A subdivision is defined as the division of any improved or unimproved land for the purpose of sale, lease, or financing. A subdivision also includes the conversion of a structure to condominiums. The State Subdivision Map Act provides general regulations and procedures that local governments must follow in the regulation of subdivisions. The City also has a Subdivision Ordinance (Title 10a of the Municipal Code) which provides specific City guidelines and standards for the regulation of subdivisions. Subdivision regulations and review procedures vary between subdivisions which divide property into five or more lots (subdivisions), and subdivisions of four or fewer lots (minor subdivisions). These guidelines only cover procedures for subdivisions of five or more lots.
The tentative map is prepared by the applicant's Civil Engineer. The tentative map review procedure is designed to ensure that specific features (i.e., grades, drainage and sanitary facilities, trees, and street alignments) of a subdivision conform to City regulations and are arranged in the best possible manner to serve the public.
HOW DO I APPLY FOR A SUBDIVISION?
1. Project Consideration
Early in the consideration of a potential subdivision, you should carefully review the City's General Plan and zoning designations for the location of the proposed subdivision. It is important that the proposed subdivision be consistent with the City's Subdivision Ordinance, zoning regulations and the General Plan. For convenience, these documents may be found on the City's website. In addition, local utilities and other special agencies should be contacted regarding requirements for future development in the area. The process and submittal information for Vesting Tentative Maps are very different than those for standard Tentative Maps.
2. Review by Staff Preliminary Review Team
You may submit a preliminary proposal to the City's Preliminary Review Team (PRT) prior to the formal application. This allows staff to review the request and provide useful information that may save time and expensive revisions later in the process. The City's PRT meets weekly and is intended to provide feedback on preliminary requests. PRT is a cursory review, not a comprehensive analysis of the project. It allows the Planning and Engineering staffs to review the request and make comments on possible environmental concerns, General Plan and engineering requirements, traffic, layout, and design criteria. This early review and input by staff should save you possible delay and expensive plan revisions later in the process. Staff can also review the history of other development proposals on the site, and review the required data and procedures to be followed throughout the process.
3. Filing the Application
Completed applications should be submitted to the Community and Economic Development Department (CED). A staff planner will review the materials to make sure all of the required information is provided. After the project is submitted, the Planning Manager briefly reviews the application and assigns the project to a staff planner. The staff planner assigned to the project will be your primary contact and staff liaison throughout the process. Your application is then routed to outside agencies and City divisions that will provide input into the project. Within 30 calendar days after the application is submitted, the staff planner assigned to the project will provide a Notice of Application Status to you indicating whether the application is complete for processing or whether additional information is required. You will also be required to make an initial deposit at the time of submittal for processing your application. The final charge will be based upon the actual cost of staff time required to process the application to final action.
4. Notice to Other Agencies
Upon receipt of a complete application, CED will send a copy of the tentative map to all affected public agencies, utilities, school districts and other City departments for their comments. Information received will be used in the environmental review process and in the staff report and recommendation to the Planning Commission.
5. Environmental Review
All subdivision requests are required to have an environmental assessment to determine if it will be necessary to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Detailed information regarding this process is described in Environmental Review Procedures. The completion of environmental documentation does not necessarily have to precede the Design Review Commission review, but the appropriate document must be complete before the Planning Commission can take action.
6. Design Review Commission Recommendation
Once your application is determined to be complete, the Planning Manager may refer your subdivision proposal to the Design Review Commission (DRC) for preliminary review and comment. The DRC may advise the Planning Commission in writing of any comments it desires to make and any changes in the proposed plan it deems appropriate.
7. Staff Review for Planning Commission
Following receipt of comments from other agencies or from the Design Review Commission, the Planning and Engineering staffs will study the application as it relates to the City's General Plan and analyze the environmental, land use, traffic, site plan, design and other impacts or concerns of the proposed subdivision. A written staff report will be prepared for the Planning Commission hearing that will analyze the tentative map and include Design Review Commission, staff and other government agencies' recommendations. A copy of this report will be sent to you at least three days prior to the Planning Commission review of the tentative map.
8. Planning Commission Review
The next step in the subdivision process is approval of the tentative map by the Planning Commission (PC). A public hearing will be scheduled before the PC to review the tentative map. Notice will be given at least 10 days before the public hearing specifying the time, date, and place of the hearing along with an explanation of the matter to be considered. At the hearing, staff will present a report and recommendations, followed by your testimony and comments by any interested persons. A decision will be made by the PC after evaluating your testimony, the testimony from the public, the staff report, and the environmental information. The PC will either approve, conditionally approve, deny, or postpone decision on the subdivision. The PC may continue the hearing to a specified time, date, and place. The PC must review and take action on the tentative map and report its decision to the City Council and the subdivider within 50 days after the environmental review for the project has been completed.
CAN I APPEAL THE PLANNING COMMISSION'S DECISION?
Any action by the Planning Commission with respect to the tentative map may be appealed to the City Council by the subdivider, any tenant of the subject property or any other interested person adversely affected by the action. The appeal period runs 10 days from the date the Planning Commission takes action. A completed appeal form must be filed with the City Clerk. The City Council will hold a public hearing on the appeal within 30 days of filing the appeal. At least 10 days prior to the meeting, owners of the property within 300 feet of the project site are notified by mail of the forthcoming hearing, and a notice of the public hearing is posted in prominent locations in the vicinity of the site. In addition, notice will be given to the subdivider, the appellant, and the Planning Commission. After the hearing, the Council has seven days to declare its findings, whereby it may sustain, modify, reject or overrule any recommendations or rulings of the Planning Commission subject to the same limitations that are placed on the Commission.
OTHER REQUIRED ACTIONS
Following approval of the tentative map, the Design Review Commission must review and approve final plans for the dwelling units and other structures. Information on the timing and sequence of this process is contained in Design Review Process: An Overview.
A final map must be submitted to the Engineering Division after the tentative map has been approved by the Planning Commission. The specific requirements for the final map, including those for the Subdivision Improvement Plan, are available from the City's Engineering Division and should be carefully followed in order to prevent delay of the project. The developer must enter into a Subdivision Improvement Agreement (and provide security to ensure completion of the improvements) or complete all improvements prior to approval of the final map. The City Council will approve or disapprove the final map along with the Improvement Plan. The approved final map must be filed with the County Recorder's Office.
HOW LONG WILL THE PROCESS TAKE?
The estimated time for processing a tentative map application will vary depending upon the complexity and magnitude of the proposal and staff workload, but is generally estimated as follows.
From complete application to DRC review:
- Negative Declarations 14-19 weeks
- EIRs 28-36 weeks
From DRC review to PC review: 4 weeks
Total Time: 18-40 weeks
Please refer to the application form and submittal checklist for the complete submittal requirements, but general submittals must include the following items:
- If you choose to file a vesting tentative map, the data identified in Article 12 of the City's Subdivision Ordinance (Section 10-1.1206 of the Municipal Code) is required in addition to the submittal requirements listed herein.
- Submit the data required for tentative maps listed in the City's Subdivision Ordinance (Section 10-1.402, Walnut Creek Municipal Code). This information can also be found with the application.
- Upon approval of a tentative map, submit the required final map data listed in the City's Subdivision Ordinance (Section 10-1.403, Walnut Creek Municipal Code).
- Provide an initial deposit according to the current fee and rate schedule. Make checks payable to the City of Walnut Creek.
- Sign and submit a Statement of Understanding acknowledging the City's billing structure.
- Provide site photographs showing topography, vegetation, existing and adjacent structures.
- Impact fees (drainage, parkland dedication, etc.) will be required prior to approval of the final map.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
A. Review Site History
Research the site history and obtain aerial photographs from the City. Information regarding past applications on any property which may provide valuable information is available either through the Planning Division or Building Division.
B. Comply with all Zoning Requirements
Review the Zoning Ordinance provisions that pertain to the site. Do not rely solely on oral information given at the counter. Ask for copies of the code provisions and clarification for those items you do not understand. The Zoning Ordinance is also on the City's website.
C. Hillside Performance Standards
Check the City's Hillside Performance Standards (Section 10-2.3, Article 4 of the Municipal Code). Subdivision proposals on sites with greater than 15% slope are subject to the special provisions of this chapter of the Municipal Code. Make sure your project engineer understands and is familiar with these requirements.
D. Traffic, Grading, Drainage, and Trees
The four most controversial components of any subdivision are usually traffic issues, grading, area wide drainage concerns and tree removals. Thoroughly research any known area traffic or parking concerns with the City's Transportation Division. Discuss and have your engineer research and analyze area drainage patterns and any known problems with the City's Engineering staff. Finally, make sure you understand the City's Tree Preservation Ordinance (Chapter 8, Title 3, Municipal Code) and grading requirements (Title 9, Chapter 9, Municipal Code).
E. Review the General Plan
Obtain copies of General Plan provisions that pertain to the site. Examine the Density Map, the Height Map, the Land Use Descriptions, and Residential Development Policies.
F. Use Quality Design Professionals
Use the highest quality design professionals, as this will be the single most important aspect of your project. Architects, engineers and consultants are trained in the development field. The quality of the plans and project presentation reflect on the quality of the application.
G. Respect the Character of the Area
Give thoughtful consideration to the life of the project, the proposed use and its contributions to the community. Remember, a proposed development does not stop at the property lines. Subdivisions in particular must reflect the pattern of surrounding development.
H. Maintain Public Contact
Obtain a copy of the mailing list for your project's public hearing and prepare your own correspondence. You may wish to meet with neighboring property owners to discuss your proposal prior to filing the application.
I. Follow up with Outside Agencies
Initiate direct contact with key people from outside agencies where your project is referred. Many times you can answer questions or provide additional information that will reduce the time it takes to review your project.