In response to community concerns about noise the San Rafael and Novato City Councils have established a Quiet Zone effective immediately. The train horn will not blow at railroad crossings.

What is Single-Family Zoning?

The Zoning Ordinance Title 14 of the San Rafael Municipal Code establishes standards and procedures so that development is consistent with San Rafael’s General Plan 2020. San Rafael is divided into Zoning Districts as shown on the zoning maps, which includes the allowable uses and construction requirements for single-family lots. There are six single-family residential (R) districts:

  • R2a Min. lot size 2 acres
  • R1a Min. lot size 1 acre
  • R20 Min. lot size 20,000 sq. ft.
  • R10 Min. lot size 10,000 sq. ft.
  • R7.5 Min. lot size 7,500 sq. ft.
  • R5 Min. lot size 5,000 sq. ft.

A “single-family use” is typically a house on a lot with front, side and rear yards. The Zoning Ordinance defines dwelling unit as “one or more rooms designed, occupied or intended for occupancy as separate living quarters for the exclusive use of one household, with a kitchen, sleeping facilities, and sanitary facilities.” A summary of the R zoning district Development Standards are provided below.

In addition to single-family residences, the following uses are permitted in the R Districts:

  • home occupations
  • parks
  • public schools
  • small (up to 8 children or adults) family day care
  • second dwelling units

In R Districts, except for R2a, R1a and - H (Hillside Overlay), the following uses are allowed with the approval of a Use Permit:

  • churches, places of worship (e.g., assembly halls)
  • day care centers (15 or more children or adults)
  • large (8 to 14 children or adults) family day care
  • private schools

A complete list of uses that may be allowed in the R districts can be found in the zoning ordinance land use tables. See the ‘Single-Family Zoning Additional Standards’ handout for requirements for ancillary structures or uses.

Where Can I View or Buy a Copy of the Zoning Ordinance?

Copies of the Zoning Ordinance are available for review at the Planning Division (3rd floor), the City Clerk’s Office (Room 209) at City Hall, 1400 Fifth Ave., and at the San Rafael Public Library. The Ordinance can also be accessed online by clicking on the link for the Zoning Ordinance at: https://www.cityofsanrafael.org/

2 covered spaces for a primary single family residence, measuring 20’ by 20’ interior clear space for a garage and 19’ by 19’ for s carport

 R2aR1aR20R10R7.5R5Additional Standards
Minimum Lot Area (sq. ft.) 2 acres 1 acre 20,000 10,000 7,500 5,000
Corner lot: 6,000
 (A)
Minimum Lot Width (ft.) 150 150 100  75  6050 Corner
lot: 60
 
Front Minimum Yard 20 20 20 20 15 15 (B), (C)
Side Minimum Yard 1515 12’6"10 6 10% of lot width,
min. 3’, max. 5'
 (D), (E)
Rear Minimum Yard 25 25 10 1010 10 
Maximum Height of Structure (ft.) 30 30 30 30 3030 (F)
Maximum Lot Coverage 20%25% 30% 40% 40% 40% 
Maximum upper story floor size Lots less than 5,000 sf – 50% of max. lot coverage;
Lots greater than 5,000 sf – 75% of max. lot coverage
 (G)
Parking RequirementTwo covered spaces for a primary single family residence, measuring 20’ by 20’ interior clear space for a garage and 19’ by 19’ for a carport
(A) Second dwelling units shall not be added if the lot is less than 5,000 square feet.
(B) Where two or more lots in a block have been improved with buildings, the minimum required shall be the average of improved lots on both sides of the street for the length of the block.
(C) Where there is a driveway perpendicular to the street, any garage built after January 1, 1992, shall be setback 20 feet.
(D) On a reverse corner lot, the rear 20 feet of the street side yard shall have a 15-foot setback.
(E) In the R7.5, R10 and R20 districts, where two or more lots in a block have been improved with buildings, the minimum required shall be the average of improved lots within the same district on both sides of the street for the length of the block.
(F) In the –EA Combining District, maximum height of seventeen feet (17’) to peak and one habitable floor.
(G) For design criteria for upper-story construction, see Section 14.25.050(F)(6), Upper-Story Additions. See the Hillside Overlay (–H) District for requirements that apply to lots located within designated hillside areas or with slopes over 25% grade

Exclusions to the Maximum Height Requirements (§14.16.120) Flagpoles and architectural features such as chimneys and cupolas are not included in height calculations. A Design Review Permit may be required.
Exclusions to the Required Minimum Yards (§14.16.120) Architectural features such as a fireplaces, eaves, and canopies
may extend no more than 2 feet into a required yard. Uncovered porches, decks, landing places and outside stairs may
project no more than 3 feet into a side or rear yard, and no more than 6 feet into a front yard.
Lot Coverage (§14.03.030) The portion of a lot which is covered by buildings including stairways, covered walkways,
covered patios, covered parking structures, covered decks over 30 inches in height, recreational and storage structures.
Ground level landscaped areas, walkways, uncovered patios and decks less than 30 inches in height, uncovered recreational areas, and uncovered parking and driveway areas are not included.
Lot Depth (§14.03.030) The horizontal distance from the midpoint of the front lot line to the midpoint of the rear lot line, or, where there is no rear lot line, to the most distant point.
Lot Width (§14.03.030) Lot area divided by lot depth.
Reverse Corner Lot (§14.03.030) A corner lot where the rear yard of a lot is adjacent to the side yard of an adjacent lot.
Yard (§14.03.030) Front, rear and side yards are open areas extending from the property boundary a specified distance into the lot, along the full width and depth of a lot.
Parking (§14.18.240) Where parking for an existing use is substandard, improvements to improve or upgrade the parking may also be required where feasible.
See Also - Single-Family Zoning Additional Regulations handout

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