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Building & Safety Services FAQs:

1. When is a Permit required for a single family dwelling?

It is easier to answer when a permit is not required. Read the California Code Permit Exemptions Pageto see when a Building, Electrical, Mechanical or Plumbing permit is not required.

2. When is special inspection required?
Special Inspection is required by Chapter 17 of the 2016 California Building Code.

Planning Services FAQs:

1. What is my zoning?

A planner can tell you in which zoning district your property is located. You will need to provide either your street address or Assessor’s Parcel Number (APN) or both. You can send an e-mail through our Customer Response Management System and select Planning/Zoning. You can call the planner-on-duty at (925) 973-2560 between 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, or you can visit the office in person during the same walk-in counter hours listed above. You may need to leave a voice mail for the planner. The Planning Services Division has a policy of making every effort to return telephone calls within 24 hours. A digitized zoning map is available by clicking here.

2. What are my setback requirements for an addition to my home?
Typical minimum setbacks in single family neighborhoods are: 5 to 10 feet for side setbacks, 20 feet for front setbacks, and 15 feet for rear setbacks.  Setback requirements and other development standards for an addition to a home are dependent upon the zoning district for each property.  Each zoning district establishes minimum setback requirements for the front, sides and rear yards. Some lots, such as "flag lots" or oddly configured lots, require that planning staff make a determination with respect to where each setback applies. Staff will consider the access to the lot and orientation of the house among other factors when making such a determination.

Contact the Planning Services Division at 973-2560 to speak with a planner about specific zoning and setback requirements.
3. Can I build an arbor/storage shed/garage in my back yard?

Residential accessory structures are permitted within residential zones. Minimum setbacks and maximum height requirements and floor area ratios are dependent on your property’s zoning. Call Planning Services at 973-2560 to obtain the specific standards for your property.  If the accessory building is a 120 square feet or less, no building permit is required, provided that no electrical and/or plumbing work is proposed. A building permit is required for an accessory building more than 120 square feet.

For accessory structure requirements in Dougherty Valley (Gale Ranch and Windemere), please contact Planning Services at 973-2560.

The following are the accessory structure requirements for properties outside Dougherty Valley (Gale Ranch and Windemere): 

  1. Maximum total floor area. The total floor area of all accessory structures on the site that are more than four feet in height, with a solid roof, and/or deck structures over 4-feet in height shall not exceed three percent of the lot area.

  2. Height limit. The height of an accessory structure shall not exceed 12 feet in HR, RE-B, RS, RM, RMH, RH, AND RVH, zones. The height of an accessory structure shall not exceed 16 feet in RC, RR, and RE-A zones. An accessory structure located within a required front setback shall not exceed a height of three feet, not including decorative features or lighting, which may extend upward an additional 18 inches.

  3. Setback requirements. Accessory structures shall comply with the following setback requirements.
    1. Front setback. An accessory structure shall be set back from a front property line by a minimum distance:
      1. Of five feet when the structure does not exceed a height of three feet (fences and walls of three feet or less in height are exempt from this requirement); and
      2. As required by Subsections C.3.c.for animal structures.
      3. All accessory structures in a required front yard setback shall comply with the driveway visibility requirements of Section D-3-10 (Setback Requirements and Exceptions), and the site obstruction requirements of Section D-3-57 (Driveways and Site Access).
    2. Side and rear setbacks. An accessory structure shall be set back from the side and rear property line as follows.
      1. If the structure is of 18 inches or less in height, no setback is required;
      2. If the structure is greater than 18 inches but 6 feet or less in height, a three-foot setback is required; and
      3. If the structure is greater than 6 feet in height, the setback shall be equal to the height less three feet.
    3. Setbacks for animal keeping structures.
      1. Small animal structures. The minimum setback for chicken houses, rabbit hutches, and similar structures housing similar small animals shall be 60 feet from the front property line; and 40 feet from both side and rear property lines.
      2. Large animal structures. The minimum setback for barns, stables, and similar accessory structures housing large animals shall b e 100 feet from the front property line; and 50 feet from both side and rear property lines.
4. Where can I build a six-foot high fence?
A seven-foot tall fence, provided the top one foot is constructed of open lattice, is allowed on property lines at the rear and sides of most properties. A fence up to three feet is allowed within the front yard setback area (typically 20-feet) as measured from the front property line. A seven-foot fence may be constructed outside the front yard setback area. Please note that the sidewalk edge may not be the property line.
5. What are the requirements to establish a business in my home?

If you wish to conduct a business from your home within the City of San Ramon, you must obtain approval of a Home Occupation Permit and City Business License.

For additional information on the review process and application forms, see the Home Occupation Permit webpage.

6. Can I build an Accessory Dwelling Unit (Second Unit)?
An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), also known as a Second Unit, is defined as a permanent dwelling that is accessory to a primary dwelling on the same property.  An ADU includes permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, sanitation, and parking. 

An ADU is generally allowed in a Single Family residential zone provided the project complies with the development standards established in Zoning Ordinance Section D4-39.  The project must also comply with the building code requirements and any requirements by the utility districts providing power, sanitary service, or water service to the property. 

Contact the Planning Services Division at 973-2560 to speak with a planner about specific development standards and other requirements for an ADU. 

7. How do I establish a Family Day Care in my home?

A family day care home is a residence which provides family day care, including the children who reside at the home, as defined in regulations provided by the State of California. 

A small family day care home (up to 8 child capacity) is exempt by State law from City review. 

However, the City requires operators of large family day care homes (9 to 14 child capacity) to obtain approval of a Minor Use Permit. The Minor Use Permit review process includes notification of the surrounding neighbors prior to a decision on the permit application. The City must also consider the possible impacts of the proposed facility, particularly with regard to spacing or concentration of facilities, traffic, parking, and noise control. In addition, large family day care homes must also obtain a City Business License to operate. 

Contact the Planning Services Division at 973-2560 to speak with a planner about specific Minor Use Permit requirements for a large family day care home. You may also contact the State of California, Community Care Licensing Division at (510) 622-2602 for additional State requirements.

8. Where can I report a Zoning or Building Code Violation?

A violation of the zoning or building code can be reported anonymously in the following ways. For potential zoning violations you may contact Planning at (925) 973-2560 and for potential building code violations or contractors working with a building permit, you may contact Building and Safety Services at (925) 973-2580.  Additionally, you may report the violation on the City’s website, click Citizen Response Management where you can select the Department and identify a specific topic.

9. How do I find out what projects are being processed by the City?

The Planning Services Division posts a monthly Current Project List that identifies status of the projects Planning Services is currently processing. Click on the following link to take you directly to the Current Project List Webpage

10. Can I add on to my house?
An addition and/or remodeling may require approval by the Planning Services Division prior to issuance of building permits. If a proposed improvement is determined to be minor in nature and would not cause a significant visual impact, design review will be completed by the Planning Services Division in conjunction with the building permit review process. However, if a proposed improvement were determined to be significant and has the potential to cause a significant visual impact, then approval of an Administrative Architectural Review application will be required and may include review by the City’s Architectural Review Board (ARB). The ARB is a group of appointed professionals. The ARB would provide comments to the applicant and make a recommendation to the Zoning Administrator for final approval.

For additional information on the review process and application forms, see the Architectural Review webpage.

11. What is the process if I need to remove a tree from my property?

If your property is a single family residence that cannot be further subdivided then you do not need a tree removal permit to remove a tree on your property except if you wish to remove a native oak tree 6 inches in diameter measured 54 inches above the ground.

If a non-oak tree, not including a willow, fruit tree, eucalyptus, alder, cottonwood, or pine tree, is greater than 8 inches in diameter measured 54 inches above the ground and is on a commercial property or on a property owned by a Home Owner’s Association then a tree removal permit is required.

The tree removal permit application is available online at the Planning Applications and Forms webpage. Submit the completed application and the required submittal items to the Planning Services Division at 2401 Crow Canyon Road, San Ramon, CA 94583. Review of the tree removal permit may take 2 weeks to process. All tree removal work shall be conducted by licensed tree care professionals.

12. Can I convert my garage into living space?
A garage can be converted to living space (e.g., bedroom, family room, etc…) if the required number of parking spaces are provided and the appropriate interior garage dimensions of 20-feet by 22-feet for a 2-car garage and 10-feet by 22-feet for a single car garage are provided. 

Single Family Homes with 4 bedrooms or less 2 parking spaces within a garage required
For each bedroom over 4 1 additional parking space within a garage per bedroom

Contact the Planning Services Division at 973-2560 to speak with a planner about specific requirements for the conversion of a garage.
13. Where can I locate a business in the City?

To locate a business in San Ramon, a business license must be issued by the City and the business located in the appropriate zoning district. For example, a retail business would be located within a retail zoning district and an administrative office in an office district. The Planning Division maintains a map that shows zoning for every parcel in the City. To ask questions regarding a specific business you are proposing to establish and to determine what the requirements might be, you may call 973-2560 to speak with a planner.

14. Why is a Use Permit/Minor Use Permit required?

The San Ramon Zoning Ordinance regulates the development and use of land within the City. These regulations protect the health, safety and general welfare of residents and property owners by creating zones to prevent incompatible uses in close proximity to each other. The regulations also maintain the character of established neighborhoods and prevent inappropriate activates, such as alcohol sales near parks and schools. Permitted and conditional uses are designated for each zoning district and are listed in the San Ramon Zoning Ordinance. Permitted uses are controlled by specific regulation, such as setback from a structure to the property line, height of the structure, number of parking spaces, etc. An example of a permitted use is a single-family residence. A Use Permit/Minor Use Permit are required when a proposed use may have a different operating characteristic than those permitted in the zoning district, such as a grocery store in an office zoning district. A Use Permit/Minor Use Permit typically includes conditions particular to the requested use to ensure that the use is compatible with the uses within the zoning district is located.

15. Why does the City have all these land use rules? Why can't I just do what I want with my property?
Federal and State land use laws and regulations aside, the City of San Ramon has established land use regulations to protect the health and general welfare of all citizens and to manage growth and development responsibly. Citizens themselves through their opportunity to vote for their elected officials and to participate in public meetings, affect what kind of regulations the City adopts. The San Ramon Zoning Ordinance has been amended several times since its adoption in 1986, and each amendment process involves a significant public involvement and input. Any member of the public, as well as the City Council, Planning Services Division staff or the Planning Commission may initiate an amendment at any time. The document sets forth the general principles and strategies to be used by the City to guide land use decisions and the growth and development, as shaped by the public, City Council and Planning Commissioners.

NOTE: Standards for Dougherty Valley

Dougherty Valley is an unique community with zoning standards and design guidelines specific to this development. While the majority of the development standards for Dougherty Valley are similar to other parts of the City, please contact the Planning Services Division at 973-2560 for specific information.