Zoning Ordinance Update

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New Zoning Ordinance Adopted (Effective October 19, 2016)

On July 6, 2016, the Planning Commission held a public hearing and recommended adoption of the new Zoning Ordinance to the City Council. (The Planning Commission staff report and presentation are available for download below.) On September 6, 2016, the City Council held a public hearing and then introduced the ordinance to adopt the new Zoning Ordinance (see below for the City Council staff report and presentation.) A second reading and adoption of the ordinance took place on September 19, 2016. The new Zoning Ordinance will be effective on October 19, 2016 (30 days after adoption). Please see below for a copy of the adopted Zoning Ordinance or follow this link to the webpage dedicated to the New Merced Zoning Ordinance. If you have any questions about the Zoning Ordinance Update, please feel free to contact the City Planning Division at 209-385-6858 for more information.

Public Review Draft (Released September 8, 2015)

A Public Review Draft of the updated City of Merced Zoning Ordinance was released on September 8, 2015, to the Merced City Council and to the Planning Commission on September 9, 2015. The Public Review Draft reflects the changes requested by the Focus Group (see below). The Public Review Draft is now available for download in the "Public Review Draft (September 2015)" folder below (please note that this is a large file, so it might take a while to download). (If you would like to purchase either a printed copy or a CD for the price of reproduction, please contact the City Planning Division for more information.) Along with the Public Review Draft, also available for download are: 1) a cover memo with questions to assist your review; 2) a summary of the changes from the current Zoning Ordinance; and 3) recommendations from the Zoning Ordinance Focus Group and the Bicycle Advisory Commission.

After the Public Review Draft was released, the Planning Commission and City Council held two joint study sessions on the Zoning Code on December 7, 2015 and March 21, 2016. On December 7, 2016, they made several recommendations for changes which they wanted the Focus Group to look at. In January-February 2016, the Focus Group held two more meetings and made recommendations on those changes. On March 21, 2016, the Planning Commission and City Council accepted the Focus Group's recommendations. On June 16, 2016, the City of Merced held a public forum on the Draft Zoning Ordinance. A copy of the flyer and presentation from the Public Forum can be downloaded below.

Focus Group (July 2013-March 2015)

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 in July 2013 and met a total of 18 times until its final meeting on March 26, 2015. At that final meeting, the Focus Group unanimously agreed that the Focus Group Review Draft that had been completed by City staff in December 2014 should serve as a Public Review Draft after changes suggested by the Focus Group over the course of its five 2015 meetings were made. The Public Review Draft should be released in early summer 2015. Copies of the meeting agendas, minutes, and presentations are be available for download in the "Focus Group" folder below.

Public Workshop #1 (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.


The City of Merced, with the assistance of a consultant (The Planning Center/DC&E), began work on a comprehensive update to its Zoning Ordinance in 2012. (The consultant contract ran out in December 2013 and City staff continued the work on the ordinance.) The City encouraged public participation in this important project that will shape the future of development in Merced.

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 involved the following steps, which were completed in 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-March 2015)
  4. Public Review Draft Zoning Code (September 2015)
  5. Adoption of Final Zoning Code (September 2016)

Public Input

Residents, land owners, business operators, and other interested members of the Merced community were encouraged to be involved. Numerous opportunities for input included:

  • Stakeholder Interviews (September 5, 2012)
  • Workshop #1 (November 28, 2012)
  • Focus Group Meetings (July 2013-March 2015, January/February 2016)
  • Pubic Workshop (June 16, 2016)
  • Public Hearings (Planning Commission--July 6, 2016; City Council--Sept. 6, 2016)

Project Funding

Partial funding ($200,000) was 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 which ended on December 31, 2013.

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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