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Zoning Ordinance Update

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The new Zoning Ordinance and Final Zoning Map are now available. The City Council considered the Planning Commission recommendations and conducted a Public Hearing on the Draft Zoning Ordinance at a meeting on November 14th, 2011 with the second reading of the Ordinance on November 28, 2011. The Ordinance went into effect 30 days later on December 28, 2011.

Zoom In on Zoning
The Zoom In On Zoning project, initiated in July 2010, is a complete update of the City of San Carlos Zoning Ordinance. The City’s zoning regulations are critical to maintaining the character and growth of our community. The Zoning Ordinance will build upon the foundation of the 2030 General Plan, Housing Element and Climate Action Plan, adopted October 12, 2009.

What is Zoning?
Zoning is use based; it determines what use you can have on a property such as a house or business. It is building based; it determines how high a building can be or how far away from the street it should be. It is regulatory; it says how many signs a business can have and how big they can be. The purpose of the update to the Zoning Ordinance is to comprehensively revise the city wide zoning regulations to shape future growth with clear community vision.

Zoning Ordinance Update
The Zoning Ordinance is organized as follows:

  • Article I: General Provisions establishes the purpose of the ordinance, the authority for its establishment, and rules for construction of language and for measurements such as height, lot width, and floor area, that are applicable throughout the ordinance.
  • Article II: Base and Overlay Districts specifies the use and development regulations for each set of base districts: Residential; Mixed-Use; Commercial; Industrial; Public and Semi-public, Airport, and Planned Development as well as each overlay district: Gateway, Hillside, Neighborhood Hub, and Stream Development and Maintenance.
  • Article III: Regulations Applying to Some or All Districts contains general standards that apply to multiple zoning districts.
  • Article IV: Administration and Permits establishes the decision-making authority for different types of permits, application processes, required findings, rules for hearings, public notification, and appeals, and procedures for enforcement of the ordinance.
  • Article V: General Terms contains two chapters. The first defines all land use classifications; the second defines terms that appear throughout the ordinance.

A New Framework
The Zoning Ordinance Update also provides a new organizing framework:

  • Districts. Zoning districts have been updated to be consistent with the General Plan. The ordinance has 22 base districts. These districts are indicated on the Zoning Map.
  • Purpose Statements. Purpose statements included for each base district help clarify the distinctions and provide an essential link between General Plan policies and use regulations and standards.
  • Form-based Development Standards. Form-based coding development standards list dimensional requirements for lots, build-to lines, setbacks, frontage types, location of parking, minimum open space (“outdoor living area”) and building heights, as well as limits on floor area and density.
  • Pedestrian- and Transit-Oriented Development. The Mixed-Use Districts standards include requirements for buildings on key corridors to be built to the front and street property lines with exceptions for widened sidewalks and active outdoor uses.
  • Graphics. Graphics are used throughout the ordinance to strengthen written provisions and to provide visual examples.

Interviews, Outreach, Public Workshops & Review Process

The Zoom In On Zoning project held stakeholder interviews on Tuesday July 20, 2010.  The purpose of these interviews was to gain community insights and ideas. A summary of the stakeholders interviews can be found above at the September 7, 2010 Public Workshop #1.