The variance process starts with an application by an applicant who is aggrieved by his inability to obtain a building permit according to the internal decision of Planning staff following Title 18 of the Municipal Code. Section 18.12.030 of the code outlines the procedure for both variances and administrative exceptions.
The applicant will initiate a meeting with staff to determine the nature of the request and whether or not it meets the legal definition of “hardship.” To demonstrate “hardship,” the applicant must be able to explain why his or her particular property conditions (e.g. lot dimensions or topography) warrant relief from the Municipal Code. If staff believes the variance request does not involve “hardship” then the request will be rejected and the applicant may appeal directly to the Planning Commission. Applicant must meet at least one criteria of “hardship.”
Acceptable “Hardship” Criteria
- Exceptional narrowness, shallowness, or shape of the lot
- Exceptional topographic or other conditions of the property
- Strict applications of certain regulations would result in peculiar and exceptional and undue hardship upon the owner
Relief may be granted only without substantial detriment to public good, without altering the essential character of the neighborhood, and without substantially impairing the intent and purpose of the zoning chapter or Growth Plan of the city.
Under certain conditions, relief from certain zoning regulations can be granted without demonstrating “hardship.” This process is described in Section 18.12.030 (3), and mainly pertains to setback and height regulations that may be adjusted, provided that it would be without “substantial detriment to the public good.”
The application, fee and process are the same as for variances with a few specific regulations listed in Section 18.12.030(3).
Applying for a Variance
If staff does find “hardship,” then the following process applies:
- Submit a Development Application form (pdf) along with corresponding documents listed on the second page of the application form, and the fee: $250
- Staff will notify nearby properties of the submittal within 7 days of application submittal
- Staff will prepare both a sign of notice and a petition for the applicant to distribute to neighbors to gain approval
- The Community and Economic Development Director will grant, conditionally grant, or deny the application based on the criteria set forth in Sections 18.12.030(2) and 18.12.030(3).
- Neighbors or applicant may appeal the decision to City Council (18.12.010) 15 days from the administrative decision date
Applicant can expect the process to take a minimum of 45 days.
See the Building Division for more information on Building Permits and Building Regulations.