Town Of Moraga

Planning Department Frequently Asked Questions

Listed here are answers to commonly asked questions regarding the Planning Department. Please select a category or scroll down to locate your question. If you are still seeking answers, feel free to contact us.


Questions Regarding Building Permit Requirements

When do I need a Building Permit?

You would need a building permit for any interior or exterior alterations and additions to your home and for various improvements on your property, including any new fences higher than 6-feet, installation of landscaping irrigation systems and retaining walls higher than 3-feet, and construction of accessory buildings over 120 square feet. Most exterior improvements require Town of Moraga Planning Department or Engineering Department approval prior to filing an application for a building permit.

Where is the Building Department located?

The Town of Moraga uses the Contra Costa County Building Department for review, approval and inspection of building permits. The CCC Building Department has a “Lamorinda” office located at 3685 Mount Diablo Boulevard, Suite 120, Lafayette, CA 94549. The telephone number of the Lamorinda Building Department office is (925) 299-0263(925) 299-0263. Their office is open from 8 am to noon and 1 pm to 5:00 pm Monday through Thursday and 8 am to noon and 1 pm to 4:00 pm on Friday. Additional information, including a Lamorinda building permit application form, may be obtained from the county’s website. The main office of the CCC Conservation and Development Department is located at 30 Muir Road, Martinez, CA 94553. Their telephone number is Toll Free: 855-DCD-COCO855-DCD-COCO (855-323-2626855-323-2626 FREE) or to schedule appointments (925) 646-4108(925) 646-4108.

What projects can be approved by the Building Department without Town of Moraga approval?

Most building permit applications for termite repair work, re-roofing, solar panel installations on existing roofs and interior remodeling, where no exterior changes to the walls or windows are proposed and where the size of an existing garage will not be modified, may be taken directly to the Contra Costa County Building Department. However, if the work exceeds the Town’s thresholds for recycling construction and demolition materials, then an applicant will need to submit a recycling deposit with the Town prior to applying for a building permit. For, example any re-roofing project for a roof larger than 3,000 square feet (30 squares), would required a recycling deposit. Reconstruction of a rotten deck will require pictures of the existing deck and the deck cannot be expanded or additional posts added without Town approval.

Can the windows in my home be replaced without prior Town approval?

Windows can be replaced without Town of Moraga Planning Department approval as long as the size of the windows is not increased more than 10% larger than the size of the existing windows and no additional windows are added to the home. An exception to this rule is provided for any increase in the size of a window to comply with egress requirements of the building code. A building permit is necessary to replace the windows.

What permits are required in order to change or widen my driveway?

Alterations to existing curbs require an Encroachment Permit from the Town Engineer’s office. Design Review Board approval is required for any paved parking area in the front yard whose width exceeds the width of the garage (MMC Section 8.76.100-F). Driveway paving longer than 50’ or wider than 16’ should be constructed of pervious paving materials (Design Guidelines SFR1.7) (See Guideline D9.2).

For more information, please refer to the Town of Moraga Design Guidelines document.

Do I need a permit to build a fence?

You generally do not need a building permit to construct fences of 6-feet or less in height on your property; however, you do need Zoning Administrator approval to build a fence higher than 3-feet in the front yard setback or exterior side yard setback on corner lots (MMC Section 8.68.040-A). The height of a fence is measured from the highest point of the fence to the lowest point of the finished grade below the fence. Design Review Board approval is required for fences that are higher than 3-feet that are visible from a “scenic corridor”, which includes Moraga Road, Moraga Way, Rheem Blvd., St. Mary’s Road, Camino Pablo, Canyon Road and Bollinger Canyon Road (MMC Section 8.132.040-A.3). Fences between 6-feet and 7-feet 6-inches in height along interior side yard and rear yard property lines may be approved by the Design Review Board. A variance is required for fences exceeding 7-feet 6-inches in height with review by the Planning Commission (MMC Section 8.68.040-B). Fences that are higher than 6-feet require a building permit. The total height of a fence on top of a retaining wall shall not exceed 8-feet without Design Review Board approval (Design Guidelines ID11.2).

For more information, please refer to the Town of Moraga Design Guidelines document.

 

Questions About Grading and Retaining Walls

Do I get a grading permit from the CCC Building Department?

No. The Town Council adopted a Grading Ordinance for the Town of Moraga (MMC Title 14) on July 26, 2006. Review, approval and inspections for grading are done by the Town’s Engineering Department; however, depending on the slope of the property, a grading permit may require approval by the Design Review Board, Planning Commission or Town Council.

When is a grading permit required?

A grading permit is required for any earth movement of more than 50 cubic yards, a cut or fill greater than 3-feet deep and for other conditions as specified in Moraga Municipal Code (MMC Section 14.04.031.) MMC Section 14.04.032 lists exemptions to grading permits.

What is the process for approval of a grading permit?

There are three (3) procedures for grading permit approval depending on the slope and quantity of soil displacement. Grading permits may be approved administratively by the Design Review Administrator for slopes less than 20% and for grading of less than 200 cubic yards. Design Review Board approval is required for grading permits for slopes of 20% or more and where the average predevelopment slope in the area of disturbance is less than 25% and for grading of more than 200 cubic yards. All grading operations, including landslide repair or slope stabilization, on predevelopment average slopes greater than or equal to 25% require review by the Planning Commission with a recommendation to the Town Council.

What do I need for a grading permit?

Grading plans need to show the existing topography with a 2-foot contour interval and the proposed alteration in the contours. The total amount of cut or excavated earth and fill soil shall be tallied on the plan. By connecting all the points where the proposed contours diverge from the existing contours, the “area of disturbance” can be shown. The average slope of the area of disturbance needs to be calculated on the plan.

If the project involves grading on any slope steeper than 20%, then a Hillside Development Permit is required and the applicant must submit a report from a qualified geotechnical engineer. The cost of peer review by an independent geotechnical consultant under contract with the Town of Moraga shall be paid for any projects where building is planned in the area of grading or the grading is in close proximity to buildings.

If any grading is occurring during the winter, then a storm water pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) and erosion control plan shall be reviewed by the Town Engineer for consistency with the regulations in MMC Section 14.48.

Why do I need a hillside development permit?

The slope density ordinance for the Town of Moraga states that no person may grade, clear, construct upon or alter hillside land without a hillside development permit (MMC Section 8.136.040). Hillside land is defined as any slope of 20% or greater. A 20% slope is equivalent to a 1:5 vertical to horizontal ratio or 11.3 degree angle.

Various factors listed in MMC Section 8.136.070 are considered in reviewing a Hillside Development Permit (HDP), including slope stability analysis, soil characteristics and drainage, among others. Geotechnical reports are usually required from applicants and are subject to peer review by the Town’s Geotechnical consultant. The cost of the peer review is paid by the applicant.

What are the requirements for retaining walls?

Exterior retaining walls shall be limited to five feet in height, unless it is visible from off site, in which it shall be no higher than three feet. (Design Guidelines ID11.2) The horizontal depth of the terraces between stacked retaining walls should be a minimum of twice the height of the larger adjacent wall (Design Guidelines ID11.4). Retaining walls should be built a minimum of three feet from a property line (Design Guidelines ID11.5). An application to the Design Review Board is required if any exceptions to the above guidelines are requested.

For more information, please refer to the Town of Moraga Design Guidelines document.

Do I need a permit to haul dirt from my grading project off site?

A Hauling Permit is required if more than 500 cubic yards of material will be transported to or from a site (MMC Section 14.04.0). The hauling permit is reviewed and approved by the Town Council. Grading projects should try to balance the cut and fill on the property and minimize off-hauling of soil. For more information, please refer to the Public Works Department.

Can I remove the vegetation from my property in preparation for grading?

If the vegetative cover has been removed from a property for construction or grading, then erosion control measures must be installed by October 1st prior to the winter storm season. The storm water pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) shall be submitted for review and approval by the Town Engineer. Builders and grading contractors are responsible to insure that all sediments remain on the project site.

Are there any design restrictions on grading?

Generally, the Town prefers natural appearing slopes. When grading is done to create padded lots, the Town’s Design Guidelines require a minimum ten (10) foot near level clearance along one side of a home for access to the rear yard and a minimum of six (6) feet near level clearance on any 3 sides of a building or structure. (Design Guidelines SFR1.10) A 25-foot by 40-foot level yard area is also required on padded lots and this area cannot be within the required front yard.

For more information, please refer to the Town of Moraga Design Guidelines document.

Are there any precautions that should be taken before digging?

Anyone making an excavation within the public right-of-way, which generally includes 7 to 12 feet of property between your front property line and the curb or edge of pavement, should contact Underground Service Alert (USA) at 1(800) 642-24441(800) 642-2444 FREE at least two days before you dig to identify the location of existing underground utility lines, such as gas lines, cable TV and fiber optic telecommunications lines.

 

Questions with Regard to Review by Other Agencies

Where do I go to get approval from the Fire District?

The Moraga-Orinda Fire District (MOFD) office is located at 33 Orinda Way, Orinda, CA 94563. The Fire Marshal can be reached for an appointment at (925) 258-4520(925) 258-4520. The MOFD reviews all plans for modifications to homes, including interior remodeling. Building plans may be dropped off at the address listed above Monday through Friday from 9 am until 4 pm.

Why do I need approval from the Sanitary District?

The primary purpose of review by the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District (CCCSD) is to make sure that any new buildings or additions to buildings do not encroach on any easements for sanitary sewer pipes. New homes may require the payment of sewer connection fees. The permit office is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. The office is located at 5019 Imhoff Place, Martinez. Information regarding the plan review process is available at (925) 229-7371(925) 229-7371.

Do I need to get approval from My Homeowners Association?

Properties under the jurisdiction of an active Homeowner's Association (HOA) and subject to Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) require approval by the Association before the plans are submitted to the Town of Moraga for approval. All single family homes in the Moraga Country Club and Sanders Ranch, as well as projects in townhouse and condominium developments would require HOA approval. The project plans should be stamped by the HOA or a letter of approval signed by authorized members of the HOA with reference to the date on the approved plans shall be submitted to Moraga Planning Department staff.

Who handles weed abatement?

The Moraga-Orinda Fire District (MOFD) handles vegetation management and exterior hazard reductions on properties in Town.

Where can I get a copy of an assessor’s map?

Assessor maps may be obtained from the Planning Department or the Contra Costa County Building Department.

What should I do about wild animals/dead animals in my neighborhood?

Contact the Contra Costa County Animal Control Services at (925) 335-8300(925) 335-8300. The County has a truck they can dispatch to the scene. You will need to give them a location and answer a few brief questions about the incident.

Does the Town have a Code Enforcement Officer?

The Town contracts with the Contra Costa County for its code enforcement services. When necessary, the Town calls upon the County Code Enforcement Officer.

 

General Planning Questions

What are the building setbacks on my property?

The building setbacks for residential properties in Moraga depend upon the zoning district.

Does the Town have copies of my house plans?

Most of the homes in Moraga were built prior to the Town's incorporation in November of 1974 and the Contra Costa County Building Department did not start to microfiche copies of plans until the middle of 1986 when Title 24 took effect. Therefore, we do not have plans for most of the homes in Moraga. If there were any additions or improvements done to the home after 1986, the Building Department may have copies of some of those plans on microfiche.

Where can I obtain information on a certain property in town?

Property information can be obtained from the Planning Department.

How do I find out where my property lines are located?

The Contra Costa County Building Department may require a survey of a property line to verify the required setbacks for construction. DO NOT assume that a fence is a reliable marker for the location of a side or rear property line. Depending on the width of the public right-of-way , the front property line is generally located 7 to 12 feet behind the face of curb or edge of paving. You may check with the Planning or Engineering Department to determine the exact distance between the face of curb and your front property line based on the improvement plans for the subdivision. If the proposed construction is within 2-feet of the minimum required setback you are encouraged to have a survey done to accurately plot the location of the home on the lot.

How are building setbacks measured?

Building setbacks are the minimum distance measured perpendicular to the property lines, except for homes on private roads. On private streets the front and exterior side yard setbacks are measured from a line that is 26-feet from the center of the private street, which is one-half of the 52-foot right-of-way width specified for a minor street. (MMC Section 8.68.110)

Are there any other setback restrictions on building?

In some cases a geotechnical engineer may recommend structural setbacks greater than the Town's minimum setback requirements to provide a safe distance from the bank of a creek channel or bottom of a potentially hazardous landslide area. On residential projects that require a use permit or subdivision approval, the conditions of project approval may include additional setbacks to address scenic corridor issues or mitigation measures from an environmental study.

For two-story buildings, the minimum side yard setback shall be increased by one additional foot for each foot of “end wall” height greater than 20-feet. End wall height is the maximum vertical height from finished grade to outer roof surface at the side yard (Design Guidelines SFR2.6). 

For more information, please refer to the Town of Moraga Design Guidelines document.

What/where is the public right-of-way of my street?

Information on the location and width of the public right-of-way for a particular street can be obtained from the Planning Department.

When do I need a survey?

Surveys are required for variance applications and may be required by the Building Department to verify the required setback for construction. If the proposed construction is within 2-feet of the minimum required setback then a survey is encouraged to accurately plot the location of the home on the lot. (Please note that fences are NOT reliable markers for the location of property lines).

What are the scenic corridor requirements?

Review and approval by the Design Review Board is required for any building, exterior addition, signs, sculptures or structures, including walls or fences 3 feet or more in height that are within 500 feet of a scenic corridor and can be seen from the scenic corridor road. The following roads are designated as scenic corridors: Moraga Road, Moraga Way, Rheem Boulevard, St. Mary’s Road, Canyon Road, Camino Pablo, and Bollinger Canyon Road (MMC Sections 8.132.020 and 8.132.040 and Design Guidelines SC). 

For more information, please refer to the Town of Moraga Design Guidelines document.

What are the regulations for open space zoned property?

The only permitted use on properties zoned “OS” (Open Space) and “OS-M” (Open Space –MOSO) is agriculture. Any residential use requires approval of a Open Space Conditional Use Permit or a Moraga Open Space Ordinance Application  by the Moraga Planning Commission prior to approval of plans by the DRB (MMC Section 8.52.040). The Planning Commission will establish the development standards for the project site, such as minimum lot size, building setbacks, maximum building height, etc. (MMC Section 8.52.050). An applicant must show a minimum 10,000 square foot area with an average slope of less than 20% for each proposed building site on open space property (MOSO Guidelines – Section II-A-3). Development is also prohibited above the 800-foot contour line on minor ridges and within hazardous areas.

When is a Waste Management Plan form required?

Waste Management Plan forms are required for covered projects and identify how half of the project waste materials will be diverted from the landfill through recycling and salvage. Covered projects are any construction, demolition, and renovation projects where the total costs are $250,000 or more or which involve the construction, demolition or renovation of 3,000 square feet or more.

What are the regulations on political signs?

Temporary political signs can be placed without a permit, cannot exceed 6 square feet and shall be removed within 10 days after the election. Temporary political signs are allowed in the public right-of-way but must be taken down after 15 days. Permanent political signs require a permit and shall comply with MMC Sections 8.88.050 - 8.88.150 and MMC Section 8.88.170.

What are the regulations on garages/driveways?

Every dwelling unit is required to have two covered off-street parking spaces. The required garage or carport shall not be located in the front or side yard setbacks. Each space must measure a minimum of 9-feet by 19-feet. A new garage or carport must be completed prior to final approval or occupancy of any garage conversion to living quarters. The driveway to a converted garage shall be removed. Alterations to existing curbs require an Encroachment Permit from the Town Engineer’s office. Design Review Board approval is required for any paved parking area in the front yard whose width exceeds the width of the garage. Driveway paving longer than 50-feet or wider than 16-feet should be constructed of pervious paving materials.

What constitutes a ‘kitchen’?

A kitchen would have a 220V power and a range or a built-in oven and stove-top.

Do solar panels require planning review?

Roof-mounted solar panels are exempt from design review and approval, but require an over-the-counter plan check by the Town and a Contra Costa County building permit. If solar panels are supported by a new structure of a new ground mounted rack then the structure or rack will require design review and approval.

Can my home be used for my business?

A home occupation is permitted in any residential land use district in accordance with the performance standards listed in MMC Section 8.112.030. Only the residents of the dwelling unit can be employed at a home occupation, which must be an accessory use to the primary residential use. No sign or advertising may be displayed and no other exterior evidence of the home occupation shall be visible from off site. A phone number may be listed in the "Yellow Pages", but not the address of the residence where the business is located (MMC Chapter 8.112).

Do I need a permit to operate a senior/child care facility at my home?

No permit is required from the Town as long as the number of occupants does not exceed 6. Up to 6 adults or children are allowed provided that the property owner obtains the necessary state licenses.

Are marijuana dispensaries allowed?

No. They are prohibited in all zoning districts.

Are door to door solicitors allowed in Moraga?

Solicitors must register with the Police Department, and are given a permit which they must carry and exhibit on request. They shall not create any public nuisance or disturb the peace and quiet of the neighborhood by the use of loud noise, brilliant lights or any act offensive to the senses. If you do not want solicitors to come to your door, you must post a sign stating "No Peddlers or Solicitors" to prohibit them from your property.

Who maintains the sidewalk in front of my house?

Sidewalks are not maintained by the Town of Moraga. Repair of cracks in sidewalks are the responsibility of the abutting property owner. A property owner may be required to make repairs to the sidewalk along their frontage if the Town determines a public safety hazard exists.

When do I need an encroachment permit?

You should consult with the Engineering Department at 329 Rheem Boulevard; however, an Encroachment Permit is generally required for any construction within the public right-of-way, including: repair of sidewalks, installation of a drainpipe through the curb, connection of a new underground gas or water service or widening of a driveway. Public streets should not be used for the temporary storage of construction or landscaping materials, such as stacks of lumber, piles of sand or landscape boulders. An encroachment permit is also required for the temporary use of a public street, such as placement and pickup of a trash collection dumpster. A deposit may be required to cover the cost of repair of damaged paving as a result of the encroachment.

 

Questions about Home Improvements

When do I need Planning Department approval for my home remodeling?

Modifications to any exterior feature of a home or any new construction for building additions, pools, spas, decks, gazebos, etc., must be approved by the Town of Moraga Planning Department prior to application for a building permit. Exterior modifications would include design changes such as enlargement of existing windows or installation of posts to support an existing cantilevered deck.

How long will it take to get Planning approval of my home addition?

If the proposed improvements conform to the required building setbacks, applicable Municipal Code requirements and the Town’s Design Guidelines, then the project may qualify for Administrative Design Review (ADR) by the planning staff. If an ADR application is complete, the approval process takes approximately 60 days. For all above ground exterior alterations, the Moraga Municipal Code requires 10-days notice to neighbors before approving a project and then there is a 10-day appeal period after the project has been approved. ADR applications are available at the Planning Department Office at 329 Rheem Boulevard in Moraga. The telephone number for the Planning Department is (925) 888-7040(925) 888-7040.

For more information, please refer to the Town of Moraga Design Guidelines document.

When is Design Review Board approval required?

Design Review Board (DRB) review and approval is required for all new homes. DRB approval is also required if an applicant is seeking one or more exceptions to the Town’s Design Guidelines. The most common requests for exceptions include homes that exceed the maximum floor area under the Towns floor area ratio (FAR) guidelines, additions or decks on hillsides where the floor elevation is more than 4-feet above grade and projects proposed on slopes that are 20% or greater, which require a Hillside Development Permit

For more information, please refer to the Town of Moraga Design Guidelines document.

How long does it take to get Design Review Board approval?

Design Review Board approval takes about 90 days on average. The Board generally meets on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month, but applications need to be filed at least 20 days prior to a meeting date. Ten days prior to the meeting the public meeting notice is mailed to all property owners within 300-feet of an applicant’s property. DRB applications are available at the Planning Department Office at 329 Rheem Boulevard, Moraga.

What is the maximum building height?

The maximum building height cannot exceed 35 feet or two stories, except at Saint Mary’s College and in the Moraga Center Specific Plan Area. The building height is the maximum vertical distance between any point of the roof or parapet walls and the existing grade directly beneath. The total or "aggregate" building height for structures on hillside lots cannot exceed 45 feet, measured from the highest point on the roof or parapet wall to the lowest point of the foundation at the approved grade. (MMC Sections 8.04.020 and 8.28.030)

On padded lots total building heights greater than 28 feet for two-story homes and 19 feet for single story homes shall require Design Review Board approval and special siting or design treatment to mitigate height (Design Guidelines SFR1.4).

For more information, please refer to the Town of Moraga Design Guidelines document.

Is Design Review Board approval required for a second story addition?

Not necessarily. Many second story additions have been approved with the Administrative Design Review process. A second story addition to an existing one story home will require Design Review Board approval if the second story addition will result in more than two 2-story homes on adjacent lots (Design Guidelines SFR1.1) or if the second story addition can be seen from a designated scenic corridor (MMC Section 8.132.040-A-2). Second story additions that exceed the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) on lots 20,000 square feet or smaller will require Design Review Board approval. 

For more information, please refer to the Town of Moraga Design Guidelines document.

What if I want to build closer to a property line than the setback allows?

A project that encroaches into the required building setbacks cannot be approved until an application for a variance is considered by the Planning Commission. Specific findings listed in MMC Section 8.12.130 are necessary for a variance to be approved. The findings are difficult to make and relatively few variances are approved. Unless there are physical constraints on a project site that prevent an applicant from building within the required setbacks and the approval of the variance will not constitute a special privilege, applicants are well advised to avoid seeking a variance. Variance applications are available at the Planning Department Office at 329 Rheem Boulevard, Moraga.

What are the Towns requirements if i want to build a shed on my property?

An accessory building is any enclosed structure with a roof supported by columns or walls and intended for shelter, housing, or enclosure of persons, animals, or personal property. All accessory buildings must conform to the required building setbacks for principal structures unless the Planning Commission grants a variance. Examples of accessory buildings include: detached garage, cabana, garden tool storage shed, greenhouse, horse stable, spa enclosure, and gazebos or patio covers with solid roofs (MMC Sections 8.04.020 and 8.24.040-C). A building permit is not required for an accessory building that is less than 120 square feet and has no electrical power installed.

What are the setbacks for an arbor or gazebo?

An accessory structure is any subordinate structure that does not have a solid roof or walls, such as an arbor, trellis or lattice patio cover. Accessory structures must be set back at least 50 feet from the front property line. Accessory structures that are 6-feet or less in height may be constructed 3-feet from the side and rear yard property lines. The Design Review Board may approve a minimum 3-foot side or rear yard setback for an accessory structure higher than 6-feet (MMC Sections 8.24.040-B).

What are the requirements for building decks?

Decks require a building permit and a railing is required if the deck is 30-inches or more above the ground. Design Review Board approval is required for decks supported by posts that are 4-feet or higher. If the overall height of a deck above the ground exceeds 6-feet the Design Review Board would need to make a design guideline exception. (Design Guidelines SFR2.10). Photographs must be submitted to the Planning Department prior to an application for a building permit for replacement or reconstruction of an existing deck, which may be legally non-conforming to the Town’s Design Guidelines. Expansion of an existing deck that does not conform to the Town’s Design Guidelines will require Design Review Board approval. Decks that exceed 6 feet in height shall be substantially screened by landscaping. The Design Review Board may require the property owner to enter into a landscape installation and maintenance agreement with the Town (Design Guidelines SFR2.12a). Decks built on slopes that are 20% or steeper will also require a Hillside Development Permit and generally required a geotechnical report with slope stability analysis. 

For more information, please refer to the Town of Moraga Design Guidelines document.

What are the regulations for a second living unit at my home?

A secondary living unit is any attached or detached residential dwelling unit which provides complete independent living facilities, including sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation, on the same parcel as the existing primary single family dwelling. The Town’s Second Living Unit Ordinance provides for the ministerial approval of secondary living units by the Planning Director provided that the application is consistent with all the criteria in MMC Sections 8.124.060 and 8.124.070. Secondary living units cannot exceed one story or more than 19-feet high and cannot be built over a garage or basement. The interior living area must be between 150 and 750 square feet and the total area including paving and parking cannot exceed 1,300 square feet. Only one bedroom is allowed for a secondary living unit. One off-street parking space shall be provided for the secondary living unit, in addition to the two covered parking spaces required for the principle residence. Ministerial approval requires that all the requirements listed in Moraga Municipal Code Chapter 8.124 must be met and no variances or exceptions can be approved.

Can a basketball hoop be placed in the public street?

Some uses are not permitted within a public street such as installation of basketball standards, banners over streets and signs, except for traffic control and directional signs as specified in the Town's sign ordinance (MMC Section 8.88.210).

What are the regulations on children’s outdoors play structures (tree house, etc.)?

Children's outdoor play structures should follow the regulations that pertain to accessory buildings and accessory structures.

 

Questions about Landscaping, Pools and Trees

Are permits required for tree removal?

It depends.  A permit is required for the removal of a native tree, orchard tree or a tree of historical significance. To determine if a tree is protected, please see the Moraga Native Tree list , also found on the Planning Departments Applications and Important Documents page or contact the Planning Department at 925-888-7040925-888-7040.

Where can I build a swimming pool, spa or hot tub on my property?

Pools, pool equipment and spas may be located a minimum distance of 5-feet from the side and rear property lines, with a minimum 20-foot front setback and 15-foot exterior side yard setback (MMC Section 8.68.040-C).

What permits do I need to build a swimming pool, spa or hot tub?

Pools and Spas require a building permit and can also require a grading permit if they involve excavation of more than 50-cubic yards or placement of the excavated soil on the project site. Pools on flat or "padded" lots may be approved by the Planning staff. If the excavated earth of the pool or spa is placed on the project site or moved to another site in Moraga, then a grading plan would be reviewed in accordance with the Town’s Grading Ordinance (MMC Chapter 14). Approval of the grading necessary to construct a pool on a hillside with a slope steeper than 20% would also require submittal of a geotechnical report and approval by the Design Review Board of a Hillside Development Permit (MMC Section 8.136.040).

Are there other restrictions that apply to swimming pool construction?

The location of any sub-drains installed with the grading of the subdivision should be shown on the plans so that the pool contractor can avoid the sub-drains during excavation of the pool. An arborist's report will be required if the pool is located within the drip line of any Native Tree over 5" in diameter measured three feet above the ground. Retaining walls or bond beams shall be limited to five feet in height, unless it is visible from off site, in which case it shall be no higher than three feet (Design Guidelines ID11.2).

For more information, please refer to the Town of Moraga Design Guidelines document.

Who do I contact if my neighbor’s pool has been neglected (is green)?

Contact the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control at (925) 771-6196(925) 771-6196 or visit their website.

What should I do about my neighbor’s leaning/dead tree?

Discussing the tree with your neighbor or HOA is the best way to approach the issue. Unfortunately, The Town cannot get involved if the issue cannot be solved since it is a civil matter between neighbors.

Are there any height limitations on landscaping on my property?

Shrubs and fences cannot exceed 3 feet in height and trees must be trimmed to the trunk below 6 feet in height to avoid sight obstructions at intersections of streets and driveways. You should consult MMC Section 8.80.010 for the required sight-distance triangle at intersections.

What permits are required for landscaping or irrigation systems?

A building permit is required from the Contra Costa County Building Department for irrigation systems to verify that proper back flow devices have been installed and to ensure that negative pressure will not draw fertilizers into the drinking water supply. Landscaping for new homes would require irrigation controllers with rain sensors to shut them off during wet weather. Individuals installing irrigation systems should follow the water conservation guidelines promulgated by East Bay Municipal Utility District.

Can landscaping be installed in the public right-of-way in front of my property?

Generally, landscaping between the curb or edge of pavement and your front or exterior side property line does not require an encroachment permit; however, this landscaping can be removed if work is necessary by the Town or a public utility within the public right of way. The Town Engineering Department at 329 Rheem Boulevard has guidelines for landscaping within the right-of-way, such as the maximum size of boulders or rocks. Fences, retaining walls, drainage pipes and other structures are not “landscaping” and they would require an encroachment agreement from the Town.

 

Questions about Easements, Drainage and Creeks

How do I find out if my property has an easement?

You can obtain easement information from the Planning Department or your preliminary title report.

Can I build within an easement on my property?

Buildings cannot encroach into recorded easements on the property regardless of the setbacks from the property lines. Drainage or scenic easements along creek channels can often be 80-feet or more in width.

What is the process for a drainage easement encroachment permit?

Plans for the work within the drainage easement are reviewed by the Town Engineer and certified that they will not increase the velocity or turbulence of the water in the creek channel and thereby increase the hazard of erosion and flooding to other property owners on the creek. Following the Town Engineer's approval, an agreement is drafted between the applicant and the Town, which includes hold harmless provisions and insurance requirements to lessen the Town's potential liability. The Town Attorney reviews the agreement and then the application is brought before the Town Council for their approval.

How close can I build to the creek on my property?

Contra Costa County Code Section 914-14 stipulates the required setbacks for structures from unimproved earth channels and drainage easements. Most of the creeks in Moraga are within drainage or scenic easements. A geotechnical engineer should also be consulted when construction is planned near a creek channel, since the danger of creek bank slope failure is always a concern.

Can retaining walls be built in the creek channel?

Any improvement, including a retaining wall, within a creek channel or drainage easement requires approval from the Department of Fish and Game and a Drainage Easement Encroachment Permit from the Town. The State Department of Fish and Game prefers that creeks and streams should be preserved or restored to their natural state whenever possible. Generally, only improvements to stabilize a creek bank or repair a landslide into a creek are approved. Modifications to creek channels must comply with the Goals and Policies of the Open Space and Conservation Element of General Plan.

What can I do to reduce the erosion of the creek channel?

Dumping of concrete rubble and boulders into a creek channel can actually increase the turbulence of the water and the erosion rate of the creek channel. Unauthorized "improvements" to a creek channel could expose a property owner to lawsuits from downstream neighbors who claim that the modifications to the creek have caused damage to their property. It is advisable to consult an engineer with expertise in hydraulic calculations if you want to make alterations to a creek channel. It is also advisable to consult a geotechnical engineer if work in the creek channel involves repair of a landslide.

Who do I contact about creek maintenance or creek dumping?

Most creek maintenance is the responsibility of the private property owner. The Town's creek cleaning activities are almost entirely within the street right of way, or in certain stream beds known as M-ditches. Property owners are encouraged to check creek beds and sides for overgrown weeds, trees, or brush which will impede the flow of water. If you have questions regarding responsibility of maintenance or to report creek dumping please call the Town Public Services office at (925) 888-7026(925) 888-7026.

 

Questions about Animals, Noise, Nuisances and Vehicles

How many dogs can I have on my property?

The maximum number of dogs permitted over six months of age cannot exceed four (4) and a conditional use permit is required to operate as a dog fancier. In order to apply for a dog fancier’s permit you must live on land that is zoned open space or single-family residential 1 DUA and 2 DUA and any other residential land use district where the applicant’s lot is at least 20,000 square feet in area.

What are the requirements to have horses or livestock on my property?

The parcel of land on which livestock are kept shall not be less than 40,000 square feet in single fee ownership. No more than one head of livestock is maintained per twenty thousand square feet of area. In the residential land use districts a conditional use permit is required to keep livestock. 

Can I raise chickens on my property?

Small farm animals defined as “small un-hooved animals, including, but not limited to, chickens, doves, pigeons, quail, game birds, rabbits and honey bees” may be kept on parcels within the 1-DUA, 2-DUA, 3-DUA, 6-DUA, Study, Institutional, MOSO or non-MOSO open space zoning districts as accessory to an existing permitted single-family residence, duplex, triplex or fourplex. The number of small farm animals (excepting bees) permitted on a given lot is based on gross lot area as follows:

(1) Parcel 5,999 square feet or less                                                  none 
(2) Parcel 6,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet                        maximum of 4
(3) Parcel 10,001 square feet to 20,000 square feet                      maximum of 6
(4) Parcel 20,001 square feet to 40,000 square feet                      maximum of 8
(5) Parcel greater than 40,000 square feet                                       maximum of 16

Small farm animals (excepting bees) must be fenced at all times and have access to a coup cage or similar structure, which; (1) provides protection from the elements; (2) is located in the rear or side yard; and (3) meets the minimum front, side and rear setbacks required for the primary residence. The keeping of honey bee colonies is also permitted at the following densities, based on gross lot area:

(1) Parcel 5,999 square feet or less                                                 none
(2) Parcel 6,000 square feet to ½ acre                                            maximum of 4
(3) Parcel more than ½  acre but less than 1 acre                       maximum of 6
(4) Parcel 1 acre or larger                                                                 maximum of 8
(5) One nucleus colony may be kept for each honey bee colony permitted on a parcel.

During what hours are leaf blowers allowed to be used?

Leaf blowers can be operated during daylight hours (from dusk to dawn) - MMC Section 7.12.080.

What do I do if there is an excessive or annoying noise in my neighborhood?

The Moraga Municipal Code 7.12 restricts noise levels in residential areas. If you are disturbed by a loud noise in your neighborhood, please call the Moraga Planning Department at (925) 888-7040(925) 888-7040 (8 am - 5 pm weekdays) or the Moraga Police Department at (925) 376-2515(925) 376-2515 (weekends, holidays, and 5 pm - 8 am weekdays). Dogs that bark constantly and disturb neighbors should be reported Contra Costa County Animal Control Services at (925) 335-8300(925) 335-8300. This agency is responsible for enforcing the County's Barking Dog Ordinance and the Town contracts with the County for this service.

What are the allowed hours for construction?

Construction hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (MMC Section 7.12.090). If construction occurs outside of these hours you may call the Police department and report the incident to them. They can be reached through dispatch at (925) 284-5010(925) 284-5010.

What should I do about abandoned home/building?

Please report abandoned homes/buildings to the Planning Department or the Police Department.

What is nuisance abatement?

Nuisance abatement is regulated under MMC Chapter 7.16. The process is lengthy because the property owner has to be given every opportunity to act on their own before the Town gains the legal authority to go onto the private property, to abate the nuisance and, to place a special assessment on the property to recover the cost of the abatement. After the Town Council declares the nuisance on the property, certain steps must be followed before the Town can take direct action to abate the nuisance.

What can I do about problems with my neighbors?

Most problems with neighbors are over trees or joint fences. The Town cannot get involved in private disputes, but there is a free agency called Conflict Resolution which is effective in helping people resolve problems. Their number is (925) 687-8844(925) 687-8844 X301.

What are the regulations on residential off-street parking?

Every dwelling unit is required to have two covered off-street parking spaces. The required garage or carport shall not be located in the front or side yard setbacks. Each space must measure a minimum of 9-feet by 19-feet.

How long can I park my car on the street in front of my house?

Public streets are for operational vehicles, which may park a maximum of 72 hour along the side of a road, provided that the center of the road remains unobstructed for a minimum width of 20 feet on a two-lane road.

Where can I store my motor home and boat?

Recreational-type vehicles must be stored where they are substantially screened from a street or other property by a closed garage, fence or landscaping so that the vehicle is not visible or is barely visible. For vehicles over six feet high, at least 70% of the height shall be screened. A recreational-type vehicle includes a boat, bus, camper, any type of vehicle equipped as a dwelling unit and any type of trailer. Storage is defined as parking for 96 consecutive hours (4 days) or more, or parking for two or more consecutive periods totaling 96 hours when the interval between periods is less than 72 hours (MMC Sections 8.76.100-F and 8.148.030).