Division 4.
Permits and Administration

SECTION 25.40
PERMITS

Sections:

25.40.1    Permit Requirements

25.40.2    Zoning Clearance

25.40.3    Plan Review

25.40.4    Minor Discretionary Review

25.40.5    Minor Development Review and Development Review

25.40.6    Conditional Use Permit

25.40.7    Marsh Development Authorization

25.40.8    Variance

The following Sections identify required permits and provide standards for the final review, and approval or disapproval of the land use permit applications established by this Ordinance. Procedures and standards for the review and approval of subdivision maps are found in Article III (Subdivisions). Where applicable, the procedures of this Section are carried out after those described in Section 25.41 (Application Filing, Processing, and Approval), for each application.

25.40.1 Permit Requirements

Table 25-18: Development Permit Requirements below establishes the approval and permit requirements for various types of improvements subject to this Ordinance. Where a conflict occurs in this Table with respect to different permit requirements for various improvements that are a part of a project, the permit with the higher level of review shall be required (e.g., if one improvement requires a Minor Discretionary Review permit, but another requires Development Review, a single Development Review permit shall be required for the whole of the project).

For the purposes of this Section, the terms used in Table 25-18 shall have the following meanings:

A.    “Facade alteration” shall mean any remodel, renovation, or alteration to the exterior of a structure, such as changes to awnings, color, building material and trim, windows and doors, and the like.

B.    “Site plan or landscape alteration” shall mean the installation of new improvements or modification to existing site improvements, such as vehicle circulation or parking, exterior lighting, fences and walls, trash enclosures, landscaping, hardscape, utilities, ground mounted mechanical equipment or silos, outdoor storage, and the like. “Major” revisions shall include those projects that are not exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act; all other revisions are considered “minor”.

C.    “Minor alteration to a historic place” shall mean changes to exterior building color; construction of attached or detached accessory structures; changes to landscaping, hardscape, fences or walls; removal of mature trees; and alterations to exterior mechanical equipment to a property listed on a local or national register of historic places. All other alterations shall be considered major. A demolition project shall mean destruction of any structure or improvement that was the basis for a property being listed on the local or national register of historic places.

D.    The permit requirements for grading projects listed on this Table apply to those activities that are not authorized by a valid City approval for a development project, except where a lower level of review was required (e.g., if a small building qualifies for Minor Development Review, but the grading operation requires Development Review, a Development Review permit is required for the whole of the project). Projects that involve over 50,000 cubic yards of import or off-haul material shall be defined as “major”. “Minor” projects involve any of the following:

1.    Movement of over 100,000 cubic yards of material on-site;

2.    Encroachment into wetlands or riparian habitats, or the removal of any tree ten inches or greater in diameter;

3.    Creation of slopes visible from public view that are in excess of five feet in vertical height with a slope of four:one (horizontal:vertical) or steeper; or

4.    Creation of any slope in excess of 15 feet in vertical height with a slope of three:one (horizontal:vertical) or steeper.

    Other grading activity that does not exceed the above thresholds shall not require any permit approval by this Section, but may be regulated by the City’s Grading and Erosion Control Ordinance (Chapter 25, Article VI).

25.40.2 Zoning Clearance

A Zoning Clearance shall be required of all proposed land uses or structures identified as “Ministerial” in Table 25-18 and where the City’s decision is limited to the use of only fixed standards or objective measurements rather than being based on policy determinations and the exercising of judgment by the approval body in deciding whether or how the project should be carried out.

The purpose of the Zoning Clearance is to ensure that a proposed project complies with the permitted list of activities allowed in the applicable zoning district, and any development standards applicable to the type of use. The Zoning Clearance requires no public notice, is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act, and may not be appealed.

25.40.3 Plan Review

The purpose of Plan Review is to provide an over-the-counter review for minor architectural and site planning improvements, such as but not limited to installation of a new window or door in a commercial storefront, repainting of a commercial storefront, replacement of plant materials in an existing landscaping setting, or installation of outdoor equipment with no environmental impacts in a hidden location not visible from off-site. Improvements which require more discretion in review or may have impacts on the public or adjoining properties will require Minor Discretionary Review.

25.40.4 Minor Discretionary Review

Minor Discretionary Review is an administrative review process that allows for the review and approval of minor improvements where the review is routine in nature, but action may require an interpretation to determine compliance with established design guidelines. Minor Discretionary Review shall be required as identified by Table 25-18 (Development Permit Requirements).

A.    Application filing and processing. An application for Minor Discretionary Review shall be filed and processed in compliance with Section 25.41 (Application Filing, Processing, and Approval). Upon receiving a complete application, the Director shall either grant approval or conditional approval, or shall deny the permit. The Director’s decision shall be based on the proposed improvement’s compliance or non-compliance with this Ordinance or design guidelines established by the City Council. The Director shall make his or her decision within five working days, depending on the complexity of the proposal and determination.

 

Table 25-18: Development Permit Requirements

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity or Improvement

Required Approval or Permit

Applicable

Sections & Notes

(all building sizes listed below are the total gross floor area of a project, unless otherwise indicated)

Zoning Clearance

Plan Review

Minor
Discretionary

Minor Devel. Review

Development Review

Residential Improvements

Custom Home

-

-

X

-

-

 

Single family detached (tract housing):

 

 

...    on min. lot sizes of 5000 s.f. or more

-

-

-

X

-

 

...    on min. lot sizes less than 5000 s.f.

 

 

    ...    1 to 10 units

-

-

-

X

-

 

    ...    11 or more units

-

-

-

-

X

Note 1

Single family attached:

 

 

...    1 to 10 units

-

-

-

X

-

 

...    11 or more units

-

-

-

-

X

Note 1

Multifamily:

 

 

...    1 to 25 units

-

-

-

X

-

 

...    26 or more units

-

-

-

-

X

 

Additions or accessory structures:

 

 

...    single family detached or attached lot

X

-

-

-

-

 

...    multifamily lot

-

-

X

-

-

 

Site plan, landscape or facade alterations:

 

 

...    single family detached or attached lot

-

-

-

-

-

 

...    multifamily lot

-

-

X

-

-

 

Alteration or addition to historic structure or grounds:

 

 

...    Minor

-

-

X

-

-

 

...    Major

-

-

-

X

-

 

...    Demolition

-

-

-

-

X

 

Model home complex

-

-

X

-

-

 

Commercial, Institution and Public Improvements

New buildings or shopping centers:

 

 

...    less than 25,000 s.f. (except as listed below)

-

-

-

X

-

 

...    25,000 s.f. or larger

-

-

-

-

X

 

...    any building with drive-through facilities

-

-

-

-

X

 

...    over 5000 s.f. in the CD or CDC zoning districts

-

-

-

-

X

 

Building additions:

 

 

...    less than 2500 s.f.

-

-

X

-

-

 

...    2500 to 25,000 s.f. (except as listed below)

-

-

-

X

-

 

...    over 25,000 s.f.

-

-

-

-

X

 

...    over 5000 s.f. in the CD or CDC zoning districts

-

-

-

-

X

 

Facade alterations

-

X

X

-

-

Note 3

Site plan or landscape alterations:

 

 

...    Minor

-

X

X

-

-

Note 3

...    Major (projects subject to CEQA)

-

-

-

X

-

 

New parking lot on vacant parcel

-

-

-

X

-

 

Alteration or addition to historic structure or grounds

 

 

    Minor

-

X

X

-

-

Note 3

    Major

-

-

-

X

-

 

    Demolition

-

-

-

-

X

 

 

Table 25-18: Development Permit Requirements (cont.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity or Improvement

Required Approval or Permit

Applicable

Sections & Notes

(all building sizes listed below are the total gross floor area of a project, unless otherwise indicated)

Zoning Clearance

Plan Review

Minor
Discretionary

Minor Devel. Review

Development Review

Industrial Property Improvements

New buildings or complexes

 

 

...    less than 1000 s.f. on undeveloped site

-

-

X

-

-

 

...    1,000 to 5,000 s.f. on undeveloped site

-

-

-

X

-

 

    less than 5,000 s.f. on developed site

-

-

X

-

-

 

...    5,000 to 50,000 s.f. on all lots

-

-

-

X

-

 

...    more than 50,000 s.f. on all lots

-

-

-

-

X

 

Building additions (non-historic bldg.’s):

 

 

...    less than 5000 s.f.

-

-

X

-

-

 

...    5000 to 50,000 s.f.

-

-

-

X

-

 

...    more than 50,000 s.f.

-

-

-

-

X

 

Facade alterations

-

X

X

-

-

Note 3

Site plan or landscape alterations

 

 

...    Minor

-

X

X

-

-

Note 3

...    Major (projects subject to CEQA)

-

-

-

X

-

 

New parking lot on vacant parcel

-

-

-

X

-

 

Miscellaneous Improvements

Grading, excavation or placement of fill:

 

 

    0-5,000 cubic yards

X

-

 

 

 

 

    5,001-25,000 cubic yards

 

-

X

 

 

 

    25,001-50,000 cubic yards

 

-

 

X

 

 

    50,001+ cubic yards

 

-

 

 

X

 

Flag poles

-

-

X

-

-

 

Outdoor seating, storage, and merchandise display

-

-

X

-

-

Section 25.32.9

Roof equipment:

 

 

...    with screening

X

-

-

-

-

 

...    without screen

-

-

X

-

-

 

Satellite dish

-

-

X

-

-

Section 25.32.4

Residential Wind Energy Systems

 

-

X

 

 

Note 4

Temporary Uses and Events

-

-

X

-

-

Section 25.32.8

Notes:

(1)    At the time of a Development Review approval for single family tract housing, the Planning Commission may authorize that subsequent phases of the project consistent with an approved community design plan be approved with an application for Minor Development Review (vs. Development Review) in order to streamline the review of what would be a routine application.

(2)    Design changes to an approved but not built home are subject to Minor Discretionary Review.

(3)    Plan Review is applied to very minor architectural site planning and architectural changes which require minimal construction.

(4)    Requires notification of all property owners within 300 feet of the residence.

B.    Environmental review. Improvements requiring Minor Discretionary Review are those that are normally not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act. If the Director determines that a proposal has the potential to create a significant impact on the environment, the permit shall be reviewed in accordance with the procedures established by the City to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.

C.    Special notice for custom homes. Within two days of receiving a complete Minor Discretionary Review application for a custom home, the Director shall mail notification to all property owners within 300 feet of the property on which the home is proposed. (Ord. No. 2010-03, § 2; Ord. No. 2018-03, § 12.)

25.40.5 Minor Development Review and Development Review

Improvements requiring Minor Development Review and Development Review are those that require in depth review and discretion by the City to determine compliance with the applicable City regulations or guidelines, Specific or Master Development Plans, the General Plan, or the California Environmental Quality Act. Minor Development Review and Development Review shall be required as identified by Table 25-18: Development Permit Requirements.

A.    Application filing and processing. An application for Minor Development Review shall be filed and processed in compliance with Section 25.41 (Application Filing, Processing, and Approval). Review by the Development Action Review Team (DART), as described in Section 25.41.5 (C), shall be required. Depending on the project location, review by a Planning Area Design Review Committee and/or the Open Space Commission may be required (see Section 25.41.5).

B.    Approval authority. Each application for Minor Development Review shall be reviewed and acted on by the Director, who shall hold a public hearing on the application in compliance with Section 25.43 (Public Hearings). The Director may refer the Minor Development Review application to the Planning Commission if he or she determines Commission review is warranted based upon the criteria in 25.41.1 (B) (Director referrals to the Planning Commission). Development Review permits shall be acted on solely by the Planning Commission.

C.    Findings and conditions. In approving any Minor Development Review or Development Review application the Director or Planning Commission shall make the following findings and impose reasonable conditions to ensure that they are fulfilled:

1.    The project is consistent with the General Plan and Zoning Ordinance, and any applicable Areawide or Specific Plan;

2.    The exterior design and appearance of the project will not cause the nature of the neighborhood to economically, physically, or visually decline;

3.    The project is of high quality design consistent with applicable design policies and standards of the City; and

4.    Any potentially significant negative impacts to environmental quality and natural resources have been properly mitigated. For this reason, the proposed project complies with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

D.    Standards for application review. The review of each application for Minor Development Review or Development Review shall include an analysis of the following items, to the extent to which they are applicable to a specific project:

1.    The overall design of the project in relation to the character of the project site and surrounding neighborhood;

2.    The design of the site plan orientation, placement, appearance, and harmony of proposed buildings and open spaces in relation to physical characteristics of the site and surrounding natural or man made features, and planned uses of adjacent land;

3.    The design of the circulation system including the on-site location and dimensions of vehicular and pedestrian entrances, exits, drives and walkways, in relation to the surrounding street and trail system on individual parcels and on surrounding land;

4.    Building scale, mass, proportion, articulation of facades, use of materials, overall composition of design, and harmony with surrounding buildings;

5.    The location, height, materials, and design of fences and walls relative to the need for sound attenuation and screening of existing or future uses on or off-site;

6.    Colors and materials in relationship to adjacent architectural and natural elements;

7.    Street and lot configuration in relation to established neighborhoods or surrounding natural features;

8.    The type, location, number, and size of plants in consideration of the nature of the proposed use, uses of surrounding property, water use and suitability of the plant material for local climatic conditions; and, the selection of pavement materials, pedestrian fixtures (e.g., seating, trash receptacles, lighting);

9.    The design of outdoor advertising signs including the location, size, height, color, and lighting, in relation to the nature of the proposed use, uses of surrounding property, and the proposed site plan and building design.

10.    Compliance with the General Plan, applicable Specific or Area Wide plans, City regulations, design guidelines, and the California Environmental Quality Act. (Ord. No. 2013-07, § 2. Formerly 25.40.4.)

25.40.6 Conditional Use Permit

The Conditional Use Permit is intended to allow for activities and uses that may not be appropriate for all locations and whose effect on the surrounding environment cannot be determined prior to being proposed for a particular location. Uses requiring a Conditional Use Permit may not be appropriate without specific conditions being applied that eliminate or minimize any negative impacts caused by the use. Conditional Use Permit approval is required for all land uses identified by Division II (Zoning Districts and Allowable Land Uses) as allowable subject to Conditional Use Permit approval.

A.    Application filing and processing. An application for a Conditional Use Permit or modification to an existing Conditional Use Permit shall be filed and processed in compliance with Section 25.41 (Application Filing, Processing, and Approval). Each application shall be reviewed and acted on by the Director, who shall hold a public hearing on the application in compliance with Section 25.43 (Public Hearings). The Director may refer the Conditional Use Permit to the Planning Commission if he or she determines Commission review is warranted based upon the criteria in Section 25.41.1 (B) (Director Referrals to the Planning Commission).

B.    Findings and conditions. Following a public hearing, the Director shall record the decision and the findings upon which the decision is based. The Director or Planning Commission may approve a Conditional Use Permit application if all of the following findings are made:

1.    The location, size, design, and operating characteristics and intensity of the proposed use are compatible with the existing and anticipated future land uses in the vicinity.

2.    The proposed use is consistent with the General Plan and Zoning Ordinance, and any applicable Areawide or Specific Plan.

3.    Any potentially significant negative impacts to environmental quality and natural resources have been properly mitigated. For this reason, the proposed Conditional Use Permit complies with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

4.    Adequate facilities, such as roads, utilities, and City services are provided to serve the use, or will be provided as conditions of approval for the Use Permit.

5.    The proposed use will not create either an imbalance or overabundance of similar uses in the vicinity.

6.    The proposal will not constitute a nuisance or be detrimental to the health, safety, morals, peace, or the general welfare of the surrounding neighborhood and the City. The conditions and limitations on the use identified in the Conditions of the Use Permit will assure the use does not bear an adverse effect on the surrounding neighborhood.

    Any Conditional Use Permit granted shall be subject to conditions that will ensure that the permit will eliminate or minimize any negative impacts caused by the use.

C.    Findings for conditional uses approved in the HD and HDC districts. In addition to the findings identified above, the following findings shall be made for any conditionally approved use in the Heart of Fairfield Downtown (HD) or Downtown Core (HDC) zoning districts:

1.    The use is consistent with the desired pedestrian-oriented, street-level, downtown character of small specialty shops, restaurants, cultural, and entertainment uses.

2.    The exterior design, architecture, signs, and landscaping are attractive, and complement and enhance the desired unique downtown character, scale, and image.

3.    The use will not create either an imbalance or overabundance of similar uses already located in the downtown and will not detract from the desired downtown image and character.

4.    The use or development will be consistent with the intent, vision, and policies established in the Heart of Fairfield Plan.

D.    Findings for Conditional Use Permits for additional building height or increased Floor Area Ratio. When approving any Conditional Use Permit for increase building height or floor area ratio, the review authority shall make the following findings, instead of the findings identified in Section 25.40.6 (B):

1.    The Conditional Use Permit shall not allow the maximum building height to exceed twice that allowed by the zoning district in which the proposed building is located.

2.    Within or adjacent to a residential zoning district, one additional foot of required setback shall be provided for one foot of height above the base district regulations, up to a maximum of a 60-foot setback.

3.    The overall mass and scale of the building shall be appropriate for the subject site and compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.

4.    The placement of the building on the site and architecture shall minimize adverse impacts on adjoining property, including light and air, privacy, and views.

5.    If the request involves an increase in the density or intensity of a use on the site, above that allowed by base zoning regulations, the cumulative impacts of the project relative to the General Plan service level shall be considered.

E.    Permits required for uses previously allowed by Planned Unit Development permit. An application for a Conditional Use Permit shall not be denied on the basis that the proposed use is not an appropriate use at the subject location, if the application proposes the same type of use that was authorized by a Planned Unit Development Permit lawfully in effect on May 20, 1999, regardless of the length of time that the prior use has been discontinued. The Director or Planning Commission, however, may deny or condition such an application for a Conditional Use Permit on any other lawful basis, in which the proposed use is designed or will be operated or maintained (see also 25.46, Nonconforming Structures and Uses).

F.    Modification or revocation.

1.    In any case where the conditions of a use permit have not been complied with, the Director shall give written notice of intention to see revocation or modification of such permit to the permitee at least ten (10) calendar days prior to a Planning Commission hearing on the permit. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Commission may revoke or modify such permit.

2.    In any case where a use permit has been exercised and the approved use moves to a new location or ceases to operate, the use permit will automatically terminate twelve (12) months from the date the use ceases to operate or moves from the parcel on which the permit was approved. (Ord. No. 2013-07, § 2; Ord. No. 2017-14, § 18. Formerly 25.40.5.)

25.40.7 Marsh Development Authorization

A.    Applicability. This section shall be applicable to any property located within the boundaries of the Suisun Marsh Primary or Secondary Management Area, as designated by the map titled “Boundaries of the Suisun Marsh,” adopted by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (Resolution No. 53) on February 2, 1978. Any property owner seeking to place fill, facilities, or structures, whether temporary or permanent, whether or not these structures or fill require a building permit or do not require a building permit shall obtain Marsh Development Authorization (“Authorization”) to do so. The same requirement shall apply to property owners seeking to annex to the City, redesignate, rezone, or otherwise entitle any property in these areas. Any application and the approval thereof shall be consistent with the requirements of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and the Suisun Marsh Preservation Act of 1977.

B.    Filing. An application for a Marsh Development Authorization or modification to an existing Marsh Development Authorization shall be filed and processed in compliance with Section 25.41 (Application Filing, Processing, and Approval). The applicant shall pay a fee as required by City Council resolution.

C.    Processing. Each application shall be reviewed and acted on by the Director who shall hold a public hearing on the application in compliance with Section 25.43 (Public Hearings). The Director may refer the application for Marsh Development Authorization to the Planning Commission if he or she determines Commission review is warranted based upon the criteria in Section 25.41.1 (B) (Director Referrals to the Planning Commission). Prior to permit issuance, the City shall route the CEQA document prepared for the project to the State Clearinghouse for a period of no less than 30 days. At the end of the 10-day appeal period after permit issuance, the City shall provide notice to BCDC of its decision to grant the approval. Should it intend to appeal the City’s decision, BCDC shall provide notice to the City within 20 days of receiving the City notice. (Ord. No. 2013-07, § 2. Formerly 25.40.6.)

25.40.8 Variance

The provisions of this Section allow for Variance from the development standards of this Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 25, Article I) only when, because of special circumstances applicable to the property, including size, shape, topography, location or surroundings, the strict application of this Ordinance denies the property owner privileges enjoyed by other property owners in the vicinity and under identical zoning districts.

A.    Applicability. The Commission may grant a Variance from the requirements of this Zoning Ordinance governing only the following development standards:

1.    Dimensional standards (i.e., distance between structures, parcel area, building coverage, landscape and paving requirements, parcel dimensions, setbacks, and structure heights);

2.    Number and dimensions of parking areas, loading spaces, landscaping or lighting requirements, except as otherwise provided in this Ordinance.

    No Variance shall be granted to allow land uses or residential densities that would otherwise not be allowed by this Ordinance.

    This Section does not address variance from the standards in the Fairfield Sign Ordinance (Chapter 25, Article IX). Variances from the Sign Ordinance requirements are addressed through the Sign Exception process established in that Ordinance or through the adoption of a Special Sign District established by an Ordinance of the Fairfield City Council.

B.    Application filing and processing. An application for a Variance shall be filed in compliance with Section 25.41 (Application Filing, Processing, and Approval). Each application shall be reviewed and acted on by the Director, who shall hold a public hearing on the application in compliance with Section 25.43 (Public Hearings). The Director may refer the Variance application to the Planning Commission if he or she determines Commission review is warranted based upon the criteria in Section 25.41.1 (Director Referrals to the Planning Commission).

C.    Findings, decision, conditions. Following a public hearing, the Director or Commission may approve, approve subject to conditions, or deny the Variance, and shall record the decision in writing with the findings upon which the decision is based, in compliance with State law (Government Code Section 65906). In approving any variance, the following findings shall be made:

1.    There exist unique circumstances applicable to the property (i.e., size, shape, topography, location or surroundings), such that the strict application of this Ordinance denies the property owner privileges enjoyed by other property owners in the vicinity and under identical zoning districts;

2.    The Variance is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of substantial property rights possessed by other property owners in the same vicinity and zoning district and denied to the property owner for which the Variance is sought; and

3.    The Variance will not be detrimental to the public health, safety, or welfare, or injurious to the property or improvements in the vicinity and zoning district in which the property is located.

    Any Variance granted shall be subject to conditions that will ensure that the Variance does not grant special privilege(s) inconsistent with the limitations upon other properties in the vicinity and same zoning district. (Ord. No. 2013-07, § 2; Ord. No. 2016-08, § 2. Formerly 25.40.7.)