The Planning Division reviews private and public development applications for conformance with City plans, ordinances and policies related to zoning, design, subdivision and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Certain types of planning applications require the review and approval of a designated hearing body within the City of San Rafael. The level of review is determined by the type of application and the scope of the project. The review process includes review of preliminary plans, the consideration of public input at the Design Review Board (DRB), Zoning Administrator, Planning Commission, and City Council.
Design Review Board (DRB)
The Design Review Board is composed of 5 San Rafael residents and qualified design professionals who are appointed by the City Council to four-year terms and an alternate member who becomes a voting member at meetings where one or more regular Board members are absent. One Planning Commissioner attends DRB meetings and serves as a liaison to offer advice and direction to the Board on matters of Planning Commission concern and also to report back to the Planning Commission on the discussion at the DRB meeting if that item appears before the Commission.
The DRB evaluates applications based on our General Plan and Zoning Ordinance design policies and criteria, with the goal of having new projects harmonize with the natural environment and surrounding area. The Board is advisory, with final permit decisions made by the Planning Division staff, the Zoning Administrator, Planning Commission or City Council, depending on the complexity of the project. Upcoming meetings along with agendas, staff reports, videos and meeting minutes can be found on the agenda and meetings page.
Certain minor applications can be reviewed and approved by staff. Some can be handled over-the-counter, while others require submittal and processing. Typically, staff level decisions do not involve a public hearing or notice.
Zoning Administrator (ZA)
The ZA is a staff member appointed by the Director of the Community Development Department to serve as the Zoning Administrator and makes decisions on more routine types of applications.
Planning Commission (PC)
The Planning Commission consists of 7 citizen volunteers appointed by the City Council to four-year terms to make decisions or advise the Council on land use and property development issues. The Commission follows a protocol to assure that new development is consistent with our long-range General Plan, State laws and other public policies that advance the interests of our community. Upcoming meetings along with agendas, staff reports, videos and meeting minutes can be found on the agenda and meetings page.
City Council (CC)
The City Council is the elected body of the City of San Rafael. The City Council only reviews certain large development applications (Rezoning, General Plan amendments) or appeals of Planning Commission decisions. San Rafael has four City Council members and one elected Mayor, elected at-large for four-year terms. Current members include:
Mayor (elected at large): Kate Colin
District 1 Councilmember: Maika Llorens Gulati
District 2 Councilmember: Eli Hill
District 3 Councilmember: Maribeth Bushey
District 4 Councilmember: Rachel Kertz.
City Council meetings take place the first and third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1400 Fifth Avenue. If Monday is holiday, the meeting occurs the following Tuesday.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
The California Environmental Quality Act requires that environmental issues be considered for all discretionary permits. The CEQA review is conducted in coordination with the planning applications for development.
Correspondence for any of the reviewing bodies can be sent to the Planning Division via email, contact form below or by mail:
(Name of Review Body)
c/o City of San Rafael Community Development Department
1400 Fifth Ave
San Rafael, CA 94901