County of Marin - News Releases - Safety of Large Gates

For Immediate Release
May 11, 2023

Safety Code Proposed for Large Gates

Building code amendment going before Board for consideration May 16

UPDATE: The Board of Supervisors approved the ordinance on May 16.

San Rafael, CA – Large gates installed at public and private properties will be subject to safety requirements and retrofits if a proposed ordinance is passed for unincorporated Marin County.

A photo of a large chain-link swinging gateLarge swinging or rolling gates, whether mechanized or manually operated, would need safety enhancements if a proposed ordinance is passed by the Board of Supervisors.

The Community Development Agency’s Building and Safety Division is working on an amendment to the County building code that would require the installation of a safety device on gates more than 4 feet wide or 84 inches tall to prevent them from falling flat and causing injuries. Existing or new gates of those dimensions would need to include a wire restraint or vertical post that assures only intended movement. The ordinance would affect all gates of that size, except for gates located on rural agricultural properties, whether motorized in some fashion or manually operated.

The Marin County Board of Supervisors will consider the proposed building code update for unincorporated areas during its May 16 meeting. Other code amendments are proposed as well, including plumbing fixtures, smoke alarms, and carbon monoxide alarms. If approved, the building code updates would go into effect July 1.

The City of San Rafael passed an updated safety ordinance in December 2022 in response to the death of a local 7-year-old boy. In 2019, a 400-pound rolling gate on a school property collapsed on him. 

Bill Kelley, Deputy Director of CDA’s Building and Safety Division, said the fencing industry has come to recognize in recent years that gates tend to be strong when it comes to moving in the direction they’re designed to move but vulnerable in the perpendicular direction. The relatively inexpensive safety restraint may consist of installing a wire cable for large swinging gates or an additional post for large rolling gates.

“The cost of safeguard devices capable of preventing gates from unexpectedly falling over during routine and normal operation is modest, especially when compared to the magnitude of potential damage and/or injury that could result in the absence of such safeguard devices,” Kelley said.

Gates under purview of the proposed County ordinance typically are found at businesses, schools, gated community entrances, and driveway entrances to larger single-family homes. Often, they roll on wheels and open or close on tracks. Some are operated by a small electric motor and are wirelessly activated.

If the ordinance is approved, building inspectors would check for compliance on large rolling or swinging gates whenever they are making routine final inspections associated with building permits at properties within unincorporated Marin. CDA has included the Marin Builders Association in initial discussions about the new building code language, Kelley said.

Questions or comments about the proposed amendments may be emailed to Kelley; the division phone number is (415) 473-6550. The May 16 meeting of the Board of Supervisors is to begin at 9 a.m. Visitors may attend in person at the Board chamber, in Suite 330 of the Marin County Civic Center (3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael) or may watch and participate online.


For disability accommodations, please phone (415) 473-6550 (voice), CA Relay 711, or e-mail the CDA staff at least five business days in advance of the event. The County will do its best to fulfill requests received with less than five business days’ notice. Copies of documents are available in alternative formats, upon request.


William Kelley
Deputy Director of Building Inspection and Safety
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 308
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6556
Email: William Kelley
CDA webpage