Article I. General Provisions

Chapter 18.01


18.01.010    Title and authority.

18.01.020    Purpose.

18.01.030    Structure of zoning regulations.

18.01.040    Applicability.

18.01.050    Severability.

18.01.060    Fees.

18.01.070    Districts established.

18.01.080    Official Zoning Map and district boundaries.

18.01.010 Title and authority.

This title shall be known and cited as the “San Carlos Zoning Ordinance,” “Zoning Ordinance of the City of San Carlos,” “Zoning Ordinance,” or “Ordinance.”

The San Carlos Zoning Ordinance is adopted pursuant to the authority contained in Section 65850 of the California Government Code. (Ord. 1438 § 4 (Exh. A (part)), 2011)

18.01.020 Purpose.

The purpose of this title is to implement the City’s General Plan and to protect and promote the public health, safety, peace, comfort, convenience, prosperity and general welfare. More specifically, the ordinance codified in this title is adopted to achieve the following objectives:

A.    To provide a precise guide for the physical development of the City in a manner as to progressively achieve the arrangement of land uses depicted in the San Carlos General Plan, consistent with the goals and policies of the General Plan.

B.    To foster a harmonious, convenient and workable relationship among land uses and ensure compatible infill development, consistent with the General Plan.

C.    To support economic development and job creation.

D.    To provide for the housing needs of all economic segments of the community.

E.    To promote high quality architecture and design, consistent with the General Plan.

F.    To promote the stability of existing land uses that conform with the General Plan, protecting them from inharmonious influences and harmful intrusions.

G.    To promote a safe and efficient traffic circulation system, foster the provision of adequate off-street parking and off-street loading facilities, bicycle facilities and pedestrian amenities, and support a multi-modal transportation system.

H.    To facilitate the appropriate location of community facilities, institutions and parks and recreational areas.

I.    To protect and enhance real property values.

J.    To safeguard and enhance the appearance of the City.

K.    To define duties and powers of administrative bodies and officers responsible for implementation of this title. (Ord. 1438 § 4 (Exh. A (part)), 2011)

18.01.030 Structure of zoning regulations.

A.    Organization of Regulations. This title consists of five parts:

1.    Article I: General Provisions;

2.    Article II: Base and Overlay Districts;

3.    Article III: Regulations Applying to Some or All Districts;

4.    Article IV: Administration and Permits;

5.    Article V: General Terms.

B.    Types of Regulations. Four types of zoning regulations control the use and development of property:

1.    Land Use Regulations. These regulations specify land uses permitted, conditionally permitted or specifically prohibited in each zoning district, and include special requirements, if any, applicable to specific uses. Land use regulations for base zoning districts and for overlay districts are in Article II of this title. Certain regulations applicable in some or all of the districts, and performance standards which govern special uses, are in Article III.

2.    Development Regulations. These regulations control the height, bulk, location and appearance of structures on development sites. Development regulations for base zoning districts and for overlay districts are in Article II of this title. Certain development regulations applicable to some or all districts are in Article III. These include regulations for specific uses, development and site regulations, performance standards, parking, signs, antennas and wireless communications and nonconforming uses.

3.    Administrative Regulations. These regulations contain detailed procedures for the administration of this title, and include common procedures, processes and standards for discretionary entitlement applications and other permits. Administrative regulations are in Article IV.

4.    General Terms and Use Classifications. Article V provides a list of use classifications and a list of terms and definitions used in this title. (Ord. 1438 § 4 (Exh. A (part)), 2011)

18.01.040 Applicability.

A.    General Rules for Applicability of Zoning Regulations.

1.    Applicability to Property. This title shall apply, to the extent permitted by law, to all property within the corporate limits of the City of San Carlos and to property for which applications for annexation and/or subdivisions have been submitted to the City of San Carlos, including all uses, structures and land owned by any private person, firm, corporation or organization, or the City of San Carlos or other local, State or Federal agencies. Any governmental agency shall be exempt from the provisions of this title only to the extent that such property may not be lawfully regulated by the City of San Carlos.

2.    Compliance with Regulations. No land shall be used, and no structure shall be constructed, occupied, enlarged, altered, demolished or moved in any zoning district, except in accordance with the provisions of this title.

B.    Relation to Other Regulations.

1.    General. The regulations of this title and requirements or conditions imposed pursuant to this title shall not supersede any other regulations or requirements adopted or imposed by the San Carlos City Council, the State of California, or any Federal agency that has jurisdiction by law over uses and development authorized by this title. All uses and development authorized by this title shall comply with all other such regulations and requirements. Where conflict occurs between the provisions of this title and any other City ordinance, chapter, resolution, guideline or regulation, the more restrictive provisions shall control, unless otherwise specified.

2.    Permit Streamlining Act. It is the intent of this title that all actions taken by the decision-making body pursuant to this title that are solely adjudicatory in nature be within a time frame consistent with the provisions of Government Code Section 65920 et seq. (the Permit Streamlining Act). Nothing in this title shall be interpreted as imposing time limits on actions taken by the decision-making body pursuant to this title that are legislative in nature or that require both adjudicatory and legislative judgments.

3.    Relation to Private Agreements. This title shall not interfere with or annul any recorded easement, covenant, or other agreement now in effect; provided, that where this title imposes greater restriction than imposed by an easement, covenant, or agreement, this title shall control.

4.    Relation to Prior Ordinances. The provisions of this title supersede all prior Zoning Ordinances codified in Title 18 of the San Carlos Municipal Code and any amendments. No provision of this title shall validate any land use or structure established, constructed or maintained in violation of the prior Zoning Ordinance, unless such validation is specifically authorized by this title and is in conformance with all other regulations.

5.    Application During Local Emergency. The City Council may authorize a deviation from a provision of this title during a local emergency declared and ratified under the San Carlos Municipal Code. The City Council may authorize a deviation by resolution without notice or public hearing.

C.    Consistency with the General Plan. Any permit, license or approval issued pursuant to this title must be consistent with the San Carlos General Plan and all applicable specific plans. In any case where there is a conflict between this title and the General Plan, the General Plan shall prevail.

D.    Effect on Previously Approved Projects and Projects in Progress. Any building or structure for which a building permit has been issued may be completed and used in accordance with the plans, specifications and permits on which said building permit was granted, provided at least one inspection has been requested and posted for the primary structure on the site where the permit is issued and provided construction is diligently pursued and completed within six months of permit issuance. No extensions of time except as provided for in the California Building Code shall be granted for commencement of construction, unless the applicant has secured an allowed permit extension from the Planning Department. (Ord. 1438 § 4 (Exh. A (part)), 2011)

18.01.050 Severability.

If any section, subsection, paragraph, sentence, clause or phrase of this title is for any reason held to be invalid or unconstitutional by the decision of any court of competent jurisdiction, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this title. The San Carlos City Council hereby declares that it would have passed this title, and each section, subsection, sentence, clause and phrase thereof, regardless of the fact that any or one or more sections, subsections, sentences, clauses or phrases be declared invalid or unconstitutional. (Ord. 1438 § 4 (Exh. A (part)), 2011)

18.01.060 Fees.

The City Council shall establish by resolution, and may amend and revise from time to time, fees for processing the discretionary entitlement applications and other permits authorized or required by this title. All fees shall be paid at the time an application is filed, and no processing shall commence until the fees are paid in full. (Ord. 1438 § 4 (Exh. A (part)), 2011)

18.01.070 Districts established.

The City shall be classified into districts or zones, the designation and regulation of which are set forth in this title and as follows:

A.    Base Zoning Districts. Base zoning districts into which the City is divided are established as shown in Table 18.01.070, Base and Overlay Zoning Districts.

B.    Overlay Zoning Districts. Overlay zoning districts, one or more of which may be combined with a base district, are established as shown in Table 18.01.070, Base and Overlay Zoning Districts.


Short Name / Map Symbol

Full Name

Residential Districts


Single-Family, Low Density




Multifamily, Low Density


Multifamily, Medium Density

Mixed-Use Districts


Mixed-Use Downtown Core


Mixed-Use Downtown


Mixed-Use Station Area


Mixed-Use San Carlos Avenue


Mixed-Use North Boulevard


Mixed-Use South Boulevard


Neighborhood Mixed-Use

Commercial Districts


Neighborhood Retail


General Commercial/Industrial


Landmark Commercial

Industrial Districts


Industrial Arts


Light Industrial


Heavy Industrial


Industrial Professional

Public and Semi-Public Districts






Open Space

Other Base Districts


Airport District


Planned Development

Overlay Districts






Stream Development and Maintenance


Neighborhood Hub

C.    References to Classes of Base Districts. Throughout this title, the following references apply:

1.    “RS district” or “residential single-family district” means one or more of the following districts: RS-3 Single-Family, Low Density or RS-6 Single-Family.

2.    “RM district” or “residential multifamily district” means one or more of the following districts: RM-20 Multifamily, Low Density or RM-59 Multifamily, Medium Density.

3.    “R district” or “residential district” means one or more of the following districts: RS-3 Single-Family, Low Density, RS-6 Single-Family, RM-20 Multifamily, Low Density or RM-59 Multifamily, Medium Density.

4.    “Nonresidential district” means any base zoning district except RS or RM districts.

5.    “MU district” or “mixed-use district” means one or more of the following districts: MU-DC Mixed-Use Downtown Core, MU-D Mixed-Use Downtown, MU-SA Mixed-Use Station Area, MU-SC Mixed-Use San Carlos Avenue, MU-NB Mixed-Use North Boulevard, MU-SB Mixed-Use South Boulevard, or MU-N Neighborhood Mixed-Use.

6.    “C district” or “commercial district” means one or more of the following districts: NR Neighborhood Retail, GCI General Commercial/Industrial, or LC Landmark Commercial.

7.    “I district” or “industrial district” means one or more of the following: IA Industrial Arts, IL Light Industrial, IH Heavy Industrial, or IP Industrial Professional. (Ord. 1464 § 3 (Exh. A), 2013: Ord. 1438 § 4 (Exh. A (part)), 2011)

18.01.080 Official Zoning Map and district boundaries.

The boundaries of the zoning districts established by this title are not included in this title but are shown on the official Zoning Map maintained by the City Clerk. The official Zoning Map, together with all legends, symbols, notations, references, zoning district boundaries, map symbols, and other information on the maps, have been adopted by the Council and are hereby incorporated into this title by reference, together with any amendments previously or hereafter adopted, as though they were fully included here.

A.    Application of Pre-Annexation Zoning. The City may apply pre-annexation zoning to unincorporated property located within the planning area boundary consistent with the San Carlos General Plan. The pre-annexation zoning process shall comply with the provisions of Chapter 18.38, Prezoning and Annexation Procedure. The zoning provisions and requirements so established shall become applicable at the same time that the annexation of such territory becomes effective.

B.    Uncertainty of Boundaries. If an uncertainty exists as to the boundaries of any district shown on the official Zoning Map, the following rules shall apply:

1.    Boundaries indicated as approximately following the centerlines of alleys, lanes, streets, highways, streams or railroads shall be construed to follow such centerlines.

2.    Boundaries indicated as approximately following lot lines, city limits, or extraterritorial boundary lines shall be construed as following such lines, limits or boundaries.

3.    In the case of unsubdivided property or where a district boundary divides a lot and no dimensions are indicated, the following shall apply:

a.    Lots Greater Than One Acre. The location of such boundary shall be determined by the use of the scale appearing on the official Zoning Map.

b.    Lots Less Than One Acre. The lot shall be deemed to be included within the zone which is the more restrictive.

4.    In the case of any remaining uncertainty, the Director shall determine the location of boundaries.

5.    Where any public street or alley is officially vacated or abandoned, the regulations applicable to each parcel of abutting property shall apply to that portion of such street or alley added thereto by virtue of such vacation or abandonment.

6.    Where any private right-of-way or easement of any railroad, railway, transportation or public utility company is vacated or abandoned and said property is unclassified, said property shall be automatically classified as being in the Public (P) District. (Ord. 1438 § 4 (Exh. A (part)), 2011)