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Resource Management Agency


Planning Services
1441 Schilling Place
Salinas, CA 93901
(831) 755-5025
(831) 757-9516

Although every effort is made to provide complete and accurate information on this website and all its documents, users are advised to contact applicable County Resource Management Agency staff before making project decisions and fee estimates.


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A variance is a permit that allows a property owner to construct a structure that does not meet development standards specified in the Zoning Ordinance. Such standards include the distance from property lines and/or road right-of-ways, lot coverage/floor area ratio, or height. A variance may not be granted to change the designated use of a property, only for exceptions to the development standards. The variance process requires a public hearing.

There are three findings that must be made in order to grant a variance, including:

  1. That because of special circumstances applicable to the subject property, including size, shape, topography, location or surroundings, the strict application of the Zoning Ordinance is found to deprive the subject property of privileges enjoyed by other properties in the vicinity and under identical zoning classification;

  2. That the Variance does not constitute a grant of special privilege inconsistent with the limitations upon other properties in the vicinity and zone in which such property is located;

  3. The Variance shall not be granted for a use or activity which in not otherwise expressly authorized by the zone regulation governing the parcel of property.

Why is a variance needed?
In the vast majority of cases, meeting zoning ordinance standards does not present a hardship for property owners and a variance is not needed. Occasionally, certain physical features of a lot will make complying with the zoning standards difficult or impossible. The variance process is intended to alleviate hardship in cases such as this. Some examples of lot features that may be grounds for a variance include: extremely small lot size, unbuildable slopes, excessive street frontage, unique lot configuration, the presence of sensitive vegetation or hazardous geologic features.

How is a variance granted?
All variance applications are decided at a public hearing by either the Zoning Administrator or the Planning Commission. In order to grant the variance, these decision makers must be able to adopt the three findings detailed in the sidebar at right. Applicants must provide written evidence demonstrating that these three findings can be made. If there is no substantial evidence to support these findings, the variance application will be denied.

How long does it take to receive a variance?
Once a complete application is submitted, the variance process typically takes eight to ten weeks. You may wish to review the The Planning Permit Process for additional information.

How do I apply for a variance?
Please refer Informational Brochures under Codes & Publication or call (831) 755-5025. You will then be assigned to a project planner who will work with you through the entire process. Your planner will meet with you to answer any questions you may have and provide you with application forms, instructions and fee requirements.

Which laws govern the granting of variances?
Ordinances governing variances can be found in Chapter 21.72 of the Monterey County Zoning Ordinance (Title 21) and Chapter 20.78 of the Monterey County Coastal Implementation Plan, Part One (Title 20). Section 65905-65906.5 of the California Government Code also applies to variances.