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Not Just Anytown, usa: new design guidelines adopted

Modesto City Council Approves New Commercial & Industrial Design Guidelines

The City Council has adopted Design Guidelines for Commercial and Industrial Projects as of September 12, 2006. The new guidelines are intended to achieve the following:

At the Council's direction, staff is currently working to prepare amendments to the zoning code to implement the Guidelines. Currently, the Guidelines will be used to assist in review of all discretionary planning projects which come before the City, such as Conditional Use Permits, Plot Pan Reviews, and Planned Development zones.

The Guidelines are available for your review and download at the City's website:

You may also obtain a copy of the guidelines from the Community and Economic Development Department.

If you are preparing to build an office, retail shop, or industrial development in Modesto, you are encouraged to review the guidelines first.

If you have any questions, please call thePlanning staff at 209-577-5267 and ask for
Cindy van Empel.


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Model Homes: New Rules and regulations

On October 24, 2006, Council passed a change to Ordinance No. 3427-C.S. answering that very question. Those changes went into effect on November 23, 2006.

The Government Code section 66499.30(b) contains the language in the Subdivision Map Act that allowed us to let builders construct multiple "Model Homes" prior to recordation of the final map. However, this section had no definition of a "Model Home".

With the change to the Ordinance, a model home is now defined as: "a resident structure within a residential subdivision (including a condominium project) used for the purposes of displaying, advertising, promotion, or sales of homes and not used as a dwelling" (10-2.234.3).

The question of how many are allowed, is clarified as "one (1) temporary real estate office may be located in any new subdivision, provided that such office shall be used only for the sale of property located in the subdivision in which such office is located and shall be removed at the end of two (2) years from the date of the recording of the map of the subdivision upon which said office is located, except that where fewer than half of the lots in such subdivision have been sold at the end of such two-year period, a conditional use permit may be granted by the Board of Zoning Adjustment for the extension of the time of establishment and removal of such office.

Model homes may be utilized as temporary real estate offices as above and may also serve adjacent subdivisions by the same developer and marketed under the same name.

The number of model homes on an undivided parcel shall be limited to the lesser of twenty (20) percent of the total dwelling units identified on the Tentative Subdivision Map or seven (7) units per subdivision." (10-2.2306)


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Specific Plans: Processing and New Development

Several Specific Plan areas within the City's sphere of influence are currently being planned to accommodate future development. The planning areas encompass approximately 2,000 acres, and provide for approximately 10,500 potential housing units (see table).

Once the planning process is complete and the areas are brought into the City (annexed), they will contribute toward the inventory of vacant land to accommodate anticipated economic development over the next several years. Several steps are necessary before the areas are included in the inventory. Plan components required to bring future planning areas on-line for development include completion of a specific plan, Environmental Impact Report, an Infrastructure Facilities Master Plan (IFMP), a finance plan, and formation of Capital Facilities District (CFD).

The planning area furthest along in the process is the Tivoli Specific Plan, a 454 acre site located on the west side of Roselle Avenue, north of Sylvan Avenue, east of Oakdale Road and south of future Claratina Avenue. The Draft Environmental Impact Report and corresponding Specific Plan have been circulated for public review and comment. The 45-day review period for the Tivoli EIR began on October 12, 2006 and will close on November 27, 2007. Public Hearings on the project are anticipated to occur in spring of 2007.

The Tivoli Specific Plan will provide a mix of residential, commercial and office land uses. The planning area includes a 14-acre school site, and about 30 acres of parks and open space.


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DEVELOPMENT CENTER: One Year Anniversary

The Department's Development Center web site celebrated its one year anniversary in November!

The Development Center web site is designed for the development community as well as residents looking for information for a one-time project and features a growing number of development related topics. Each topic page provides a subject description of each part of the development process. In addition each page provides a step-by-step guide, related forms and handouts and specific contact information.

The Development Center also provides several resources including activity reports for building permit and planning related activities, fee schedules and links to other department web sites.

Since its release in November 2005, The Development Center has provided development information to over 30,000 visitors. On average the web site has approximately 100 visitors per day, with 75% visiting for the first time and the remaining 25% are return customers. Many visitors have returned 3 or more times! The average length of stay on the web site is approximately 9 minutes.


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General Plan: Maintenance Update

The City has begun the process of a General Plan "maintenance" update, to include an update of the Master EIR. The General Plan is the basic policy guidance document for all growth and development in the City. The Master EIR streamlines the process of approval for development projects, as well as City infrastructure projects supporting development. Master EIR's require regular updating to keep them current.

The City has contracted with the planning firm of Jones and Stokes to assist with the General Plan and EIR process and documents. Two community workshops with the Planning Commission, and hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council will provide an opportunity for the public to participate.

Public workshops will be held to discuss the preliminary draft General Plan/Master EIR update and review of proposed revisions to the draft. Public workshops are targeted for the Spring and Summer of 2007.

As a technical or maintenance update, no major revisions are contemplated. The overall boundaries of the Plan will not be altered, for instance. The purpose of the update is to develop new policies, update existing policies, and revise plan diagrams to reflect current policy direction and the latest planning information available.

The update will take approximately 18 months to complete, with adoption targeted for January 2008.

Have Questions about the General Plan?
Contact Patrick Kelly, AICP, Principal Planner, at 209-577-5268, or by email:


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ZONING CODE: Cleaning House

The Planning Division staff has recently completed the first phase of cleaning up the Zoning Code. The purpose of this effort was to begin implementation of the City's Housing Element of the General Plan and to bring the Code into compliance with certain sections of State law that have been amended over time.

The recent amendment addresses six areas:

  1. Second units
    The proposed amendments implement and are consistent with AB 1866, California Government Code §65852.2, and liberalize the sections dealing with second units. Second units often serve the housing needs of low-income households.

    The proposed amendment removes the requirement for Board of Zoning Adjustment review of second units, making the approval administrative, as required by State law. In addition, the proposal provides for increased size above the base allocation if the unit is made affordable, and provides a relaxation of the parking standards for affordable units.
  2. Density Bonus
    Depending on the income level, a number of the housing units constructed under this program could serve to meet the needs of very low- and low-income households.

    The proposed amendments implement and are consistent with California Government Code §§ 65915 through 65917, and will result in promotion of the important public interest of affordable housing.  In general, the code sections now refer to State law.

    In addition, this section now specifies the type of incentives available in conjunction with density bonus projects.
  3. Parking requirements
    Parking requirements for small units and mixed-use projects incorporating housing.

    The amendment provides that projects incorporating studio and one-bedroom units will have a (reduced) 1-space requirement for those units. It further provides for mixed-use projects allowing for up to ½ of the requirement for the residential portion to be satisfied by the office/commercial portion.
  4. Residential Care Facilities
    The proposed amendment ties the City's Code to State law provisions and provides better definition of these facilities.
  5. Model Homes
    The Municipal Code currently has no definition of model homes.

    The amendment provides a definition and specifies the number of model homes allowed prior to recordation of a final map. The number of model homes allowed prior to recordation of a final map is limited to the lesser of seven or 20% of the total number of units on the map.
  6. Satellite antennas
    The current Code includes extensive provisions for this outdated technology (large, 6'-7' diameter dishes).

    The amendment is a clean-up to remove these provisions is suggested.

Further amendments are in the works.

The Housing Element specifies that the City is to study and consider amending the Code to eliminate "pyramidal zoning" (the provision whereby all R-1 uses are allowed in the R-2 zone, and all R-2 zone uses are allowed in the R-3 zone), and to consider provisions for inclusionary housing.

Regulations for cell towers and other communication technology are needed. There are numerous minor provisions that have become outdated and should be amended.

Stay tuned for more updates!


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For commercial projects that require review across department lines, the City now receives plans for all departments to review at one location: the third floor of Tenth Street Place. The plans are then delivered to all reviewing departments and the plan review process is tracked in our Tidemark system.

By having each department enter this information into a central data base we are able to report on this activity and make this report available to our customers in the Reports section of the City's Development Center web site.

Another enhancement we are working to implement into our Tidemark system is Interactive Voice Response (IVR). This system will allow customers to schedule their inspections directly via a touch tone phone.

Other features include inspector input capability of inspection results, as well as the ability to retrieve inspection results over a touch tone phone. We hope to have this in place by the middle of 2007.


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Economic Development & Redevelopment Updates

Our economic development website continues to be an excellent resource for site selectors of various businesses. March 2006 was our busiest month with 8,799 visits. In search engine results, our site is included in over 2,500 business related searches per month.

Promote Modesto!:
The Council approved a new marketing plan to target business retention and expansion of existing businesses, as well as business attraction. The first step in this marketing plan is to create a new branding and logo based on our mission and objectives. The new branding and logo was brought to the Council for presentation on December 12, 2006.

Downtown Wayfinding Signage
The new wayfinding signage has emerged in the Downtown area. These helpful signs are intended to direct tourists and residents to the features in Downtown. The Modesto Redevelopment Agency designed and paid for the signs. Locations were recommended by the Citizens Redevelopment Advisory Commission.


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C&ED New Employees

Katharine Martin
Assistant Planner
Planning Division
July 25, 2006

Jessica Bishop
Administrative Office Assistant II
Building Safety Division
August 1, 2006

Debbie Magdaleno
Administrative Analyst I
Administration Division
September 19, 2006

David Wage
Assistant Planner
Planning Division
October 17, 2006


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How Can We Help You? New Online Survey

The City of Modesto cares about providing the utmost service to our citizens and customers….you!

We want to hear about your experience while working with our employees. On the front page of each of our web sites there is a link to a new Community and Economic Development Customer Survey.

You can take the survey by clicking here.

We hope that you will take the time to complete this survey and provide us with your feedback, thoughts and suggestions.

Your feedback will allow us the opportunity to grow and improve our services to better meet your needs.


Winter 2006

Article Title  
Not Just Anytown, USA:  New Design Guidelines Adopted Read Article
Model Homes: New Rules and Regulations Read Article
Specific Plans: Processing and New Development Read Article
Development Center: One Year Anniversary Read Article
General Plan: Maintenance Update Read Article
Economic Development and Redevelopment Updates Read Article
Zoning Code: Cleaning House Read Article
Service Update: Online Project Status Read Article
New Employees Read Article
How Can We Help You?  New Online Survey Read Article
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