Cities are increasingly considered important places for biodiversity conservation because they can harbor threatened species and because conservation in cities represents an opportunity to reconnect people with nature and the range of health and well‐being benefits it provides. However, urbanization can be catastrophic for native species, and is a well‐known threat to biodiversity worldwide. Urbanization impacts can be mitigated by urban design and development improvements, but take‐up of these practices has been slow. There is an urgent need to incorporate existing ecological knowledge into a framework that can be used by planners and developers to ensure that biodiversity conservation is considered in decision‐making processes. Here, we distill the urban biodiversity literature into five principles for biodiversity sensitive urban design (BSUD), ranging from creating habitat and promoting dispersal to facilitating community stewardship. We then present a framework for implementing BSUD aimed at delivering onsite benefits to biodiversity, and that is applicable across a range of urban development types and densities. We illustrate the application of the BSUD framework in two case studies focusing on the: (1) protection of an endangered vegetation remnant in a new low‐density subdivision; and (2) persistence of an endangered reptile in an established suburban environment.