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Single-family House (size) Study

City Council Balances Reduced House Sizes with the Needs of Growing and Aging Families

November 13, 2018, the City Council adopted an Ordinance amending sections of the San Carlos Municipal Code in response to community concerns about house sizes.  The ordinance is now in effect.

Over the past two years, the City has been listening to community members who feel that some new houses and additions being built in San Carlos are too large for their lot and neighborhood. The Council tasked staff to work with two separate resident commissions to develop recommendations addressing these concerns. 

The vote by the Council comes after many hours of work by San Carlos residents and city staff resulting in numerous proposals. This work included recommendations from the Single-Family House Advisory Committee (“SHAC”; a 7-member City Council-appointed advisory committee), input from over 150 residents in attendance at a community open house, four public Planning Commission meetings and two City Council hearings.

As part of its deliberations, the Council invited SHAC, the Planning Commission and Good Growth San Carlos - a volunteer community group focused on reducing house sizes - to present material and respond to questions by the Council. The Council also solicited input from a local realtor and received dozens of letters and public testimony.

There is no single solution to address house size and bulk that will satisfy all residents. While everyone wants San Carlos to thrive as the City of Good Living, community members have differing housing needs that also change over time. The zoning ordinance changes below reflect the Council’s careful consideration and balancing of numerous competing desires while not jeopardizing San Carlos’ future for all residential single family property owners in the face of unprecedented changes in the regional economy and housing market.

The following changes to the San Carlos Zoning Ordinance adopted by the Council on November 13, 2018:

1. Maximum Floor Area is established as follows: For lots less than or equal to 7,500 sq. ft. maximum floor area is the larger of 1,100 sq. ft. + 35% of lot area or 50% of lot area; for lots greater than 7,500 sq. ft. maximum floor area is 50% of lot area.

2. Up to 450 sq. ft. of garage space shall be exempt from floor area limits provided it is detached from the main house and located a minimum of 40 feet away from the front property line.

3. Basements shall be exempt from floor area limits provided they are located directly underneath the house and are no more than 3 feet above grade.

4. Up to 200 square feet of covered front porches, provided they have at least two sides open and the surface height is at or below the level of the front door, shall be exempt from lot coverage.

5. Up to 250 square feet of unenclosed and unroofed decks that are aligned with or below the lowest floor level shall be exempt from lot coverage.

6. For the RS-6 Zoning District, a one car garage will be permitted provided a two-car 20 foot wide driveway is available.

7. Projects subject to review by the City’s Residential Design Review Committee (RDRC) will require an appropriately sized sign to be placed in a visible area of the front yard to notify passersby of the public design review hearing.

For more information, please contact the Planning Division at: or call (650) 802-4263.