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Real Estate

Alec Bruice: New Minor Zoning Exceptions Allowed for Zoning Information Reports

The Santa Barbara Association of Realtors and the City of Santa Barbara have been working together for the past seven years on the issues encompassing the Zoning Information Reports (ZIRs).  

There have been many changes throughout the years, but one of the most substantial changes just went into effect Feb. 11, 2016. The city now allows for a minor zoning exception (MZE), a method of resolving a discrepancy or error in a ZIR.

If a discrepancy or error in a ZIR involves one or more of the zoning violations specified within the ordinance, the property owner may request a MZE to obtain relief from the zoning standards.

This change means that unpermitted alterations to properties with legal nonconforming buildings, “as-built” addition or expansion of hardscape, landscape or site improvements, “as-built” detached accessory buildings, oversized accessory buildings and additions exceeding the maximum floor area ratio (FAR) could be granted reprieve from zoning standards. 

The ZIR form has also recently changed to reflect the difference between “major” and “minor” violations. “Major” violations include illegal dwelling units, unpermitted floor area or conditioned space, elimination of required parking, unpermitted improvements within 50 feet of coastal bluff and violations that pose an immediate health or safety risk.

All other violations are considered “minor,” which are kept on file and required to be abated prior to or simultaneously with the first building permit that is obtained by the property owner.

If “major” violations are also identified on the property then both “major” and “minor” violations must be abated together. If a “minor” violation is not abated prior to the next transfer of the residential property, it is carried forward on the subsequent ZIR.

The Santa Barbara Association of Realtors has been working on the ZIR issue for nearly a decade because we not only promote homeownership but we also strive to protect it.

We want to make sure that homeowners are able to enjoy their property and avoid unnecessary expense or delays when it comes time to sell their home.

Our hope is that with these changes to the ZIR process a balance can be achieved between the city and property owners.

Alec Bruice is a licensed real estate broker with Santa Barbara Brokers and the 2016 president of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. Contact him at [email protected] or 805.637.5774. The opinions expressed are his own.

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