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Zoning Ordinance Update

Focus Group (Beginning in July 2013)

A focus group of 25 community members (including developers, engineers, real estate professionals, Planning Commissioners, City Council members, and other interested citizens) was formed to review the changes to the City's Zoning Ordinance.  The Focus Group held its first meeting on July 17, 2013, and received an overview of the Zoning Ordinance Update process, the goals of the Update, and a overview of the current Zoning Ordinance.  The Focus Group has met 9 times as of November 2013 and will continue to meet generally every 3-4 weeks over the next several months to review the proposed changes to the ordinance.  Copies of the meeting agendas, minutes, and presentations are be available for download in the "Focus Group" folder below as they become available.   If you have any questions about the Focus Group, please feel free to contact the City Planning Division at 209-385-6858 for more information.

Public Workshop (November 2012)

A public workshop was held on Wednesday, November 28, 2012.  At the workshop, the consultants presented their ideas for updating the Zoning Ordinance as a result of their analysis of the existing ordinance (see "Issues and Options" memo below), the City's needs, and the stakeholder interviews input.  For more information, download the agenda and flyer below.

At this workshop participants had the opportunity to comment on key issues for the Zoning Ordinance Update, including how to best strengthen Downtown Merced and ensure high quality neighborhoods in new growth areas of the city.  The workshop began with a general presentation on the Zoning Ordinance Update, followed by questions and answers.  Participants then took part in a Visual Preference Survey to identify the desired type of new development Downtown and in new growth areas.  As part of the Visual Preference Survey, participants viewed photos of different development types and “voted” on the photos they like best using a handheld keypads.  The results of this survey are presented in the Workshop Summary memo, available for download below.

Following the Visual Preference Survey, participants were asked to provide input on other key issues for the Zoning Ordinance update, including how best to streamline the permit approval process, specific land uses needing special regulations, and implementing community development goals in South Merced.    A memo describing these issues and options for the Zoning Ordinance Update is available for download below.  Please feel free to provide comments on the memo to City staff at the contact information described under "Public Input" below.

Based on the input above, the consultants are now working on draft proposals for updating the zoning ordinance.  Additional public workshops will take place in Spring 2013.  Updates and additional information about the workshops and the draft proposals will be posted to this webpage as they become available.


The City of Merced, with the assistance of a consultant (The Planning Center/DC&E), is working on a comprehensive update to its Zoning Ordinance.  The City encourages public participation in this important project that will shape the future of development in Merced.  As more information is available on this project, it will be posted to this webpage.  Below are answers to some common questions regarding this project.

What is the Zoning Ordinance?

The Zoning Ordinance is a section of the City’s Municipal Code (city law) that regulates the development of buildings, activities, and land uses.  

Why is it Important?

The Zoning Ordinance affects how your city looks and works, now and in the future.  The update to the Zoning Ordinance will implement Merced’s new General Plan, helping turn general goals and policies into a reality.

Why are we Updating the Zoning Ordinance?

The City’s existing Zoning Ordinance was originally written in the 1960s.  Many small additions have been made to the Ordinance over the years, but the Code is still inadequate to efficiently handle many new activities, building designs, and opportunities important to the Merced community. 

What are the goals of the Zoning Ordinance Update?

The main goal of the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance Update is to clarify, update, and simplify the Code.  The new Zoning Ordinance will:

  • Be user-friendly and easy to understand
  • Illustrated with graphics, diagrams, and concise tables
  • Allow for a streamlined development  review process
  • Provide clear direction to project applicants
  • Effectively implement the new Merced Vision 2030 General Plan

Project Steps

The Zoning Ordinance Update will involve the following steps, which are anticipated to be the time frames listed.

1.    Review Existing Conditions (December 2012)

2.    Identify Preferred Approach (Winter/Spring 2013)

3.    Focus Group Review of Draft Zoning Code (July 2013-February 2014)

4.    Public Review Draft Zoning Code (Spring 2014)

5.    Finalize Update Zoning Code (Summer 2014)

Public Input

Residents, land owners, business operators, and other interested members of the Merced community who would like to provide input on the Zoning Ordinance Update are encouraged to be involved.  Numerous opportunities for input include:   

  • Stakeholder Interviews (September 5, 2012)
  • Outreach to Underrepresented Groups (Late 2012)
  • Workshop #1 (November 28, 2012)
  • Focus Group Meetings (July 2013-February 2014)
  • Workshop  #2 (Spring 2014)
  • Public Hearings  (Summer 2014)

Comments are also welcomed and encouraged during this process via email, phone, fax, or by mail.  
Please direct comments to:

Kim Espinosa, Planning Manager.
Phone: (209) 385-6858
ax: (209) 725-8775

Planning and Permitting Division
678 West 18th St
Merced, CA 95340

Project Funding

Partial funding has been provided to the City of Merced for this project through a grant from Smart Valley Places Compact, a group of 14 Central Valley cities.  The group was awarded a US Department of Housing and Urban Development grant. 

Key Terms

Definition of terms commonly used in this project.

Zoning Ordinance:         Regulates land activities and development for a city.  In Merced, the Zoning Ordinance is Title 20 of the Merced Municipal Code.   The Ordinance has separate chapters for different land uses and activities.

Zoning Districts:   The City is divided into districts based on a Zoning Map.  Regulations and incentives for manufacturing, building, or operating a business can be different based on which zoning districts these are located.

Zoning Map:         Shows the location of zoning districts.

Land Uses:   Different categories of land uses are allowed in different locations, which help preserve neighborhoods as places to live and downtown.  Examples of different land uses are homes, professional offices, retail stores, industrial or agricultural operations.

Development Standards:        Building designers follow development standards to ensure that quality of life in Merced is preserved and enhanced.  Development standards set limits or encourage designs related to physical features such as parking spaces, height of buildings, type of landscaping, and distance between buildings.

Management Standards:         Regulations to ensure that projects act like good neighbors, and preserve safety and well-being.

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