The General Plan is a City’s “blueprint” for achieving the vision for the future. The Modesto General Plan and other related documents are available online.
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Zoning is the law that regulates how property is used and sets standards for new construction. Some properties are zoned to allow only homes and other properties are zoned to allow stores and businesses. The purpose of establishing zoning designations is to ensure that neighboring land uses are compatible with one another. Residential uses are generally not compatible with industrial uses.
More information regarding zoning:
You can find the list of uses allowed in each zone online.
A legal-nonconforming condition is a building or use of property that was lawfully built and maintained, and that because of changes to zoning or development standards, no longer conforms to the regulations of the zone in which it is located. A legal-nonconforming use or building may remain at its location and if destroyed by accidental or natural causes, be rebuilt up to the original size for up to one year following destruction. The Zoning Code allows for limited expansion of non-conforming uses. This information can be found online.
A variance is an exception to requirements of the Zoning Code for development of property, such as building setbacks. A variance may be justified when a regulation restricts the use of property because of some unique feature of the property such as its shape or topography. A variance requires approval by the Board of Zoning Adjustment at a public hearing.
In order to approve a variance, specific findings must be made, as follows:
More information regarding the variance process, see Variance Brochure (PDF) or Variance Submittal Requirements (PDF).
The Planned Development (P-D) zoning designation is utilized to allow for custom tailored, site specific zoning, which encourages creative, flexible and efficient land uses. Planned Development (P-D) zones are often established with variations from use, density, height or other standards that are strictly regulated in other zones.
For detailed information regarding the Planned Development (P-D) process or a specific Planned Development (P-D) Zone, contact the Planning Division at (209) 577-5267.
A setback (see House Setbacks (PDF)) is the minimum distance required between a building or fence and a property line. Setbacks vary throughout the City depending on the zoning. General residential setback information can be found online.
Visit Fence Standards for Corner Lots (PDF) or Fence Standards for Interior Lots (PDF) for further information.
The location of your property line can be verified by a Licensed Land Surveyor (LLS). You can find a Licensed Land Surveyor by looking online or in the Yellow pages under “Surveyors – Land” or “Engineers – Civil”. Once you have found a Licensed Land Surveyor, you may want to check the status of the Licensed Land Surveyor at the State of California’s Website.
Changing the boundary between two properties requires what is called a Lot Line Adjustment, which must be approved by the City. Lot line adjustments are handled by the City’s Land Development Engineering Division. If you have questions about Lot Line Adjustments, please contact the Land Development Engineering Division at (209) 342-4712.
If you are interested in dividing your property, you will need to determine whether it is large enough to divide. For information about minimum residential lot requirements, refer to the Zoning Code.
For a commercial property, the ultimate use or uses of the property will need to be considered and whether there will remain sufficient space to accommodate the building(s), required landscaping and parking. For specific questions about site development standards, contact the Planning Division at 209-577-5267.
Sheds or gazebos are buildings that can be used to support the primary residential structure, which are also known as accessory structures.
A structure such as a patio cover or sunroom that is connected to your house is considered part of the house and is not an accessory structure. These types of structures require a building permit, must meet setbacks and can’t exceed the lot coverage requirements. For building related questions, contact the Building & Safety Division at (209) 577-5232.
Accessory dwelling units, otherwise known as second units, granny-units, guesthouses, mother-in-law quarters, are allowed by the City on most residential lots. The development of an accessory dwelling unit must meet standards such as size, height, setbacks, lot coverage, and parking. Please contact the Planning Division at (209) 577-5267 for more information.
All single-family residential units must provide two off-street parking spaces. In order to convert garage space into a bedroom, office, game room, or other living space, the property owner must demonstrate the ability to meet the off-street parking requirements. Contact the Planning Division at (209) 577-5267 for further information.
A second story addition to an existing home or accessory structure, or a new two-story home or accessory structure, may be subject to Second-Story Review (PDF). For information regarding the submittal requirements, please see the Second Story Review Submittal Requirements (PDF).
The City allows for home-based businesses and you will need a Home Business Permit and Agreement Form (PDF). You will also need to check the zoning in your area to see if the business is permitted. Please contact the Planning Division at (209) 577-5267 for further information.
For all other new business information, visit our New Business Page.
The City’s sign regulations are based on the zoning designation for property. For information about the City’s sign regulations, contact the Planning Division at 209-577-5267.
Signs generally require a permit to ensure all safety standards are met. For information about the sign permit process, contact the Building & Safety Division at (209) 577-5232.
Application forms and materials are available online or at the Planning Division office at 1010 10th Street, Suite 3100, Modesto.
Planning Division Fee Schedule (PDF) is available online. For questions regarding fees or forms, please contact the Planning Division at (209) 577-5267.