What is Zoning?
Zoning determines what use you can have on a property, such as a house or business. It also determines how tall a building you can construct on your property and how far away from the street it must be. Zoning also specifies how many signs a business can have and how big they can be.

The purpose of zoning is to achieve a community’s overall vision for its physical look and feel, as well as the shape of its future development. This is expressed in the Richmond adopted General Plan. The purpose of the Zoning Ordinance Update is to conform Richmond’s Zoning Ordinance with Richmond’s new General Plan, as required by California law.

What Is Interim Zoning?
Currently, Richmond’s existing Zoning Ordinance, which was last updated in the 1990s, is not consistent with Richmond’s General Plan, which was adopted by the City Council in 2012. A number of the General Plan land use designations are different from current zoning, and the limitations on height, density and intensity established in the General Plan do not match those set by zoning   The City Council will adopt “interim zoning” to ensure that any development that occurs while we are in the process updating the Zoning Ordinance is consistent with and does not conflict with the General Plan.

Can Zoning Dictate Architectural Design?
No. Zoning controls the building “envelope,” which includes the maximum height of the building and how far it must be set back from the property line. Zoning also controls certain features of a building, such as how much off-street parking is required, how landscaping is handled, and in commercial areas, what must be done to make a building more engaging for pedestrians.

Zoning does not determine a building’s architectural style and detailed design elements, such as colors and finish materials. However, zoning may include guidance on design and refer to design guidelines for areas of the City, such as Downtown and the Richmond Bay Specific Plan, where more careful coordination of building design will support General Plan concepts.

Does Zoning Interfere with the Free Market?
By regulating land use, zoning plays a role in shaping the outcomes of real estate development, affecting the “supply” side of the equation. This role is justified by the inability of the market to always ensure that public health, safety and welfare would be adequately protected without a set of rules. Zoning regulations allow communities to coordinate public investments in infrastructure with expected development patterns set in the General Plan, and provides predictability to residents, businesses, property owners, and investors alike. Zoning cannot create a market for new development. For example, it cannot determine the exact mix of tenants in a private development. It can, however, create opportunities for new development that the City wants under the General Plan or reduce barriers for desirable uses. It also can regulate “problem” uses, such as alcohol and tobacco sales, and keep nuisances out of neighborhoods.

Can Zoning Take Away My Property Rights?
No. Legal precedent ensures that land use regulations do not “take” property owners’ right to develop their property. Zoning can control the extent and type of development that may be permitted. In other words, an owner will not be able to develop a shopping center on property zoned for housing and vice versa. Limitations on the extent of development are most likely to become an issue in areas where sensitive environmental resources need to be protected or geotechnical hazards or flood hazards exist. In such cases, regulations will be limited to what is needed to protect the resource or limit development that might be subject to hazards. If complete preservation is necessary, the property must be bought by an entity wishing to preserve it.

Why Does Richmond Need a New Zoning Ordinance?
Richmond’s current Zoning Ordinance was last comprehensively updated in the 1990s and does not reflect best zoning and planning practices that are appropriate for an urban community. It is not effective in implementing the land use and community design, health, transportation, economic development and safety goals in Richmond’s General Plan and other City policies. The purpose of the Zoning update is to create an innovative, integrated Ordinance that shapes future growth according to the community’s vision, is clear and easy to use, with web-based “interactive” features, and provides objective standards and criteria that result in high quality development. It also must implement General Plan policies and incorporate actions identified in the General Plan/

Will You Be Rezoning My Property?
The Zoning Ordinance Update is expected to result in revised procedures, revised zoning districts, revised development standards, and revised citywide regulations. This means that the rules that govern development may change throughout the city. A new Zoning Map will be needed, and a draft will be presented for public review during the update process. It is reasonable to expect that there will be minimal zoning changes in established neighborhoods, where little or no new development is expected to occur. The update will also identify areas where “form-based” codes or overlay districts will apply. If your property is in an area that will develop or redevelop in the future, the zoning update will affect you.

How Can I Participate?
The Richmond Zoning Ordinance Update project kicked off in August 2015. We are soliciting citizen participation in all phases of the project. Please visit the Workshops and Meetings page for details on upcoming events or contact us directly with your thoughts or questions. You can also submit your comments to us online, and sign up for our e-newsletter. 

The project team will be conducting a detailed evaluation of the current zoning ordinance, studying typical types of development projects, discussing technical issues that commonly arise using the current ordinance, and making field visits. As the project progresses, the community will be kept informed through this website and newsletters. There will be opportunities to make your voice heard at public meetings. Also, the Planning Commission will provide direction and feedback to the project team, and the City Council will be briefed at key milestones.

How Can I Get Involved?
We are soliciting citizen participation in all phases of General Plan development. Please visit the Workshops and Meetings page for details on upcoming events or contact us directly with your thoughts or questions.