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Frequently Asked Questions about the
Proposed Policy for Redwood Shores Waterfront Improvements

Why are waterfront improvements an issue for Redwood Shores?
The slopes on the waterways in Redwood Shores were designed and built to maintain stable conditions. New construction (or maintenance and repair of existing improvements) could affect the stability of the slopes in this area. Without a policy in place to guide such work, continued modifications on the waterfront have the potential to create severe adverse impacts on the lagoon bank, water quality, health and safety, and the aesthetic quality of the surrounding community.

Why the proposed policy?
The purpose of developing this policy is to offer homeowners a set of guidelines for the design and maintenance of waterfront improvements. By working with these guidelines, residents will be helping to preserve the integrity of the lagoon slope, maintain a clean waterway, protect the safety of existing structures, and preserve the aesthetic quality of the lagoon and surrounding neighborhoods. This policy will address the very serious concern that the combined effect of continued modifications to the shoreline may ultimately result in a general slope failure, which would require draining the lagoon and rebuilding the perimeter.

Who was involved in developing this policy?
Over the last year Redwood City Planning staff has met and discussed the desired elements of this policy with the Boards of both the Redwood Shores Community Association (RSCA) and the Redwood Shores Owners Association (RSOA). Staff also presented this information and gathered comment at two general meetings of the RSCA, and has met innumerable times with individuals providing input into the proposed policy. A letter was sent in January of 2004 to all homeowners on the waterfront, advising them of the need for a policy to address the issue of modifications to the lagoon shoreline.

Under the proposed policy, which types of waterfront improvements are permitted and which are not?
Improvements that do not require additional weight to be placed on the lagoon bank and that are designed to be architecturally compatible with the existing residence or building can be permitted (such as floating boat docks, decks, garden walls, etc.). Boat dock with piers, decks that extend out on the lagoon bank, retaining walls built on the slope, and other improvement that place additional weight on the lagoon bank or that are not compatible with the architecture of the existing property are not permitted.

What happens if I bought the house “as is” and did not install any of the waterfront improvements?
You will need to check with the City to determine if a Building Permit and/or a Planned Development Amendment were issued for the waterfront improvement. If no permits or amendments were granted then please refer to Section IX of the policy, Non-Permitted Construction and/or Building Code Violations. In general, you would be required to submit a set of “as built” plans for City review and approval, and a determination if the improvements are considered insignificant, minor, or significant, and what action may be necessary based on that determination.

How do I get approvals for existing or proposed waterfront improvements? What permits are needed?
You will need to submit plans and any other applicable materials to Planning Services. Based on the location of your property Planning staff will determine whether a Planned Development Amendment is required. Based on the proposed scope of work the Building Division staff will determine if a Building Permit is required. More information is available in Section VIII of the policy, Application Procedure.

What types of waterfront improvements are “grandfathered” in (i.e., allowed to remain as is)?
Those waterfront improvements that were built with a Building Permit or Planned Development Amendment, or built at the time of original development of the subject property, as well as those waterfront improvements deemed to be “insignificant” as referenced in Section IX of the policy, Non-Permitted Construction and/or Building Code Violation, may be considered “grandfathered,” upon review and approval by the City.

Are there any exceptions to the proposed policy?
Requests for exceptions to this policy are subject to review by the City’s Plan Review Committee and approval by the Zoning Administrator following a public hearing.

I received approval from the Homeowners Association, and now the City is saying I can’t build my waterfront improvement. What do I do?
It is the responsibility of the property owner to comply with City requirements as well as those of their respective Association. If no agreement can be reached which incorporates all requirements, then the improvement proposal may need to be redesigned.

Where do I get more information or who can I talk to about this?
You can visit the City’s website at to review the policy online, or contact Planning Services with questions at (650) 780-7234, or via email to

How much time do I have to conform to this new policy?
All new construction must conform to the policy. Any waterfront improvements that are legal non-conforming (grandfathered) can be maintained until the improvements are removed, at which time they may be replaced with a conforming improvement. Non-permitted construction shall either be modified to conform to this policy or removed based on a time frame established by the City. During that period the property owner will be placed on notice as to their liability for the condition of the lagoon bank should the lagoon bank fail in whole or in part due to the non-permitted improvements.

Do I need a permit/approval for repairing or replacing an existing boat dock?
A Building Permit may not be required; however, approval for repairs or replacements must be obtained from Planning Services prior to construction. Please consult with Planning Staff regarding the extent of the repair or replacement.

Do I need a permit/approval to landscape my rear yard?
You may need a landscaping permit, grading permit, and/or Planned Development Amendment. Please check with Planning Services prior to implementing any changes.

How do I find out if I live in a Planned Development? Do I need a Planned Development Amendment?
Check with Planning Services to determine if your property is located within a Planned Development. All properties within Planned Developments require Planned Development Amendments when new construction is proposed.

Is it my responsibility to replace the rip rap (arrogate rock) along the lagoon bank?
Yes – in most cases the property line extends out into the water making the lagoon bank, including the rip rap, the responsibility of the property owner. To find out more information please refer to Section 02206 of the City’s Engineering Standards, “Rockslope Protection,” or contact the City’s Engineering & Construction Division at (650) 780-7380 for further information.

What happens if I don’t agree with this policy?
This policy is being developed in the best interest of preserving the integrity of the lagoon slope, maintaining a clean waterway, protecting the safety of existing structures, and preserving the aesthetic quality of the lagoon and surrounding neighborhoods. It’s therefore in the best interest of each individual homeowner to work within these guidelines. Non-compliance with this policy could result in administrative citations (prohibiting any further construction on the property), monetary citations, deed restrictions, or any combination thereof.

What information and materials do I need to provide in order to submit a complete application for a Waterfront Improvement Permit?

  1. Homeowners’ Association notification.
  2. Site Plan – drawn to scale and completely dimensioned, for both existing and proposed conditions.
  3. Elevations/Cross Sections – drawn to scale and completely dimensioned, for existing and proposed.
  4. Site Photos – subject property and adjacent properties.
  5. Landscaping & Irrigation details.
  6. Signed Application indicating a Waterfront Improvement Permit (and Planned Development Permit Amendment, where applicable).
  7. Proof of ownership / Owner Authorization.
  8. Manufactured Specifications (where applicable).
  9. Civil Engineering Details wet stamped by a licensed Civil Engineer (where applicable).
  10. Foundation & Footing Details (where applicable).
  11. Flotation Details (where applicable).
  12. Statement of Justification for all exceptions.
  13. Application Fee/Deposit (to be determined by City Council resolution).
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