Zoning Information & Clearances

All parcels in the County are assigned to a specific zone district for which there are specific standards that govern both the allowed uses and the site development standards that are applied. Title 13 of the County Code contains these Planning & Zoning Regulations, including the use charts and site standards for each zone district. Use charts list the uses allowed in the zone district. Site standards control development by providing requirements such as minimum setbacks to property lines, maximum height, lot coverage, and floor area ratio limits.

Some parcels also have Combining Districts which come with additional standards. For example, the Pleasure Point Combining District has additional requirements and allowances for projects located in the Pleasure Point area. Combining Districts are noted at the end of a parcel’s zoning and begin with a dash (for example, -PP for the Pleasure Point Combining District).

Some parcels are “split zoned,” meaning that two or more areas of the parcel have different zoning.

There are two ways:

  1. Run the Free Parcel Information Report. Your parcel’s zoning is available under the “Property Information” section.
  2. Use the GIS. Directions for finding your parcel’s zoning on the GIS are available here.

For an overview of the zone districts, see the Zone District Summary.

Once you know your parcel’s zoning, you can find the zone district regulations associated with your parcel’s zone district.

*NOTE: The Sustainability Update is now in effect but has not yet been condified. You can find use charts and site standards here. Updated Residential standards are summarized here.*

If you have questions about zoning or applicable standards, email Zoning staff or schedule an appointment using the Appointment Scheduler.

Applying Setbacks Correctly
Applying setbacks correctly to irregularly shaped parcels, parcels with multiple frontages, or parcels bisected by rights-of-way, can be a challenge. Similarly, locating the point from which to measure a setback abutting a road can be unclear. Setbacks are measured from the edge of the right-of-way or the actual paved roadway (if the paved roadway is located outside of the right-of-way) or the property line, whichever is more restrictive.

A common mistake is assuming that the curb or the back of the sidewalk is the correct place from which to measure front or street side yard setbacks.  Applying setbacks incorrectly can result in the need to redesign a project which adds expense and delay. A survey is the best way to confirm the location of your property lines. If you have any question about the application of setbacks, please contact Zoning staff.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Accessory Structures

  • Accessory Dwelling Units have additional or different development standards, depending on the type of ADU. Please see SCCC 13.10.681.
  • Accessory Structures such as garages, barns, and detached bedrooms are subject to SCCC 13.10.611.

Additional Development Standards / Requirements
Zone district standards are typically minimums. Additional, more restrictive setbacks may be applicable to your project if your property is located near a stream, coastal bluff, wetland, agriculture, or other protected resource; and/or within the Pleasure Point Community Design or Seascape Beach Estates Combining Districts.

If your property is part of a Homeowners Association (HOA), subdivision, and/or a PUD that has design or site standards that are in addition to or differ from the zone district, you are responsible for complying with those standards as well as for obtaining any required project approvals from the HOA. Similarly, if a discretionary permit established different site standards for your parcel, your application will be required to comply with those standards.

A Zoning Clearance is a ministerial review conducted by Zoning staff to certify that an existing or proposed use or development on a property conforms with applicable requirements of the Santa Cruz County zoning ordinance, and that a discretionary permit is not required. Zoning Clearances include review of terms and conditions of any previously approved discretionary approvals on a parcel. Zoning Clearance reviews do not include routing to other agencies for review. 

Only certain projects require a Zoning Clearance. For the full list of those projects, visit the Zoning Clearances webpage where you will also find directions for obtaining a Zoning Clearance.