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Sausalito's Zoning Ordinance classifies all property into various zoning classifications which control both land uses and development standards. California State Law requires zoning to be consistent with the City's General Plan. It is often possible, however, that the existing zoning which conforms with the General Plan can be changed (to a more intensive use, for instance) and still be consistent because the General Plan land use designations are more broadly defined.

Amendments to the General Plan may also require subsequent rezoning to provide consistency. Unincorporated lands within the City's sphere of influence may also be prezoned by the same process of rezoning. The zoning then becomes effective upon annexation. This guide pertains to rezoning and prezoning actions.

In reviewing a proposed change of zoning, the request is evaluated for its consistency with the General Plan. It is also reviewed for compatibility of land use and conditions of use, such as building height, with surrounding development. A zoning change will be evaluated on its community wide benefit and enhancement of orderly growth, and not whether it increases property value. The Zoning Ordinance like the General Plan represents one of the most important policy statements of the City. Any changes are reviewed very carefully by the Planning Commission and City Council. Applications for rezoning should only be made when there are compelling reasons for the change.


Step 1 - Project Considerations

The applicant should carefully review what the present General Plan calls for in the location or area affected. It is essential that the zoning be consistent with all elements of the General Plan or the rezoning cannot be effected without a General Plan Amendment. In addition:

The applicant is advised to review the proposed zoning in advance of formal application with area residents, property owners, and other parties who may be affected by the proposed changes.

Local utilities and other special agencies should be contacted and consulted regarding the requirements for future development in the area, if necessary.

Step 2 - Review by Staff

Prior to application, an appointment should be made with the Planning staff to discuss the feasibility of the request, the history of similar proposals, the intent of City policy, possible environmental concerns and required data and procedures to be followed through the process.

Step 3 - Filing the Application

The applicant will submit the completed application, filing fee and other required information (see "Application Submittal Requirements" at end of this document.) to the Community Development Department.

Once the application has been filed:

  • A staff planner will be assigned to review the material to make sure all the required information is provided.
  • The applicant will be notified within 30 days after filing as to whether the application is complete and whether additional information is required.

The fee for processing an application is determined by the number of hours that professional staff spend on the project at a rate established by the City Council. The actual fee may be more or less than the initial deposit.

Step 4 - Environmental Review

Nearly all Rezoning requests are required to have an environmental assessment to determine if it will be necessary to prepare an Environmental Impact Report. Information on timing and sequence of this process is contained in "A Guide to Procedures for Environmental Review."

Step 5 - Staff Review for Planning Commission

Once the application has been deemed complete, Planning staff will:

  • Study the reasoning for the present zoning.
  • Conduct an investigation of the site.
  • Assess the environmental impact and need for the proposed changes and conditions, both on the site and surrounding area.

A written staff report will be prepared for the Planning Commission (PC) which will analyze the requested change and state the staff recommendation. A copy of this report will be sent to the applicant on the Friday before the scheduled PC hearing date. Copies of the report are also available to the public after they have been sent to PC.

Step 6 - Planning Commission

The PC is required to hold a least one hearing on any proposed zoning change. Once the application has been deemed complete, staff will prepare a notice scheduling the proposed rezoning on the next available Planning Commission (PC) agenda. The Notice must be posted no fewer than 10 days prior to the hearing date and will be published in the Marin Scope newspaper.

At the public hearing:

  • Staff will present a report and recommendation to the PC.
  • The staff presentation will be followed by testimony from the applicant and then by any interested persons who wish to comment on the application.

A decision will be made by the PC after evaluating the public testimony, the staff report, and the environmental information.

The recommendation of the PC will then be forwarded to the City Council (CC).

If the Commission recommends approval, a CC public hearing will automatically be scheduled.

If the Commission recommends denial, no action will be taken by the CC unless a written appeal has been filed with the City Clerk within ten (10) days after the PC's final action.

Step 7 - City Council Review

Upon receipt of a PC recommendation for approval or an appeal of denial, a CC public hearing will be scheduled. The same legal notifications provided for the PC is required for the Council hearing. At its meeting, the Council also takes into consideration:

  • Public testimony,
  • Staff's report to the Council,
  • Environmental information and documentation, and
  • The PC recommendation.

Following receipt of public testimony, the CC may:

  • Close the public hearing and make its decision,
  • Postpone the decision to a later date and continue the public hearing to a specific time, date, and place,
  • Refer the matter back to the Commission for further evaluation.

It takes the following two actions by the City Council to approve a rezoning:

  • Introduction of an ordinance which usually occurs at the same meeting as the public hearing, and
  • Ordinance adoption at the next Council meeting which must be at least five days later.
  • There is a 30 day period after an ordinance adoption before the rezoning becomes effective to allow the filing of a referendum petition.

The decision of the City Council is final

Step 8 - Relationship to Other Actions

A change in the City's Zoning Ordinance may also require a General Plan Amendment which must be processed separately and prior to the consideration of the rezoning application. A tentative map, conditional use permit, or other zoning action may also be required. In most cases, the processing of related applications and development plan review can be initiated by the applicant prior to final approval of the rezoning to facilitate the development process.


The actual time for processing of a rezoning application will vary depending upon the complexity and magnitude of the proposal and staff, Commission and Council workloads, but generally estimated as follows:

A. From completed application to PC public hearing with:
a Negative Declaration: 4-6 WEEKS
an Environmental Impact Report: 14 WEEKS

B. PC review period to CC action: 4 WEEKS
C. Total Estimated Process Time: 8-18 WEEKS


A. A completed Consolidated Application Form.
B. Appropriate application fees (check made payable to the City of Sausalito).
C. A letter detailing the exact section of the Zoning Ordinance to be amended, the reasons for requested amendment, and a draft of the requested amendment language.
D. Any plans listed in the Application Submittal Requirements for Conditional Use Permits, Variances, and Design Review which staff may deem to be applicable.

Last updated: 6/18/2007 10:49:15 AM