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Planning and Community Development Department

  • Minor Conditional Use Permit / Minor Variance

    What is a Minor Conditional Use Permit?

    Conditional Use Permits are required for uses typically having unusual site development features or operating characteristics requiring special consideration so that they may be designed, located, and operated to be compatible with neighboring properties. The Zoning Code specifies whether a use (or activity such as shared parking) requires a Minor Conditional Use Permit (MCUP) or a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). A MCUP typically has less impact on adjacent properties than a CUP and therefore requires a less intensive review than a CUP.

    The difference between a CUP and a MCUP is the process. A CUP requires a public hearing and is reviewed by the Hearing Officer (HO). Planning staff writes a report and recommendation to the HO. A MCUP is reviewed by Planning staff and a letter is written informing the applicant of the recommendation (and draft findings) and any recommended conditions of approval. Public notices are mailed to property owners within the required radius and the notice is posted within the required radius. A 3’ by 4’ sign is posted on the site which informs the public of the type of application, and date, time and location of the hearing. If an interested party requests a hearing, a hearing is held before the HO. A request for a hearing can be filed up to one day before the scheduled hearing. 

    What can be reviewed as a Minor Conditional Use Permit?

    The Zoning Code permits several items to be reviewed under the MCUP process. Consult the Zoning Code or check with a planner at Window #3 of the Permit Center to determine if your project qualifies for a MCUP. Within the Zoning Code, uses that require a MCUP are identified with the letters “MC” on the land use tables. Some items that can be reviewed as MCUPs include:

    1. Expansion of a nonconforming use
    2. A small collection (recycling) facility
    3. Requests to share parking between two commercial uses
    4. Exceed the 15 foot height limit for an accessory structure (to achieve design compatibility)
    5. Neighborhood garden (in residential districts)

    What are Minor Variances and a Sign Exceptions?

    Minor Variances address minor deviations from City Zoning regulations which would normally have lesser impact and warrant less intensive review than Variances. A Variance is a request for a deviation from the Zoning Code because of the unusual circumstances associated with a particular site.

    The difference between a Minor Variance and a Variance is in the process. A Variance requires a noticed public hearing with a review by the HO. A Minor Variance can be reviewed by staff and approved by the HO without a public hearing unless a hearing is requested by an interested party or the applicant. Public notices are mailed to property owners within a designated radius. If an interested party requests a hearing, a hearing is held before the HO. A request for a hearing can be filed up to one day before the scheduled hearing.

    Sign exceptions are intended to provide greater flexibility in the application of sign regulations to address the varied needs and circumstances of commercial uses and businesses in the City. A Sign Exception is similar to a Variance, except that a Sign Exception has different findings as shown in the Zoning Code. 

    What can be reviewed under a Minor Variance?

    Items that can be reviewed as Minor Variances include:

    1. Front yard setback requirements, with no limit on percent of deviation
    2. Side yard setback requirements, with no limit on percent of deviation
    3. Rear yard setback requirements, with no limit on percent of deviation
    4. Size of landscape areas in multi-family districts (this includes City of Gardens projects)
    5. Fence/ wall height, with no limit on percent of deviation
    6. Building Heights (not to exceed 10 feet above requirement or 5 feet in an HD overlay district)
    7. Size of floor area ratio in single-family districts (maximum 10% deviation, excludes HD overlay district)


    Can I file for more than one Minor Variance or Minor Conditional Use Permit at once?

    Yes, the code allows for up to two minor discretionary actions per application. This means that you can apply for a combination of requests (i.e. two Minor Variances or one Minor Variance and one MCUP, etc.) per application. If more than two discretionary actions are needed, then a full application must be filed.  

    What do I need to do to file an application?

    The following information is required for the application:

    1. A Master Application (Property and Project Information)
    2. An environmental questionnaire (part of Master Application)
    3. A supplemental application (e.g. Minor Use Permit, Minor Variance or Sign Exception)
    4. Site plans, Elevations, and Floor Plans
    5. Notification packet (Radius preparation)
    6. Photographs of the site, buildings and surrounding uses
    7. Photographs of the site, buildings

    These forms can be picked up at the Permit Center or downloaded from the following link. Refer to the submittal check list to determine the number of submittal requirements.

    Are there fees and what do they cover?

    There is a fee to cover the cost of processing your application. In addition to this base fee, there is a fee for environmental review. Depending whether or not your project needs a more extensive environmental review, there may be additional fees. These fees change yearly as they are adjusted for the cost of living, and you should check with a planner at Counter 3 of the Permit Center (175 No. Garfield) for the cost. You may also call the Planner of the Day at (626) 744-6777.

    If your case is disapproved, you do not receive a refund of your money. However, if your application does not go to a public hearing before the HO, then there may be a partial refund. 

    What is the process after an application is filed?

    On receipt of an application for a MCUP, Minor Variance, or Sign Exception, the Current Planning office will determine if the application is complete. A complete application can take on average 6 to 8 weeks to process. A decision to approve or disapprove an application is based on findings of fact contained in the Zoning Code. If the application is complete, the Planning staff notifies the property owners within 300 feet of the proposed hearing. Any person can file a request for the public hearing. If no hearing is requested, the HO will make a decision without a public hearing. Public testimony will be requested before any decision is made.

    At the conclusion of the public hearing, the HO has several options. The case can be taken under advisement for several days before a decision is made, approved with the staff’s conditions and findings, disapproved, or approved with modification to the conditions.

    How do I request a hearing for a specific case with the Hearing Officer?

    A concerned person needs to provide a written letter requesting a hearing to the Current Planning office. A standardized letter is available at Counter 3 of the Permit Center to complete, or you can send your own letter. The request should be filed at least one day before the proposed hearing. 

    Can the decision of the Hearing Officer be appealed?

    Yes, the decision of the HO is appealable to the Board of Zoning Appeals which meets once a month. The decisions of the Zoning Administrator can also be called for review by the City Council or the Planning Commission to the Board of Zoning Appeals. 

    How do I file an appeal?

    You can get an appeal application at Counter 3 (Current Planning) of the Permit Center. Appeals by interested parties must occur within 10 days of the date of the Hearing Officer’s decision. Appeal applications must state why the appeal is being filed and the appeal fee must be paid. You should check with the Current Planning staff to determine the appeal fee and when the final day to appeal a case occurs.

    When does the approved Minor Conditional Use Permit/Minor Variance/Sign Exception become effective?

    The decision on an application becomes effective on the tenth day after the decision is made unless the decision is appealed or called for review by the City Council or the Planning Commission. If the last day to file an appeal falls on a weekend or a day where the City offices are closed, the appeal period is extended out such that the final day to appeal occurs on a work day when the City is open.

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