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Common Violations


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Accessory structures
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Accessory Structure
  • Accessory structures are buildings or structures that support the main structure or building on a property.
    • For example, in a property with a single-family residence, a storage shed would be an accessory structure.
    • Patio covers and carports for other buildings are also considered accessory structures.
    • Any building used for an agricultural use is considered an agricultural accessory building.
  • Zoning Ordinance section 4.20.020 regulates the types of accessory structures that are allowed and other limitations, such as the distance that accessory structures must be set back from property lines and height limitations on accessory structures.
  • Accessory structures may not be used as housing or for overnight sleeping. To see the requirements to obtain a secondary dwelling unit see Secondary Dwellings.
  • Even if an accessory structure is allowed, constructing, altering, or maintaining an accessory structure may require a building permit.​
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Blight
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Blight on Property
  • The County prohibits property blight in Urban Residential and Commercial zoning districts. To see if a property falls within an Urban Residential or Commercial zoning district type the APN or address into the Online Property Profile.
  • Ordinance Code Division B38 sets out the conditions that qualify as blight.
  • Examples of conditions that may qualify are:
    • Buildings or structure accessible to unauthorized persons due to inadequate security, such as broken or missing doors or windows.
    • Abandoned buildings or structures.
    • Abandoned construction.
    • Buildings or structures with broken or deteriorated walls that are visible from a public area, such as the street, or from neighboring properties.
    • Properties with overgrown or dead trees or weeds that constitute a fire hazard.
  • If you have any questions about whether a particular condition qualifies as blight, see Ordinance Code Division B38 or contact Code Enforcement.​
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Cannabis
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Cannabis
  • Ordinance Code Division B26.5 regulates marijuana/cannabis in the unincorporated County.
  • In general, The County prohibits indoor and outdoor cultivation, distribution, processing, storage, packing, and sale of cannabis. Exceptions exist for:
    • Limited cultivation by a qualified patient or primary caregiver at their residence if the cultivation is performed in compliance with Ordinance Code sections B26.5-5, B26.5-7, and B26.5-8.
    • On a residence, the indoor cultivation and harvest of up to six cannabis plants on that residence by an adult resident for their private use if the cultivation is performed in compliance with Ordinance Code sections B26.5-6 and B26.5-7.
  • Any construction, grading electrical, plumbing, or mechanical work, or other alterations to support allowable cannabis cultivation must comply with County permitting requirements.
  • All water used in cultivation of any cannabis cultivation must be permitted and obtain from a legal source.
  • Any individual cultivating cannabis on a lot which the individual does not own must obtain and post written permission from the legal owner or landlord consenting to the cannabis cultivation.
  • The extraction of chemical compounds from cannabis with a solvent-based extraction method using compressed flammable gases or alcohol is prohibited.​
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Excessiv​e disabled/inoperative vehicles
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Inoperable Vehicles
  • Zoning Ordinance section 4.20.070 regulates disabled and inoperative vehicle storage on residential lots.
  • A vehicle is inoperable or disabled if it cannot be immediately started and moved under its own power or is not currently registered for use on the public right-of-way.
  • On any residential lot:
    • No disabled or inoperative vehicles may be stored in areas visible from neighboring properties or from public view, such as the street.
    • No more than two disabled or inoperative vehicles may be stored or worked on.
    • No work may be performed on any motor vehicle that is not registered to a person who lives on the property.​
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Grading wor​k and drainage alteration
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Grading Violation
  • Grading
    • Refers to the removal or deposit of natural earth materials such as dirt, sand, or rock by artificial means.
    • Regulated by Ordinance Code section C12-406​.
    • Not allowed if it results in a hazardous condition or endangers adjacent property. Frequent examples include:
      • Unauthorized cutting into or depositing dirt on hillsides.
      • Unauthorized alterations to floodplains.
    • Any grading work above the following thresholds requires a permit. For possible exceptions see Ordinance Code section C12-407.
      • Cuts or fills which are independently greater than 150 cubic yards.
      • Cuts or fills greater than five feet in vertical depth at the deepest point.
      • Work that alters, diverts, or impairs the flow of water in a watercourse.
  • Drainage Alteration
    • Refers to work that alters existing drainage patterns.
    • Regulated by Ordinance Code section C12-408.
    • The following work requires a drainage permit or grading permit. For possible exceptions see Ordinance Code section C12-409​.
      • Any work that creates more impervious area and that has the potential to cause or worsen flood conditions, to endanger adjacent property, or to divert or impair the flow of water in a watercourse.
      • Any work that creates more than 2,000 square feet of impervious area.
      • Any work that alters an existing drainage pattern.
      • The construction of improvements with a volume of 75 cubic yards of greater within a floodplain.
      • Any work within a floodway.
  • If grading work or drainage alteration work violates the Ordinance Code, you may not remove the work or restore the site without Department of Planning and Development approval and potentially a grading abatement permit.
    • Removal of the work or restoration of the site without such approval can cause significant additional damage and is an additional violation.​
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Motor vehicl​e repair
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Vehicle Repair
  • Zoning Ordinance section 4.20.070 motor vehicle repair work on residential lots.
  • On any lot less than one acre:
    • All motor vehicle bodies, parts, equipment, tools, or other metal materials must be stored in a screened or enclosed area.
    • No work may be done on any motor vehicle after 10:00 p.m. or before 7:00 a.m.
  • On any lot less than 10 acres, no motor vehicle work may extend more than for a 72-hour period in the front yard setback or in an area that is visible from the front property line.​
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Recreational ve​hicle, trailer, or similar vehicle use for housing or storage
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RV Housing
  • Zoning Ordinance section 4.20.090 regulates the storage and use of RVs, campers, trailers, boats, and similar vehicles while maintained on residential lots.
  • To be maintained on a residential lot, an RV, camper, trailer, boat, or similar vehicle must be registered to a person who lives on the property.
  • In general, while stored on any residential lot:
    • RVs, campers, trailers, boats, and similar vehicles may not be used as housing.
    • RVs, campers, trailers, boats, and similar vehicles may not be connected to any utilities, such as electricity or plumbing, except when needed for limited maintenance.
    • RVs, campers, trailers, boats, and similar vehicles must be maintained at least 75 feet from the front property line or in the rear yard.
  • Exceptions may apply for emergency housing following a casualty, such as an earthquake or fire. See section 4.20.090 for details.​
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Substandard ho​using
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Substandard Housing
  • All buildings or portions of buildings used for human habitation must meet minimum safety standards.
  • Any buildings or portions of buildings used for housing which fail to meet those safety standards are considered substandard.
  • The County follows the International Property Maintenance Code, 2018 Edition, to provide the minimum safety standards for all housing. Examples of types of conditions which will cause housing to be substandard include:
    • Inadequate sanitation, such as lack of hot or cold running water or infestation of insects or rodents.
    • Structural hazards, such as defective or deteriorated flooring or walls that split or lean due to defective materials or deterioration.
    • Hazardous electrical wiring.
    • Hazardous plumbing.
    • Hazardous mechanical equipment.
    • Faulty weather protection such as deteriorated or ineffective weather protection for exterior wall coverings.
    • Inadequate exits.
    • Inadequate fire protection or firefighting equipment.
  • If the County Building Official identifies substandard housing, they may order that the building be repaired or demolished and that the building be vacated.
    • If tenants are required to vacate housing due to substandard conditions, they may qualify for relocation assistance that must be provided by the landlord. See Ordinance Code section C5-3 for relocation assistance requirements.
    • Any repair or demolition of substandard housing must comply with The County’s construction permitting requirements.​
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Trash storage in mu​lti-family and non-residential developments
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Trash
  • Zoning Ordinance section 4.20.100 regulates how trash must be stored in multi-family and non-residential development, such as commercial establishments.
  • Trash must be stored in a fenced area.
  • The fenced area must be constructed prior to any use of the development.
  • The fenced area must be located in the side or rear yard and must be accessible to trash-collecting vehicles. If there is no location accessible to trash-collecting vehicles the property owner must contact the Department of Planning and Development.
  • At least three sides of the fenced area must be built of solid masonry or wood and must be least 6 feet tall.
  • The fencing must screen the trash from view from the public right-of-way, such as the street.​
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Unlawful land us​e in Agricultural, Hillside, or Rural Residential district
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Tent Pavilion
  • A property’s zoning district determines what the property can be used for. For example:
    • Can the property be used as a reception facility?
    • If yes, what must the property owner do before using the property this way?
  • Some​ uses are not allowed for properties in certain zoning districts. Other uses are allowed but first require a land use entitled such as a special permit, architectural and site approval, and/or a use permit.
    • If a use requires one of these entitlements, this entitlement must be obtained from the Department of Planning and Development before such a use of the property.
    • For questions about how to obtain a special permit, architecture and site approval, and/or a use permit, see how to Apply for a Permit.
  • To determine what zoning district a property is located in type the APN or address into the Online Property Profile.
  • For properties in exclusive agricultural, agricultural ranchlands, hillside, and rural residential districts, Zoning Ordinance section 2.20.020 sets out the allowed uses of those properties and any entitlements required.
  • Some common use issues in these districts are:
    • Commercial truck storage: Not allowed on agricultural ranchlands, hillside, or rural residential property. Only allowed on exclusive agricultural properties if the trucks are used for agriculture on the property.
    • Religious institutions: Facilities for religious worship such as churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples require a use permit.
    • Reception facilities: Indoor or outdoor facilities used for receptions, parties, weddings, or similar gatherings require a use permit.
  • Even if a use if allowed, a building and/or grading permit may be required for any construction work.​
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Unlawful land use in​ Com​mercial or Industrial district
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Unlawful use in Commercial/Industrial Zones
  • A property’s zoning district determines what the property can be used for. For example:
    • Can the property be used for retail?
    • If yes, what must the property owner do before using the property this way?
  • Some uses are not allowed for properties in certain zoning districts. Other uses are allowed but first require a land use entitled such as a special permit, architectural and site approval, and/or a use permit.
    • If a use requires one of these entitlements, this entitlement must be obtained from the Department of Planning and Development before such a use of the property.
    • For questions about how to obtain a special permit, architecture and site approval, and/or a use permit, see how to Apply for a Permit.
  • To determine what zoning district a property is located in type the APN or address into the Online Property Profile.
  • For properties in commercial and industrial base districts, including neighborhood commercial, general commercial, administrative/professional office, light industrial, and heavy industrial districts, Zoning Ordinance section 2.40.020 sets out the allowed uses of those properties and any entitlements required.
  • Some common use issues in these districts are:
    • Automotive repair: Not allowed in neighborhood commercial or administrative/professional office properties. May be allowed in general commercial properties with a use permit. Allowed in light and heavy industrial properties after architecture and site approval.
    • Offices: Allowed after architectural and site approval.
    • Truck storage: Not allowed neighborhood commercial, general commercial, or administrative/professional office properties. Allowed in light and heavy industrial properties after architectural and site approval.
  • Even if a use if allowed, a building and/or grading permit may be required for any construction work.​
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Unlawful land use​ in Urban Residential base district
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  • A property’s zoning district determines what the property can be used for. For example:
    • Can the property be used as a school?
    • If yes, what must the property owner do before using the property this way?
  • Some uses are not allowed for properties in certain zoning districts. Other uses are allowed but first require a land use entitled such as a special permit, architectural and site approval, and/or a use permit.
    • If a use requires one of these entitlements, this entitlement must be obtained from the Department of Planning and Development before such a use of the property.
    • For questions about how to obtain a special permit, architecture and site approval, and/or a use permit, see how to Apply for a Permit.
  • To determine what zoning district a property is located in type the APN or address into the Online Property Profile.
  • For properties in urban residential districts, Zoning Ordinance section 2.30.020 sets out the allowed uses of those properties and any entitlements required.
  • Some common use issues in these districts are:
    • Commercial truck storage: Not allowed on agricultural ranchlands, hillside, or rural residential property. Only allowed on exclusive agricultural properties if the trucks are used for agriculture on the property.
    • Religious institutions: Facilities for religious worship such as churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples require a use permit.
    • Reception facilities: Indoor or outdoor facilities used for receptions, parties, weddings, or similar gatherings require a use permit.
  • Even if a use if allowed, a building and/or grading permit may be required for any construction work.​
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Unlawful outdoor​ storage
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Outdoor Storage
  • Zoning Ordinance section 4.20.080 regulates outdoor storage of materials such as construction materials, junk, storage containers, and vehicle parts.
  • In general:
    • No more than 200 square feet on any lot may be used for such outdoor storage.
    • No such materials may be stored so that they are greater than six feet in height.
    • No such materials may be stored:
      • Where they are visible from a neighboring property or a public right-of-way, such as a street; or
      • Within the required minimum front yard setback.
  • Certain exceptions apply, including for yard and garage sales and for temporary storage of construction materials per a valid building permit. See section 4.20.080 for details.
  • Tarps and canvas covers are not acceptable means of screening.
  • Motor vehicle repair and storage, recreational vehicle storage, and trash storage for multi-family and non-residential developments are separately regulated by the Zoning Ordinance. The requirements above do not apply.
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Unpermitted construc​tion work
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​​Stop Work Notice
  • Ordinance Code sections C1-67 and C1-70 prohibit:
    • Engaging in work or causing work to be performed that requires a permit.
    • Using, occupying, or maintaining a building or structure or causing the same if a required permit was not obtained.
  • Work that requires a permit generally includes:
    • General construction work. Work to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish, or change the occupancy of a building or structure unless it falls within an exception. For a full list of exceptions see 2019 Residential Building Code section 105.2 and/or 2019 California Building Code Section 105.2, as applicable. Examples of exceptions are:
      • The construction and maintenance of a one-story detached accessory structures with a floor area of 120 square feet or less.
      • The construction of a fence less than 7 feet tall.
      • Painting, papering, carpeting, cabinets, counter tops, and similar finish work that do not change walls, plumbing, or electrical configurations.
      • Swings and other playground equipment accessory to one- and two-family dwellings.
    • Electrical work. Work to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert, or replace electrical systems or equipment in or connected to a building or structure unless the work falls within an exception. For a full list of exceptions see 2006 ICC Electrical Code – Administrative Provisions section 401.3. Examples of exceptions are:
      • Electrical circuit breaker replacements. If replacing the main disconnect a permit is required.
      • Electrical outlet replacements.
    • Plumbing work. Work to install, alter, repair, replace, or remodel a plumbing system, such as a water heater, sink, or shower, in or connected to a building or structure unless the work falls within an exception. For a full list of exceptions see 2019 California Plumbing Code section 104.2. Examples of exceptions are:
      • Stopping leaks in drains. If replacing materials, a permit is required.
      • Removing and reinstalling toilets and/or repairing leaks in piles or valves. If the repairs involve replacing or rearranging any valves, pipes, or fixtures, a permit is required.
    • Mechanical work. Work to install, alter, repair, replace, or remodel a mechanical system, such as a heating or cooling system, in or connected to a building or structure unless the work falls within an exception. For a full list of exceptions see 2019 California Mechanical Code section 104.2​. Exceptions include:
      • Moving or plugging in a portable heating appliance or portable cooling unit.
      • Refrigerating equipment that is part of equipment for which a permit has been properly issued.
  • Removal of unpermitted work requires a demolition permit.
  • For any specific questions contact the Office of Building Inspection at (408) 299-5700.​
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Common Issues Handled by Other Agencies​

Drinking water
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Contact Department of Environmental Health
Food safety
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Contact Department of Environmental Health
Hazardous materials
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Contact Department of Environmental Health ​​
Noise
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Contact Department of Environmental Health
Septic/sewage issues
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Contact Department of Environmental Health
Swimming pools
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Contact Department of Environmental Health
Trash storage and collection
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Contact Department of Environmental Health ​​
Weeds
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Contact Weed Abatement
Last updated: 4/17/2020 9:22 AM