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Released by: Permit Sonoma
For Immediate Release

Expanded Housing Opportunities Provide More Options for Farmers

County rezones over 1,900 agricultural parcels to allow Accessory Dwelling Units

Santa Rosa, CA  –  September 20, 2019  –  On Tuesday, September 17, Sonoma County Board of Supervisors removed zoning restrictions that prohibit the ability to apply to construct an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADUs) on over 1,900 agricultural properties. This action will eliminate unnecessary regulatory constraints on a recognized form of affordable housing, while continuing to protect and support the county’s agricultural and environmental resources. 

According to County of Sonoma Board of Supervisors Chair David Rabbitt, “Allowing Accessory Dwelling Units provides viable housing options and sustainable agriculture.”

The Z (Accessory Dwelling Unit Exclusion) Combining District (“Z District”) was established as a precautionary measure to limit the construction of ADUs in areas that may not be able to support the units based on the best information available at the time. In total, nearly 4,000 agricultural parcels in the county are subject to the Z District. Using updated data, lessons learned through over 40 projects that have successfully received one-off Z District removal, and current laws that govern ADU development, County staff determined that over 1,900 of existing Z District parcels met the following criteria, which justified their removal from the precautionary restrictions applied by the Z District: 

  • the property is not located within a high or very high fire hazard severity zone;
  • the property is not within a critical biotic habitat area for the California Tiger Salamander;
  • an ADU on the parcel does not present the potential for groundwater contamination;
  • an ADU on the parcel will not unduly contribute to declining groundwater levels;
  • the property is not located in a Traffic Sensitive Combining Zone;
  • the property is not subject to a Land Conservation (Williamson Act) or other open space contract, or other recorded agricultural easements; and
  • the property is not located in the Coastal Zone.

Removing the Z District from these parcels does not determine that an ADU is feasible the rezoned properties. ADU applicants must demonstrate consistency with the standards established in the Zoning Code to address water, septic, access, and other factors. It is estimated that an ADU might not be feasible on 30-40% of rezoned parcels due factors such as septic capacity or parcel size. Property owners are encouraged to discuss site-specific factors with Permit Sonoma staff to determine if their parcel is eligible for an ADU.

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Contact Information

Maggie Fleming
Communications Manager
Permit and Resource Management Department
County of Sonoma
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