mixed Use, and Transit-Oriented Place Types

The development of urban, mixed use, and transit-oriented environments place new demands on the design and quality of buildings, open spaces, and public spaces. These areas, as shown on Exhibit CD-01, Place Types, are distributed throughout the city and are generally centered around areas designed as mixed use. They include a range of scales that are intended to fulfill different roles within city. However, all of the identified urban, mixed use, and transit oriented Place Type areas are envisioned as walkable environments with a safe, comfortable, and inviting public realm that encourages people to spend time.

CD-3 Vibrant urban environments that are organized around intense buildings, pedestrian and transit areas, public plazas, and linkages between and within developments that are conveniently located, visually appealing and safe during all hours.

Unique Identity. We promote development that heightens the unique character and identity of each Place Type by requiring compatible land uses and land planning, site design, and building design that promotes an active public realm.


Comfortable, Human-Scale Public Realm. We require that public spaces, including streets, parks, and plazas on both public and private property be designed to maximize safety, comfort and aesthetics and connect to the citywide pedestrian, vehicular, and bicycle networks.

CD-3.3 Complete and Connected Network. We require that pedestrian, vehicular, and bicycle circulation on both public and private property be coordinated to provide connections internally and externally to adjacent neighborhoods and properties (existing and planned) through a system of local roads and trails that promote walking and biking to nearby destinations (including existing and planned parks, commercial areas, and transit stops) and are designed to maximize safety, comfort, and aesthetics.
CD-3.4 Context-Aware and Appropriate Design. We require appropriate building and site design that complements existing development, respects the intent and identity of the Place Type, and provides appropriate transitions and connections between adjacent uses to ensure compatibility of scale, maintain an appropriate level of privacy for each use, and minimize potential conflicts.
CD-3.5 Active Frontages. We create lively pedestrian streetscapes by requiring primary building, business, and residential entrances, outdoor dining, and storefronts be located on ground floors adjacent to sidewalks or public spaces and designed to maximize safety, comfort, aesthetics, and the intended functionality (as defined by the Place Type).
CD-3.6 Managed Infrastructure. We collaborate with developers and property owners to facilitate development that realizes the envisioned character and functionality of the Place Type through the use of green and shared infrastructure within each Place Type.
CD-4 Historic Preservation

Ontario’s history remains one of its greatest assets. Its historic districts and resources, physical layout and the legacy of its people, businesses, social and community organizations, and industries contribute to the City’s identity. Beyond having been declared the “Model Colony,” by an act of Congress, Ontario’s history includes citrus farming, viniculture in Guasti, and dairy farming. With some of the most authentic historically distinct residential neighborhoods in Southern California, Ontario is among a handful of communities whose creative and proactive approach to historic preservation serves as a model for others. The Ontario Museum of History and Art and the City's Historic Preservation program have long recognized that the story of its businesses, industries, and people are as important as the history of its neighborhoods, buildings, streets, and landscapes.

CD-4 Historic buildings, streets, landscapes, and neighborhoods, as well as the story of Ontario’s people, businesses, and social and community organizations, have been preserved and serve as a focal point for civic pride and identity.

Cultural Resource Management. We update and maintain an inventory of historic sites and buildings, professional collections, artifacts, manuscripts, photographs, documents, maps, and other archives.


Collaboration with Property Owners and Developers. We educate and collaborate with property owners and developers to implement strategies and best practices that preserve the character of our historic buildings, streetscapes, and unique neighborhoods.

CD-4.3 Collaboration with Outside Agencies. We pursue opportunities to team with other agencies, local organizations, and nonprofits in order to preserve and promote Ontario’s heritage.
CD-4.4 Incentives. We use the Mills Act and other federal, state, regional and local programs to assist property owners with the preservation of select properties and structures.
CD-4.5 Adaptive Reuse. We actively promote and support the adaptive reuse of historic sites and buildings to preserve and maintain their viability.
CD-4.6 Promotion of Public Involvement in Preservation. We engage in programs to publicize and promote the City’s and the public’s involvement in preservation efforts.
CD-4.7 Public Outreach. We provide opportunities for our residents to research and learn about the history of Ontario through the Planning Department, the Ontario Museum of History and Art, and the Robert E. Ellingwood Model Colony History Room.
CD-5 Protection of Investment

Communities that are well maintained, safe and visually appealing are more desirable places to live and conduct business. Properties that are continually maintained retain their value and encourage others to invest.

CD-5 A sustained level of maintenance and improvement of properties, buildings, and infrastructure that protects the property values and encourages additional public and private investments.

Maintenance of Buildings and Property. We require all public and privately-owned buildings and property (including trails and easements) to be properly and consistently maintained.


Maintenance of Infrastructure. We require the continual maintenance of infrastructure.

CD-5.3 Improvements to Property & Infrastructure. We provide programs to improve property and infrastructure.
CD-5.4 Neighborhood Involvement. We encourage active community involvement to implement programs aimed at the beautification and improvement of neighborhoods.

Downloadable Files