Stream Conservation Area Ordinance - Community Updates

Community Development Agency

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.