Stream Conservation Area Ordinance

Brian Crawford, Community Development Agency
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An interim SCA Ordinance was adopted by the Board of Supervisors on October 29, 2013.

The Stream Conservation Area (SCA) is based on the stream conservation policies of the Marin Countywide Plan and is intended to protect the hydraulic function, habitat value, and water quality of streams by:
  • Establishing a special permit area, in which new development and site activities must avoid or mitigate impacts to riparian and stream habitat.
  • Establishing SCA permit procedures and standards to guide review and processing for SCA permits.

The Stream Conservation Area Ordinance will apply on an interim basis to unincorporated areas of Marin County located outside of the Coastal Zone. To find out if your property is included within the Stream Conservation Area, visit Marin Stream Conservation Area Lookup

More information on applicability of the County’s existing policies and regulations to development near streams are available from the SCA Landowner Resource Guide.

Community Updates

Implementation of the Interim Stream Conservation Area Ordinance that was approved by the Board of Supervisors will not proceed due to litigation filed on November 18, 2012 by the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) and the Center for Biological Diversity. Studies supporting development of a permanent SCA Ordinance will continue. Below, please see responses to some questions you may have about the status of the SCA and how you may be affected.

Without the ordinance, how do County Codes protect streams and their habitat? The Interim SCA Ordinance would implement the 2007 Countywide Plan SCA policies by requiring science-based management practices for all permits in the SCA, applying consistent standards for properties in both conventional and planned zoning districts, and expanding permit requirements to "flatwork" (such as patios and driveways) and native vegetation removal in the SCA. However, the County's Development Code current includes protections for streams and riparian habitat, which are unaffected by the pending litigation:

  • Permit requirements for alterations to stream beds and banks (Marin County Code Section 11.08, Watercourse Diversion or Obstruction)
  • Drainage setbacks (generally 20 feet from the top of stream bank) in which structures are not permitted (Marin County Code Section 24.04.560)
  • Compliance with Countywide Plan Policies for biological resources (including the SCA policies) for any discretionary permit (e.g., Design Review, Master Plan, Tree Removal Permit, Use Permit, Variance).
  • Design Review requirements for development of any vacant lot adjacent to an anadromous (fish-bearing) stream. (Marin County Code Section 22.42.045).
  • Preservation of native protected and heritage trees (Marin County Code Section 22.27)

What is the status of the permit injunction in the San Geronimo Watershed? The Court Order that imposed the permit injunction in the San Geronimo Watershed states that "The injunction shall expire by operation of law when the Board of Supervisors adopts the Stream Conservation Area Ordinance." In adopting the Interim SCA Ordinance on October 29, the Board of Supervisors complied with the Court Order and the injunction has been lifted.

What rules do I need to follow if I have a project in the SCA? You will need to follow the County's current Code standards. Because implementation of the Interim SCA Ordinance has been suspended, it will not be applicable to any proposals that are submitted. To learn more about applying for permits, visit the Planning web page or call the Planning division at (415) 473-6269.

What is the status of the County's work related to the SCA? While implementation of the Interim SCA Ordinance will not proceed due to litigation, the County has committed to additional study of key issues over the coming year through the Work Program that was accepted by the Board of Supervisors on October 29, 2013. This includes a focused review of current science, policies, and recommended management practices for ephemeral streams, which is scheduled to begin in 2014.

Board of Supervisors Approves Interim Stream Conservation Area Ordinance Countywide. At their hearing on October 29, the Board of Supervisors approved the Stream Conservation Area ordinance on a limited term basis, to apply countywide for unincorporated areas outside the Coastal Zone. The ordinance will take effect on December 28, 2013.

The Board also approved a fee resolution for Stream Conservation Area permits, which will be required for site and development activity that is not exempt in the SCA. Fees are set at $250 (flat fee) for Tier 1 permits and $2500 (flat fee) for Tier 2 permits plus a $5,000 deposit for Initial Study pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

During the hearing, the Board directed staff to proceed with a proposed work program for additional study of watershed considerations, primarily focused on ephemeral streams.

A detailed work program and budget will be presented to the Board of Supervisors at a future hearing date. Once scheduled, information about the hearing and additional documents will be available on this web page.

Meetings and Hearings

 

October 29, 2013 Board of Supervisors Public Hearing

The Board considered a work program for the SCA, a limited-term SCA ordinance and a SCA permit fee resolution. The Board of Supervisors was presented with options to adopt the SCA ordinance countywide for unincorporated areas outside the Coastal Zone, or for the San Geronimo Watershed only. At the conclusion of the public hearing, the Board approved the ordinance for unincorporated areas outside the Coastal Zone, and accepted the work program.

October 1, 2013 Board of Supervisors Public Hearing

This hearing was postponed to October 29, 2013 in order for County Counsel to work with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) to resolve potential conflicts of interest issues with regard to the ownership of personal residences by Supervisors Adams, Kinsey, and Rice within 500 feet of an SCA.

August 20, 2013 Board of Supervisors Public Hearing

The Board considered an update regarding the efforts of a subcommittee to evaluate the scope of potential amendments to the Countywide Plan and approach for an interim SCA ordinance that, if adopted, would lift the existing building permit moratorium in the San Geronimo Valley. Following public testimony and some discussion, the Board directed staff to prepare a work program and budget for further work on the Stream Conservation Area consistent with watershed principles, including an interim ordinance, and continued the hearing.

June 18, 2013 Board of Supervisors Public Hearing

 The hearing was continued in order for a subcommittee of the Board (comprised of Supervisors Kate Sears and Steve Kinsey) to work with staff to develop a framework for an interim SCA ordinance that, if adopted, would lift the existing building permit moratorium in the San Geronimo Valley. The subcommittee will also identify the scope of potential amendments to the Marin Countywide Plan and a work program and schedule to develop a subsequent SCA ordinance.

May 13, 2013 Planning Commission Public Hearing

The Planning Commission approved a resolution recommending approval of the draft Stream Conservation Area ordinance to the Board of Supervisors during its public hearing on May 13, 2013.

April 1, 2013 Planning Commission Public Hearing

The Planning Commission's first public hearing for the Stream Conservation Area Ordinance was held on April 1, 2013.

Background Reports and Documents

Landowner Resources

Marin Project Coordination (MPC)

Considering a creek project? Marin County Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program (MCSTOPPP) hosts monthly meetings where you can get free advice to help you through the environmental and regulatory permit process. MPC meetings are a valuable opportunity for project applicants to share their prospective creek projects for input and constructive feedback from staff of the permitting agencies. These meetings are intended to provide a forum for interaction and input, not public comment or regulatory action. Meetings are non-binding and informal. For information or to be placed on the agenda, call MCSTOPPP staff at (415) 473-3202.

MCSTOPPP

MCSTOPPP member agencies include Marin's 11 cities and towns, the County of Marin and the Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. MCSTOPPP's goals are to prevent stormwater pollution; protect and enhance water quality in creeks and wetlands; preserve beneficial uses of local waterways and comply with State and Federal regulations. More information is available at mcstoppp.org .

Landowner Resources Library

The Marin County Watersheds Program has developed a one-stop-shop for the latest information about stream bank restoration, erosion control, invasive weeds, fire management, pest control, fish habitat, native plant restoration, rainwater management and more. The online library includes user-friendly "how to" guides as well as technical information and resource manuals. Visit marinwatersheds.org

San Geronimo Valley Landowner Resources

The San Geronimo Valley Landowner Resources packet includes information about salmon and steelhead habitat requirements, native landscaping and planting, erosion control, stormwater and rainwater management, and links to additional resources. While landowners in the San Geronimo Valley may find the information in the packet to be particularly useful, it provides guidance that is also applicable elsewhere in Marin.