New Single-Family Homes in San Carlos: Getting Smaller.

November 8, 2018


New Regulations on Remodels and New Construction.

If you are a San Carlos resident that is thinking of increasing the size of your existing home, or if you're actively looking for a property in San Carlos to do build your dream home, then you're probably already aware that the City of San Carlos has been actively looking to modify the existing rules pertaining to the maximum size of house that can be built.  This discussion stemmed from the rising discontent from residents about the number of large homes that are being built, primarily in the downtown area where lots are on the smaller size.  In the most recent City Council meeting, the Council voted to modify the guidelines for single-family home construction moving forward.

The changes are numerous and quite complicated.  Below is a summary of the new regulations taken verbatim from correspondence from the City of San Carlos.  The real message here is that if you are considering making significant changes to your San Carlos home, you need to enlist the help of an expert that can explain exactly what the information below means.  Contact me if you need help in this area — I work with several designers who were intimately involved in this process, and know exactly what you can (or cannot) do under these new regulations.  I'm happy to make the connection on your behalf.

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.
Monday night’s 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 will be presented to the Council for final adoption on November 13, 2018:

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

These amendments to the Ordinance will become effective 30 days after adoption (expected November 13, 2018) and codified in the San Carlos Municipal Code. The Council has directed, however, that these new provisions shall not be enforced until 180 days after adoption so as not to penalize homeowners who are in the midst of obtaining approval of their project. All projects that are not deemed complete by the Planning Division after that 180 day period would be subject to the regulations as amended and outlined above.

For more information, please visit the project website at by clicking here.


Posted in:

Leave a Comment