Floor Area Ratio Urgency Ordinance

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Floor Area Ratio Policy

What's New?

On August 26, the City Council adopted an urgency Ordinance for Floor Area Ratio (FAR). This Ordinance is effective immediately and sets a review threshold for higher FAR projects.

What is Floor Area Ratio?

Floor Area Ratio is the ratio of the total building size in proportion to the lot size. The total covered area of all floors of a single-family home, which includes attached garages, measured to the outside of stud walls. The Gross Floor Area will include the total covered area of all floors of a single-family dwelling. The following are exempt from FAR calculation:

  • Basements - basements that are no more than 24" above average finished grade
  • Detached structures - including garages, sheds, accessory structures, and accessory dwelling units
  • Architectural features - including decks, bay windows, chimneys and everything defined in Section 32.3 E. of the ordinance

What does this proposal mean?

Any project that exceeds 3,000 square feet or 45% of the lot, whichever is greater, requires Planning Commission review for approval.


The FAR review threshold applies to all Architectural Permit applications for single-family dwellings in any zoning district, including single-family dwellings with an accessory dwelling unit. Exemptions are listed below:

  • Ground floor additions
  • New single-family homes or additions built on a lot size less than 5,000 square feet
  • Second story additions of 100 square feet or less

Findings Required to Approve a Project

The project shall meet all objective development standards of the underlying zoning district, Architectural Permit Findings (Section 45.4) and the specific FAR findings below (Section 48.4):

  • Contextual setbacks - use setbacks that are similar to structures that front the same street
  • Garages - proposed garage placement is generally similar to the pattern common along the same street, including location and setbacks
  • Massing - massing within the frontage is compatible with the neighborhood context of structures along the same street

In addition to the findings, the Planning Commission and city staff will review the proposed project to ensure consistency with Neighborhood Compatibility: Guiding Principles.

City Council Phased Approach to Preserve Affordability and Architecture Character of Redwood City Neighborhoods

Other Helpful Documents

August 26, City Council Meeting

Staff Report

Attachment A: Zoning Ordinance

Attachment B: Urgency Zoning Ordinance

Attachment C: Data on Recent Architectural Permits and Existing Home and Lot

Attachment D: Public Comment

Attachment E: Staff Recommended Planning Commission Resolution

Planning Commission Recommendations to ADU Changes, Home Size Limits and Residential Design Guidelines Next Steps blog, go here

Floor Area Ratio (FAR) Fact Sheet

Planning Commission Meeting Documents from the June 18, 2019 Meeting

Planning Commission Staff Report 

Draft Resolution

For the meeting video, go here.

For other meeting documents and details, go here

Planning Commission Meeting Documents from the May 21, 2019 Meeting 

Planning Commission Staff Report 


Other Helpful Links

Accessory Dwelling Units 

Residential Design Guidelines

Single Family Development

Multifamily Housing Development

Online Mapping Tools