Discretionary review (DR) is a land-use decision-making process in which a development is approved at the discretion of local authorities, even if meets all applicable requirements such as zoning. DR is used in many California cities, but mostly not elsewhere in the US. A term of art for non-discretionary review is ministerial review, meaning a decision is granted on basic, objective criteria and usually quickly. For example, many permits such as dog licenses are said to be granted by ministerial review.
The city & county of San Francisco is perhaps the most famous (or notorious) example of a city using discretionary review. The history of how this arose is discussed in the San Francisco Planning Department. Centennial Celebration Brochure, 2018.
- San Francisco Planning Department. Centennial Celebration Brochure.