San Carlos Real Estate Agent, San Carlos Realtor Does Lot Size Matter? | The White Oaks Blog
San Carlos Real Estate May 30, 2008

Does Lot Size Matter?

by Chuck Gillooley


The answer to this question is yes, but not as much as you might think…. First, a little background.

If you’ve been shopping for a home in San Carlos for any period of time, you know that there are many homes on the market are in…shall we say, “original” condition, which means that much or all of the home hasn’t changed since it was built back in the 40’s or 50’s. Clearly, you as the new owner will be looking at some level of remodel, unless you have a thing for pink tile 🙂 In addition, many older White Oaks homes are situated on relatively small 4,000-5,000 square foot lots.

By far the most common question I get from potential buyers in this situation is: If we want to remodel, what’s the limit on the size of house that we can build? This is especially pertinent for the many post WWII 2 BR ranchers that have become a staple of the White Oaks neighborhood.

Well, I did some digging and your answer is below. For the purpose of full disclosure, the text in quotes below is an excerpt that was lifted verbatim from the San Carlos Municipal Code; I take no responsibility for the accuracy or otherwise of this document — for the complete online document, go to the following link and read the Single Family Residence part of Section 18 – Zoning. There are other restrictions and limitations regarding style of the home and other neighborhood considerations. Here’s the link:

San Carlos Municipal Code

There are a couple of interesting points that are in the Muni Code:

  1. You can build up to a 3,000 square foot home (including garage) on any lot in San Carlos, regardless of the lot size. (I can’t imagine a 3,000 square foot home on a 4,000 square foot lot, but hey if it’s ok with them…)
  2. If you want to go bigger than this, you’ll then have to adhere to a fixed ratio of the lot size as outlined below, which is also tied to the slope of the lot.

This is good news for home buyers. You probably have more flexibility than you thought on the size of your remodel, especially if you’re considering the purchase of one of the smaller White Oaks lots. Here’s the excerpt from the Municipal Code:

H. Site, Bulk and Floor Area Limit. Any new residential construction, addition or remodel to any existing building shall be designed and constructed to be architecturally compatible with the existing building on the property and the neighborhood in which the site is located with respect to size and bulk. Consideration should be given to properties immediately adjacent to the site. Where neighboring properties’ views of San Francisco Bay, the Western Hills or other significant natural vistas are substantially impacted by a development, mitigation by design features and/or building placement may be considered where feasible. In addition, construction should be sensitive to solar access on adjoining properties. To accomplish these objectives, the following review thresholds on total building floor area (including garages) are established:



of Project

Site (Percent)

Floor Area Threshold Percent of Total Lot


0 — 4.9


5 — 19.9


20 — 29.9




1. In all cases, up to three thousand square feet of floor area (including garages) may be constructed on any lot regardless of size or slope.

2. In cases in which the ratio of average lot depth to lot width exceeds two to one (2:1), the floor area review threshold will be based on width ¥ (2¥ width) ¥ maximum allowable coverage.

So, the answer to the original question is yes, lot size matters — especially if you would like to build a large home and still have property left over for some privacy, or a pool. But it’s not as big of a deal as you might have thought. Happy home shopping!

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