Chapter 9.34
Landscaping Standards


9.34.010    Purpose

9.34.020    Applicability

9.34.030    Definitions

9.34.040    Landscape and Irrigation Plans

9.34.050    Landscape Location Requirements

9.34.060    Landscape Standards

9.34.070    Maintenance of Landscape Areas

9.34.010 Purpose

This Chapter establishes requirements for landscaping to enhance the appearance of development projects, reduce heat and glare, control soil erosion, conserve water, screen potentially incompatible land uses, preserve the integrity of neighborhoods, improve air quality, and improve pedestrian and vehicular traffic and safety.

9.34.020 Applicability

The provisions of this Chapter apply to all land uses as follows:

A.    New projects. New residential subdivisions, multi-family residential projects, and nonresidential projects within all zone districts except for the AE, AR, and NR zone districts shall incorporate a minimum of ten (10) percent landscaping per site area. This requirement may be modified by the Director for the CC zone district if site restrictions limit landscaping opportunities. Landscaping requirements for parking areas, per Section 9.34.050 A, shall count toward the ten (10) percent site area landscaping requirement.

B.    Existing development. The approval of a Minor Use Permit, Use Permit, Planned Development Permit, Grading Permit, Variance, or application for Design Review for physical alterations and/or a change in use within an existing development may include conditions of approval requiring the upgrading of nonconforming landscaping to comply with specific landscaping and irrigation requirements of this Chapter.

C.    Timing of installation. Required landscape and irrigation improvements shall be installed before final building inspection. The installation of landscaping for a residential project may be deferred for a maximum of 90 days in compliance with Section 9.79.060 (Performance Guarantees).

D.    Alternatives to requirements. The review authority may modify the standards of this Chapter to accommodate alternatives to required landscape materials or methods, where the review authority first determines that the proposed alternative will be equally or more effective in achieving the purposes of this Chapter.

E.    Responsibility of property owner. The provision of required landscaping and maintenance shall be the responsibility of the property owner. (Ord. 1432, eff. 12/20/2013)

9.34.030 Definitions

Definitions of certain technical terms and phrases used in this Chapter are under "Landscaping Standards" in Article 10 (Glossary) of this Land Use Code.

9.34.040 Landscape and Irrigation Plans

A.    Landscape Plan. A Landscape Plan shall be submitted as part of each application for new development, or the significant expansion (e.g., 50 percent or more of floor area) or redevelopment of an existing use, as determined by the Director. The Landscape Plan shall be submitted with the application for a Building Permit. The Landscape Plan shall be approved by the Historic and Design Review Commission before the issuance of a Building Permit.

B.    Content and preparation.

1.    Required information. Landscape Plans shall contain the following information:

a.    Landscape Plan. Detailed drawings and specifications clearly identifying the botanical and common name, size, and quantity of all plant materials. In addition, the Landscape Plan shall show the precise location and mature size of all plant material and other landscape elements, including method of irrigation.

b.    Maintenance Plan. Explanation of how the applicant will ensure that the maintenance of approved landscaping will comply with Section 9.34.070 (Maintenance of Landscape Areas) on a continuing basis.

C.    Financial security for installation of Landscaping. The Director may require financial security for legitimate delays in the installation of approved landscaping prior to the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy. The financial security shall be based on a rate of $1.30 per square foot of landscaped area, with inflation adjustments every five years. All approved landscaping shall be in place within six months from the date of issuance of the Temporary Certificate of Occupancy.

D.    Changes to approved landscape plans. The Director may authorize minor changes to an approved landscape plan in compliance with Section 9.79.080 (Change to an Approved Project).

9.34.050 Landscape Location Requirements

Landscaping shall be provided in all areas of a site subject to development with structures, grading, or the removal of natural vegetation, as follows.

A.    Parking areas. Parking areas, other than single-family residential and secondary units, containing three or more parking spaces shall be landscaped as follows.

1.    Landscape materials. Landscaping shall be provided throughout the parking lot as a combination of ground cover, shrubs, and trees.

2.    Curbing. Landscape areas shall be provided protective curbing in compliance with Section 9.34.060.A.4 (Protective curbing).

3.    Groundwater recharge. The design of parking lot landscape areas shall consider and may be required to include provisions for the on-site detention of stormwater runoff, pollutant cleansing, and groundwater recharge.

4.    Perimeter parking lot landscaping. All surface parking areas shall be screened from streets and adjoining properties, and open areas between the parking area and the public street shall be landscaped.

a.    Adjacent to streets.

(1)    A parking area proposed or existing adjacent to a public street shall be designed with a landscaped planting strip between the street right-of-way and parking area with a minimum depth of six feet.

(2)    Landscaping within the planting strip shall be designed and maintained to screen cars from view from the street to a minimum height of 36 inches, but shall not exceed any applicable height limit for landscaping within a setback.

(3)    Screening materials may include a combination of plant materials, earth berms, solid decorative masonry walls, raised planters, or other screening devices that are determined by the review authority to meet the intent of this requirement.

(4)    Trees that reach a mature height of at least 20 feet shall be provided within the planting strip in addition to trees within the parking lot interior required by Subsection A.5.

(5)    Plant materials, signs, or structures within a traffic safety sight area of a driveway shall comply with Section 9.30.040.E (Height limit at street corners).

b.    Adjacent to side or rear property lines. Parking areas for nonresidential uses shall provide a screen or perimeter landscape strip where the parking area adjoins a side or rear property line unless the sites share a joint access drive. The requirement for a landscape strip may be satisfied by a setback or buffer area that is otherwise required.

c.    Adjacent to structures. When a parking area is located adjacent to a nonresidential structure, a landscape strip shall be provided adjacent to the structure, exclusive of any building entries, or areas immediately adjacent to the wall of the structure that serve as pedestrian access ways.

d.    Adjacent to residential use. A parking area for a nonresidential use adjoining a residential use shall provide a landscaped buffer setback with a minimum six-foot width between the parking area and the common property line bordering the residential use. A solid wall or fence, except for approved pedestrian access, and landscape buffer shall be provided along the property line to address land use compatibility issues (e.g., nuisance, noise, and light/glare) as determined by the review authority.

5.    Interior parking lot landscaping.

a.    Amount of landscaping. Multi-family, commercial, and industrial uses shall provide landscaping within each outdoor parking area at a minimum ratio of 10 percent of the gross area of the parking lot. Trees that reach a mature height of at least 20 feet shall be planted within the parking lot at a minimum ratio of one tree for each five parking spaces.

b.    Location of landscaping. Landscaping shall be dispersed throughout the parking area, as follows.

(1)    Parking lots with more than 50 spaces shall provide a concentration of landscape elements at primary entrances, such as trees, shrubs, flowering plants, enhanced paving, and project identification.

(2)    Landscaping shall be located so that pedestrians are not required to cross unpaved landscaped areas to reach building entrances from parked cars. This shall be achieved through proper orientation of the landscaped fingers and islands, and by providing pedestrian access through landscaped areas that would otherwise block direct pedestrian routes.

B.    Major Subdivisions. A new major subdivision shall be designed and constructed to provide street trees at a rate of at least one tree for each 30 feet of street frontage and installed so there is not more than 60 feet between each tree. Irrigation shall be provided for the trees.

9.34.060 Landscape Standards

A.    Landscape design. The required landscape plan shall be designed to integrate all elements of the project to achieve desired aesthetic objectives, accommodate microclimates, and minimize water and energy demand.

1.    Plant selection and grouping. Plant materials shall be selected for adaptability to the site, non-invasiveness, color, form, and pattern; adhere to xeriscaping concepts; ability to provide shade; and soil retention capability.

a.    The use, protection, and preservation of existing site vegetation, native species, and natural areas is encouraged, and may be required by conditions of approval as a result of project review in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

b.    Fire prevention shall be addressed on sites in any wooded or vegetated area of the City identified by the Fire Department as being fire prone, by providing fire-resistant landscaping buffers between development areas and naturally vegetated areas, as identified by the Director.

2.    Minimum dimensions. Wherever this Land Use Code requires a landscaped area of a specified width, the width shall be measured within any curb or wall bordering the landscaping area.

3.    Height limits. Landscape materials shall be selected, placed on a site, and maintained to not:

a.    Exceed a maximum height of 36 inches within five feet of a street right-of-way or within the vision clearance triangle, except for trees with the lowest portion of their canopy maintained at a minimum height of 10 feet above grade; or

b.    Interfere with the proper operation of existing solar energy equipment or passive solar design on subject or adjacent parcels.

4.    Protective curbing. Areas containing plant materials shall be bordered by a concrete curb at least six inches high and six inches wide, except:

a.    Where the review authority approves alternative barrier design determined to be equally effective in protecting landscaped areas from damage by vehicles or pedestrians; or

b.    Where site drainage is to be directed into the landscaped area for pollutant filtering, and plant materials are protected by other means approved by the Director.

5.    Safety requirements.

a.    Landscape materials shall be located so that at maturity they do not:

(1)    Interfere with safe sight distances for vehicular, bicycle, or pedestrian traffic;

(2)    Conflict with overhead utility lines, overhead lights, or walkway lights; or

(3)    Block pedestrian or bicycle ways.

b.    Landscape design should incorporate security lighting, where determined by the review authority to be appropriate.

6.    Water features. Decorative water features (e.g., fountains, ponds, waterfalls) shall have recirculating water systems, encourage solar power where feasible.

7.    Impervious surfaces. Landscape design should minimize the area of impervious surfaces, to reduce runoff.

8.    Weed prevention. The use of weed barrier fabric is highly discouraged and non-porous material is prohibited.

B.    Plant material. Required landscape shall include trees, shrubs, and ground covers. Native species and the avoidance of invasive plant materials are encouraged. Artificial plant material is prohibited.

1.    Size at time of planting. Plant materials shall be sized and spaced to achieve immediate effect and shall not be less than a 15-gallon container for trees, five-gallon container for shrubs, and one gallon for perennials and vines or less for mass planting, unless otherwise approved by the review authority on the basis that the alternate size will achieve the desired immediate and/or long-term effect equally well.

2.    Trees. Tree planting shall comply with the following standards.

a.    Trees shall not be planted under any structure that may interfere with normal growth (for example, an eave, overhang, balcony, light standard or other similar structure).

b.    Trees in landscape planters less than 10 feet in width or located closer than five feet from a permanent structure shall be planted with root barriers or root barrier panels to prevent damage to adjacent structures or pavement.

3.    Groundcover and shrubs. The majority of areas required to be landscaped shall be covered with groundcover, shrubs, turf, or other types of plants.

a.    Groundcover shall be provided throughout the landscaped area and shall be spaced to achieve full coverage within one year.

b.    Excessive use of turf is discouraged.

c.    Crushed rock, redwood chips, pebbles, stone, and similar materials shall be allowed up to 15 percent of the total required landscape area.

d.    Landscaped areas (e.g., shrub beds) shall be top dressed with a bark chip mulch or approved alternative to avoid exposed bare soil.

C.    Irrigation system requirements. All landscaped areas for commercial, industrial, and multi-family projects shall include an automatic irrigation system.

D.    Certification of landscape completion. The applicant shall submit written verification to the Director that the required landscaping and irrigation improvements were completed as approved. Deviations from the approved landscape requirements require the submittal of "as-built plans" for review and approval by the Director.

9.34.070 Maintenance of Landscape Areas

A.    Maintenance required. A written Landscape Maintenance Plan (except for existing single-family dwellings) shall ensure all site landscaping is maintained in a healthy and thriving condition at all times. At a minimum, the Landscape Maintenance Plan shall address pruning, trimming, weed control, cleaning, fertilizing, and irrigation. In addition, the Landscaping Maintenance Plan shall include provisions to replace plant material as needed to ensure continued compliance with approved landscape requirements.

B.    Water waste prohibited. Water waste in existing developments resulting from inefficient landscape irrigation leading to excessive runoff, low head drainage, overspray, and other similar conditions where water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, walks, roadways, or structures is prohibited.

C.    Enforcement. Failure to maintain landscape areas in compliance with this Section shall be deemed a nuisance, and shall be subject to abatement in compliance with the Municipal Code, and/or the applicable planning permit may be revoked.