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Definition: A subdivision is defined as the division of any improved or unimproved land for the purpose of sale, lease or financing including the conversion of a structure into condominiums.

State law authorizes local government agencies to regulate and control the design and improvements of subdivisions. The State Subdivision Map Act provides general regulations and procedures that local governments must follow in the regulation of subdivisions. The City also has a subdivision ordinance which provides specific City guidelines and standards for the regulations and control of subdivisions. Subdivision regulations and review procedures vary between subdivisions which encompass a division of property into five or more lots (usually referred to as major subdivisions) requiring tentative map approval, and subdivisions of four or fewer lots (usually referred to as a minor subdivision) requiring tentative parcel map approval. All subdivisions are subject to the review and approval of the Planning Commission (PC).

In reviewing a subdivision application, the staff and PC will evaluate such items including, but not limited to, lot size, lot orientation, potential building sites, traffic generation, provision of infrastructure (water, sewer, road, etc.), site drainage, and overall compatibility of use with adjoining properties and other related development impacts. Conditions may be imposed as necessary to insure that the proposed subdivision and subsequent uses will be compatible with, and not adversely affect, its environs.


Step 1 - Project Consideration

Early in the consideration of a potential project, the applicant should carefully review what the General Plan and Zoning Ordinance call for in the location or area affected. It is essential that the proposed use be consistent with the General Plan and the Zoning Ordinance or the project cannot be accepted. Community Development Department staff should be consulted for advice on project consistency with City regulations and other possible concerns.

Step 2 - Filing of Application

The applicant should submit the completed application, filing fee and other required information to the Community Development Department. A staff planner will be assigned to review the material to maker sure all the required information is provided. The applicant will be notified within 30 days after filing as to whether the application is complete or what additional information is required. The fee for review of major and minor subdivisions is established by the City Council and is intended to offset the cost of the number of hours that professional staff spend on the project.

Step 3 - Environmental Review

Subdivision requests are required to have an environmental assessment to determine if it is 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 4 - Staff Review for Planning Commission

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

  • Evaluate the application by conducting a site investigation,
  • Review the consistency of the request with the City's General Plan, Subdivision Ordinance, and Zoning Ordinance,
  • Analyze the potential environmental, land use, site plan, and other impacts or concerns of the proposed project.

A written staff report will be prepared for the PC which will describe the development proposal and will include staff recommendations. 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 the PC.

Step 5 - Planning Commission Review

The PC is required to hold at least one hearing on a Subdivision application. Once the application has been deemed complete:

  • Staff will prepare a public notice scheduling the Subdivision application on the next available PC Agenda.
  • The notice must be posted no fewer than 10 days prior to the hearing date and must be mailed to every property owner and occupant within a 300 foot radius of the property site.
  • The notice will also be posted at City Hall and appear 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 any interested persons who wish to comment on the application.

The PC may then make a decision to:

  1. Conditionally approve the request; or
  2. Deny the request; or
  3. Postpone the decision to a later date; or
  4. Keep the public hearing open and continue the hearing to a specified time, date, and place for more information.

The PC will direct staff to prepare a resolution describing their decision, which will be scheduled for adoption at their next meeting. The PC decision will become final when the Commission adopts the resolution, unless an appeal is filed as described in the next section. The City Council (CC) will acknowledge the PC action at the next scheduled CC meeting.

Step 6 - Appeals to City Council

After a final resolution has been adopted by the PC, any person affected by the decision may file an appeal to the CC within 10 days of the adoption of the resolution. The appeal is submitted by filing an appeal letter and appeal fee with the City Clerk. After filing the appeal, the following steps will take place:

  • A public hearing will be scheduled for the CC,
  • A notice of the time, date and place of the hearing will be mailed (at least 10 days prior to the hearing) to the appellant, the applicant, and property owners and tenants within a 300-foot radius of the project site and to any other person requesting the notice.

Following the public hearing on the appeal, the Council may:

  • Refer the matter back to the PC for further review, or
  • Reverse, affirm or modify the decision of the Commission.

The decision of the City Council is final.

Step 7 - Other Required Actions

The applicant (subdivider) must complete and have final map and related improvement plans approved and recorded with the County of Marin within 24 months or the tentative map expires. Tentative maps may be granted two one-year extensions of time by the Planning Commission after formal request has been filed by the subdivider. The application for extension of time must be filed not less than thirty days before the tentative map is to expire.


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

  1. From completed application to PC review 3 Weeks
  2. PC review period to CC acknowledgment of PC Action 7 Weeks
  3. Total Estimated Process Time 10 Weeks

Application Submittal Requirements

Last updated: 6/18/2007 10:52:03 AM