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What is a Variance?

The Pleasanton Municipal Code establishes standards and requirements for development of property. A variance is a special request to waive or alter a Municipal Code requirement of a particular zoning district as it effects a specific property. For example, an applicant may request that a new structure be allowed to be placed closer to the property line than is allowed by the Code. A variance may only be granted if there are unusual circumstances which would make it extremely difficult to comply with Code standards. Variances are only granted for deviations from the allowed site development standards, not for deviations from allowed land uses.

Information Required

•Site Plan Drawings

•Elevation Drawings (if applicable)

•Written Narrative

•Application + Fee ($50)

•Property Owner Signature


A total of ten (10) complete sets of exhibits are required to accompany the application materials. Plans should be drawn to scale and no smaller than 8½" x 11" nor larger than 24" x 36".

Site Plan Drawings - An exhibit which clearly shows the dimensions of the lot, the existing structure(s), any proposed new construction, existing and proposed parking (if applicable), setbacks, and any other aspects of your site that could be an issue.

Elevation Drawings (if applicable) - An exhibit indicating the detailed appearance of all proposed construction. Dimensions, colors, materials, and any special architectural features should be clearly shown.

Written Narrative - A letter which describes the purpose of the variance. Please clearly state what you intend to do that requires a variance and what Code requirements you cannot meet. You should also include details of the proposal and describe why you believe the variance should be approved, including a description of any unusual physical conditions which create the need for a variance.

Application + Fee ($50) - A complete application form and $50.00 fee is required.

Property Owner Signature or Letter of Authorization - Property owner must sign the application form or provide a written letter of authorization prior to review of the application.

Photographs - Submit photographs to illustrate your lot and the special circumstances related to your application.

The required findings are the heart of a variance application. By law these findings must be made before a variance can be granted. Please give them some thought and answer them as clearly and completely as possible.

Finding 1:That there are special circumstances unique to your property.

These special circumstances can involve the shape, size, topography, location, or surroundings of your property -- in short, some physical constraint which is unique to your site. Special circumstances are not interpreted to be something intangible, such as lack of knowledge of the Code or misinformation given at the time that the house was purchased.

Finding 2: That granting of the variance would not constitute a special privilege. The Zoning Administrator must find that granting your variance would not constitute a special privilege that is inconsistent with other properties in the same zoning district. The key is the "same district". Have similar variances been granted in your area? Would appoval of the variance maintain the intent of the zoning requirements for your district? These are the types of issues that are examined in order to make this finding.

Finding 3: That granting of the variance would not be detrimental to public health, safety or general welfare. A variance cannot be granted if it would pose any threat to the public health or safety. This finding includes concerns such as fire safety, structural stability, clearance, preservation of light and open space, and visual and aesthetic concerns.

All three of the above findings must be made in order for a variance to be granted. In the case of a variance for parking or signage, there are additional required findings.

The Application Process




Staff Analysis

When your application is considered complete, it will be reviewed at the first available Planning Department staff meeting, which generally occurs weekly on Monday mornings. The project will be assigned to a staff planner who will contact you to report the project's status and to obtain additional information if necessary. The project will be scheduled for a public hearing with the Zoning Administrator. The Zoning Administrator may refer the application for review by the Planning Commission, especially if the variance is related to another application which requires Planning Commission approval. The planner will write a staff report which contains staff's analysis of the application and a recommendation for action. The recommendation can be to approve, deny, or approve with specific conditions. You will be provided with a copy of the staff report prior to the meeting.

Public Hearing

In compliance with state law, all property owners within a 300 foot radius of the subject site will be notified of the variance request and the time and location of the public hearing. It is at the public hearing that the actual decision concerning your application will be made. The Zoning Administrator will consider the information in the staff report and testimony given at the hearing. It is strongly recommended that you attend the hearing to present your case and to answer any questions the Zoning Administrator may have. You will be informed in writing of the Zoning Administrator's decision and of any conditions that were attached to an approval. The Zoning Administrator must make the required variance findings before he/she can approve or conditionally approve the variance.

Appeal Period

The Zoning Administrator's decision does not become effective until 15 days after the ruling. During this time you or any concerned party may appeal the decision of the Zoning Administrator to the Planning Commission by submitting a written request and an appeal fee (equal to 25% of the original application fee). An appeal will be scheduled for the first available Planning Commission meeting. The decision of the Planning Commission may be appealed to the City Council within 15 days of the Commission's action. Additionally, any member of the Planning Commission or City Council may appeal the Zoning Administrator's decision to their respective body. The decision of the City Council shall be final. If the Zoning Administrator grants your variance and no appeal is filed within the 15 day appeal period, your variance becomes effective and you may proceed with your project.
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