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Environmental and Design Review

What is an Environmental and Design Review Permit?

The City of San Rafael requires design review of new development projects and exterior building modifications to ensure that the project will maintain a proper balance between existing developments, the natural environment, contribute to the attractiveness of the City, and promote design creativity.

What type of projects are subject to Design Review?

Some of the common projects types for Major Environmental and Design Review Permit (Planning Commission Review with Design Review Board Recommendation), include:

  • Hillside Subdivisions
  • New Residence within 100 vertical feet of a designated ridge
  • Second dwelling units over 800 square feet or in two-story detached structure or in required setbacks
  • New Multifamily structures or additions greater than 40%
  • New Non-residential building or addition over 1,250 square feet
  • Sign Programs and Murals
  • New stand-alone wireless communications facilities (monopoles)
  • Major grading (1,000 cubic feet of cut or 2,000 cubic feet of fill per year)
  • Landscaping as part of a development or determined to significantly alter the character or appearance of a site.  

Some of the common projects types for Minor Environmental and Design Review Permit (Zoning Administrator Level Review), include:

  • New single family residences in hillside lots and additions over 500 square feet in hillside areas
  • Upper story additions over 500 square feet on a single family residence
  • Residential accessory structures or additions in ridgeline areas
  • New two-story duplexes
  • Additions to multifamily structures under 40% of existing total building square footage
  • Additions to nonresidential structures less than 40% or 1,250 square feet in size
  • Modifications to existing wireless antenna facilities
  • Boat docking facilities
  • Sign program amendments
  • Grading (over 50 cubic yards of cut or fill and less than 1,000 cubic yards of cut or 2000 cubic yards of fill)
  • Modifications to site, landscape, parking or previously approved major or minor building designs.  

Some of the common projects types for Administrative Design Permit, include:

  • Roof modifications to Eichler and Alliance homes (-EA)
  • Elevated decks over 100 square feet on hillside lots
  • Retaining walls over 3 feet
  • Detached accessory structures in hillside areas
  • One-story duplexes
  • Minor changes to approved residential, nonresidential or wireless communications facility projects
  • Outdoor dining areas
  • Satellite dishes
  • Outdoor storage areas

No Design Review permit is required for one-story single-family residences and decks in non-hillside areas, ordinary maintenance or repairs, installation of solar panels on existing structures or grounds.

These examples are not inclusive of all projects that require design review. 

Need more information?

Find a more inclusive list in the City of San Rafael Municipal Code Section 14.25.040.  To verify if your  project triggers design review, consult the Planning Staff.

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