Planning and Building Permits Required For a Kitchen Remodel, Master Bath and Bedroom Addition in San Rafael, CA

At New Avenue we have paid over 30 different types of permits to get residential projects approved.

We recently completed a conversion of a nearly 100 year old duplex back to it’s original single family home while also adding a two story addition for a master suite, master bath and nursery for a baby who arrived during the remodel.

This is a summary of the permitting requirements in San Rafael.  An unusually fast office for any city, let alone Marin County!

We guarantee your project will be different!  This is a great starting point if you are researching.  Most people have never heard of all these permit requirements.

Here are our findings:

Q: What is the zoning district?

A: R5

Q: What is the allowable coverage? How is it measured

A: 40%

Q: Is there a floor-area ratio (FAR) between the Main Home and the Second Unit? What is it?

A: Second dwelling unit can be up to 40% of the gross square footage of the principal dwelling, not including the garage, but can be at least 500 square feet.

Q: What is the maximum allowed size for the Second Unit?

A: The maximum size is 800 square feet, unless a Use Permit is granted, which can allow a maximum size of 1,000 square feet.

Q: Do chimneys, window boxes, and/or bay windows count toward the square footage of the Second Unit?

A: No

Q: Do other structures count toward the existing footprint? What are they?

A: No

Q: Does the basement and/or attic count toward the floor area of the Main Home?

A: No

Q: Can the Second Unit have two floors?

A: If located in a detached accessory building, the height limit is 15 feet unless a Use Permit is granted.

Q: Can the Second Unit have a loft, mezzanine, open storage, closed storage, and/or attic?

A: Yes

Q: Can the loft be habitable space?

A: Yes

Q: Can the Second Unit have a basement, workspace, or other area? Do they count toward square footage?

A: Yes

Q: What landscaping requirements and exceptions are there

A: None that are known

Q: Is this a liquefaction zone?

A: No’

Q: Is this a fire zone?

A: No’

Q: Is this a flood zone?

A: No’

Q: Is this an environmental zone?

A: No’

Setbacks and Dimensions

Q: What is the front setback?

A: 15′

Q: What are the side setbacks?

A: 5′

Q: What is the rear setback?

A: 10′

Q: What are any other required setbacks? Special setbacks may be needed for creeks, power lines, key or corner lots, etc.

A: There is a creek running through a culvert underneath part of the property. i believe there is some easement regulation for that.

Q: Are there any setback exceptions?

A: None that are known

Q: Can the Second Unit be connected to the Main Home? If not, how far apart do they have to be?

A: N/A

Q: Can we continue a wall of an existing structure within a setback? Is there a maximum length for walls

A: N/A

Q: What is the maximum height limit? Is there a max average height limit? Can we match the height of the existing house?

A: 15 feet or Use Permit if that is exceeded


Q: Do we measure from the sidewalk, the property line, or from somewhere else?


Q: How many parking spaces are required for the Main Home? Sizes? Do they need to be covered? What configuration or access must they have?

A: Depends on requirements for making that a single family home again. Per City of San Rafael, we would not need to change anything about the existing parking for that.

Q: How many more new spaces are required for the property? Sizes? Do they need to be covered? What configuration or access must they have? Do they require a border around them?

A: 1 uncovered

Q: Is there a turning radius or other parking rule to test?

A: No


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