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San Ramon LogoFrequently Asked Questions

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1. When is an Encroachment Permit needed?

An encroachment permit is needed if you are going to "encroach on a public street or city right of way. Some examples are: transporting an oversized vehicle, doing work in the city street or right of way, parking a dumpster on the street, or putting in a swimming pool. Click here for encroachment permit details.


2. When do I need a Grading Permit?

Grading permits are required for any grading involving moving 50 cubic yards or more, or the excavation of a hole or a trench 5 feet deep or more. Click here for grading permit details.


3. Who do I contact about underground utilities?

Please contact USA North at (800) 227-2600 two days prior to digging.


4. What is a Special Event Permit?

A special event permit is needed when coordinating a public event, such as a charity walk or other event that will include the use of City streets or require City staff resources (for example: police assistance), you will need a special event permit.  Special Event Permits adhere to strict regulations, and may require insurance, a $600 permit fee, as well as additional fees for City staff resources, when applicable. 

If you are interested in applying for a Special Event Permit in the City of San Ramon, you must complete and download the San Ramon Special Event Permit Application, sign the Waiver of Liability and complete a written description on a separate document that addresses all nineteen (19) items listed in the application. Not all nineteen (19) items will apply to every permit. The Special Event Permit Application is designed for all events covered by Ordinance No. 231

NOTE: This application process is separate from the facility and park rental process. If you are interested in renting one of our parks and/or facilities for your special event, please click here to inquire about park and facility rentals. 



1. What is my zoning?

A planner can tell you in which zoning district your property is located. You will need to provide either your street address or Assessor’s Parcel Number (APN) or both. You can send an e-mail through our Customer Response Management System and select Planning/Zoning. You can call the planner-on-duty at (925) 973-2560 between 8:30 –5:00 Monday through Friday, or you can visit the office in person during the same walk-in counter hours listed above. You may need to leave a voice mail for the planner. The Planning Services Division has a policy of making every effort to return telephone calls within 24 hours.  A digitized zoning map is available by clicking here.


2. What are my setback requirements for an addition to my home?

The Planning Division maintains a map that shows zoning for every parcel in the City. The map can be viewed at the Planning web page or at the Planning Services Counter, or anyone can call 973-2560 to speak with a planner regarding specific zoning, setback, and related questions. Typical minimum setbacks in single family neighborhoods are: 5 to 10 feet for side setbacks, 20 feet for front setbacks, and 15 feet for rear setbacks. Each zoning district establishes minimum setback requirements for the front, sides and rear yards. Some lots, such as "flag lots" or oddly configured lots, require that planning staff make a determination with respect to where each setback applies. Staff will consider the access to the lot and orientation of the house among other factors when making such a determination.


3. Can I build a storage arbor/shed/garage in my back yard?

Residential accessory structures are permitted within residential zones. Minimum setbacks and maximum height requirements and floor area ratios are dependent on your property’s zoning. Call Planning Services to obtain the specific standards for your property. It is advisable to separate the accessory building from the primary building by at least 6-feet. If the accessory building is a 120 square feet or less, no building permit is required, provided that no electrical and/or plumbing work is proposed. A building permit is required for an accessory building more than 120 square feet. For accessory structure requirements in Dougherty Valley, please contact Planning Services at 973-2560.

  1. Maximum total floor area. The total floor area of all accessory structures on the site that are more than four feet in height, with a solid roof, and/or deck structures over 4-feet in height shall not exceed three percent of the lot area.

  2. Height limit. The height of an accessory structure shall not exceed 12 feet in HR, RE-B, RS, RM, RMH, RH, AND RVH, zones. The height of an accessory structure shall not exceed 16 feet in RC, RR, and RE-A zones. An accessory structure located within a required front setback shall not exceed a height of three feet, not including decorative features or lighting, which may extend upward an additional 18 inches.

  3. Setback requirements. Accessory structures shall comply with the following setback requirements.
    1. Front setback. An accessory structure shall be set back from a front property line by a minimum distance:
      1. Of five feet when the structure does not exceed a height of three feet (fences and walls of three feet or less in height are exempt from this requirement); and
      2. As required by Subsections C.3.c.for animal structures.
      3. All accessory structures in a required front yard setback shall comply with the driveway visibility requirements of Section D-3-10 (Setback Requirements and Exceptions), and the site obstruction requirements of Section D-3-57 (Driveways and Site Access).

    2. Side and rear setbacks. An accessory structure shall be set back from the side and rear property line as follows.

      1. If the structure is of 18 inches or less in height, no setback is required;
      2. If the structure is greater than 18 inches but 6 feet or less in height, a three-foot setback is required; and
      3. If the structure is greater than 6 feet in height, the setback shall be equal to the height less three feet.

c. Setbacks for animal keeping structures.

    1. Small animal structures. The minimum setback for chicken houses, rabbit hutches, and similar structures housing similar small animals shall be 60 feet from the front property line; and 40 feet from both side and rear property lines.
    2. Large animal structures. The minimum setback for barns, stables, and similar accessory structures housing large animals shall b e 100 feet from the front property line; and 50 feet from both side and rear property lines.


4. Where can I build a six-foot fence?

A seven-foot tall fence, provided the top one foot is constructed of open lattice, is allowed on property lines at the rear and sides of most properties. A fence up to three feet is allowed within the front yard setback area (typically 20-feet) as measured from the front property line. A seven-foot fence may be constructed outside the front yard setback area. Please note that the sidewalk edge may not be the property line.


5. What are the requirements to establish a business in my home?

If you wish to conduct a business from your home within the City of San Ramon, you must file for a Home Occupation Permit and City Business License. In order to be eligible for a Home Occupation Permit, you must be able to comply with the following:

  1. No clients may come to the home.
  2. The use is incidental to the residential use of the dwelling.
  3. The use shall be conducted entirely within a portion of the main building, not within any required parking facility and does not exceed twenty percent (20%) of the building's floor area, excluding garage square footage.  No outside storage shall be permitted.
  4. No article shall be sold or offered for sale on the premises.
  5. No person other than the resident of the dwelling shall be employed on-site or report to work at the site in the conduct of the home occupation.  This prohibition also applies to independent contractors.
  6. The use will not generate vehicular or pedestrian traffic in excess of that which is normally associated with the residential use in the same district.
  7. No parking space will be obstructed and no additional parking space will be required for the home occupation.
  8. There is no exterior indication of the home occupation, including signs.
  9. The use will not create noise, odor, dust, fumes, vibration, smoke, electrical interference, or any other interference with residential use of adjacent property.
  10. No motor vehicle repair or personal service shall be permitted  on-site.
  11. The address of the home occupation will not be advertised in any publication. Business cards and letterhead are not included in this requirement.

For additional information and an application follow the link to:


6. How do I establish a Family Day Care in my home?

A family day care home is a residence which provides family day care, including the children who reside at the home, as defined in regulations provided by the State of California. The City requires operators of family day care homes to obtain a land use permit to establish a Family Day Care Home permit for several reasons. Surrounding neighbors should be notified and allowed the opportunity to comment on the permit application. The City must also consider the possible impacts of the proposed facility, particularly with regard to spacing or concentration of facilities, traffic, parking, and noise control.  In addition, family day care homes must also obtain a City Business License to operate. Information regarding obtaining a City business license can be found at the following link: http://www.sanramon.ca.gov/finance/buslic.htm

Please contact the Community Care Licensing Division for additional State requirements


7. Where can I report a Zoning or Building Code Violation?

A violation of the zoning or building code can be reported anonymously in the following ways. For potential zoning violations you may contact Planning at (925) 973-2560 and for potential building code violations or contractors working with a building permit, you may contact Building and Safety Services at (925) 973-2580.

Additionally on the City’s Website http://www.sanramon.ca.gov: click "Contact Us" from the "Select your topic" drop down menu and it will take you directly to our Customer Response Management System where you can select the Department and identify a specific topic.


8. How do I find out what projects are being processed by the City?

The Planning Services Division posts a monthly Current Development Status Sheet that identifies status of the projects Planning Services is currently processing. Click on the following link to take you directly to this list. http://www.sanramon.ca.gov/plan/documents/projectlist.pdf


9. Can I add on to my house?

Any addition and remodeling first requires approval by the Planning Services Division prior to issuance of building permits. If a proposed improvement is determined to be minor in nature and would not cause a significant visual impact, an Administrative Architectural Review will be completed by the Planning Services Division along with the building permit review process. If a proposed improvement were determined to be significant and has the potential to cause a significant visual impact, then review by the City’s Architectural Review Board would be required. The Architectural Review Board (ARB) is a group of appointed professionals. The ARB would provide comments to the applicant and make recommendation to the Zoning Administrator for final approval. Additional information regarding Architectural Review Application and Guidelines is available on the City’s website at http://www.sanramon.ca.gov/plan/forms.html, and at the Planning Services Division during normal business hours.


10. What is the process if I need to remove a tree from my property?

If your property is a single family residence that cannot be further subdivided then you do not need a tree removal permit to remove a tree on your property except if you wish to remove a native oak tree 6 inches in diameter measured 54 inches above the ground. 

 If a non-oak tree, not including a willow, fruit tree, eucalyptus, alder, cottonwood, or pine tree, is greater than 8 inches in diameter measured 54 inches above the ground and is on a commercial property or on a property owned by a Home Owner’s Association then a tree removal permit is required. 

 For a copy of the tree removal permit application, please contact the Planning Services Division at (925) 973-2560 to fax or mail a copy to you or you can click here to download the application.  Submit the application and the required submittal items to the Planning Services Division at 2401 Crow Canyon Road, San Ramon, CA 94583. All tree removal work shall be conducted by licensed tree care professionals.


11. Can I convert my garage into living space?

A garage can be converted to living space (e.g., bedroom, family room, etc…) if the required number of parking spaces are provided and the appropriate interior garage dimensions of 20-feet by 22-feet for a 2-car garage and 10-feet by 22-feet for a single car garage are provided.

    Single Family Homes with 4 bedrooms or less
    2 parking spaces within a garage required
    For each bedroom over 4
    1 additional parking space within a garage per bedroom


12. Where can I locate a business in the City?

To locate a business in San Ramon, a business license must be issued by the City and the business located in the appropriate zoning district. For example, a retail business would be located within a retail zoning district and an administrative office in an office district. The Planning Division maintains a map that shows zoning for every parcel in the City. To ask questions regarding a specific business you are proposing to establish and to determine what the requirements might be, you may call 973-2560 to speak with a planner or send an e-mail request at our website http://www.sanramon.ca.gov and click "Contact Us".


13. Why does the City have all these land use rules? Why can't I just do what I want with my property?

Federal and State land use laws and regulations aside, the City of San Ramon has established land use regulations to protect the health and general welfare of all citizens and to manage growth and development responsibly.  Citizens themselves through their opportunity to vote for their elected officials and to participate in public meetings, affect what kind of regulations the City adopts.  The San Ramon Zoning Ordinance has been amended several times since its adoption in 1986, and each amendment process involves a significant public involvement and input.  Any member of the public, as well as the City Council, Planning Services Division staff or the Planning Commission may initiate an amendment at any time.  The document sets forth the general principles and strategies to be used by the City to guide land use decisions and the growth and development, as shaped by the public, City Council and Planning Commissioners.


14. Why is a land use permit required?

The San Ramon Zoning Ordinance regulates the development and use of land within the City. These regulations protect the health, safety and general welfare of residents and property owners by creating zones to prevent incompatible uses in close proximity to each other. The regulations also maintain the character of established neighborhoods and prevent inappropriate activates, such as alcohol sales near parks and schools.  Permitted and conditional uses are designated for each zoning district and are listed in the San Ramon Zoning Ordinance. Permitted uses are controlled by specific regulation, such as setback from a structure to the property line, height of the structure, number of parking spaces, etc. An example of a permitted use is a single-family residence.  A land use permit is required when a proposed use may have a different operating characteristic than those permitted in the zoning district, such as a grocery store in an office zoning district.  A land use permit typically includes conditions particular to the requested use to ensure that the use is compatible with the uses within the zoning district is located.


15. Are there child care regulations in the City?
16. When is a Building, Electrical, Mechanical or Plumbing Permit required for a single family dwelling?

It is easier to answer when a permit is not required. Read the California Code Permit Exemptions Page to see when a Building, Electrical, Mechanical or Plumbing permit is not required.


17. When is special inspection required?

Special Inspection is required by Chapter 17 of the 2013 California Building Code.


NOTE: Standards for Dougherty Valley

Dougherty Valley is an unique community with zoning standards and design guidelines specific to this development. While the majority of the development standards for Dougherty Valley are similar to other parts of the City, please contact the Planning Services Division at 973-2560 for specific information.



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