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A. District Purpose.

1. General. Because of its substandard vehicular access, steep slopes, inadequate water pressure and proximity to the Hayward Fault and vegetated wildlands, the Panoramic Hill area is exceptionally vulnerable to severe damage or destruction from fire and earthquake hazards. Panoramic Hill also includes one of Berkeley’s most architecturally significant residential districts, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places because of its association with the Arts and Crafts movement of the Bay Area Tradition.

2. Specific. The specific purpose of the Environmental Safety-Residential (ES-R) district is to:

(a) Provide a means to implement the General Plan and the Hazard Mitigation Plan to reduce the potential for life loss, injury, and economic damage to Berkeley residents from earthquakes, wildfires, and landslides and to protect the City’s unique character and values from being compromised by hazard events by reducing the vulnerability of one of the most unique and inaccessible neighborhoods in the Hill Hazardous Fire Area;

(b) Protect the lives and property of Panoramic Hill residents in Berkeley and adjoining parts of Oakland and avoid destruction or damage to the natural environment through the application of special development regulations and by ensuring that the review of new development and alterations or additions to existing structures will require analysis and mitigation of geologic, seismic, and fire hazards;

(c) Limit the uses of land permitted to those which are necessary to serve the housing and access needs of the district’s inhabitants and will not put either current or future residents at risk due to the area’s inadequate infrastructure and special vulnerability to natural hazards;

(d) Protect the health and safety of current and future residents by ensuring that no new dwelling units will be built and no land may be subdivided to allow the construction of additional dwelling units until plans are in place that identify the future distribution, location, and extent of development in the Berkeley and Oakland neighborhoods of Panoramic Hill, including provisions to develop and maintain a system of public facilities and services adequate to meet the needs of the future population;

(e) Establish procedures to ensure that the development review process provides for consideration of the cumulative impact of new construction, alterations, and changes in use that have the potential to increase the population or intensify the use of land in the district together with the impacts of other projects on Panoramic Hill and within adjacent areas of Berkeley and Oakland;

(f) Restrict the size and occupancy of residential structures by imposing standards that reflect the district’s limited capacity to accommodate additional population due to poor access, inadequate infrastructure, vulnerability to natural hazards and the fact that a majority of the existing development does not conform to standards that the City adopted in 1979;

(g) Assure the effective use of emergency measures available to save lives and property;

(h) Give reasonable protection to views and privacy, yet allow appropriate development of all property as long as public services and access are adequate to ensure protection of the health and safety of residents in this vulnerable area; and

(i) Protect the integrity of the Panoramic Hill Historic District by ensuring that alterations to existing buildings and new construction maintain the existing pattern of development, are appropriate to the hillside setting, and do not impair the architectural significance of contributing structures.

B. Interpretation. Nothing in this section is intended or may be construed to overturn, nullify, or affect any recorded limitation of property in favor of the City. In case of conflict between this section and other provisions of the Zoning Ordinance, the more restrictive standards apply.

C. Allowed Land Uses.

1. General. See Table 23.202-1: Allowed Land Uses in Residential Districts.

2. Rental of Rooms. Rooms may be rented to a maximum of four persons on a single property. Occupancy of a single dwelling unit by a single household as defined in Chapter 23.502--Glossary is permitted.

D. Additional Permit Requirements. See Section 23.202.030.A--Additional Permit Requirements (Residential Additions) and 23.202.030.B (Adding Bedrooms).

E. Specific Plan Required.

1. The City may not approve an AUP, Use Permit, Parcel Map, or Tentative Map to allow a new dwelling unit in the ES-R district until the City Council adopts a Panoramic Hill Specific Plan ("the Plan") in compliance with applicable law.

2. At a minimum, the Plan shall:

(a) Show the proposed distribution, location, and extent of land uses in the ES-R district and the location and extent of the public facilities and services required to serve the land uses;

(b) Include proposals for water, wastewater, and stormwater systems and for a circulation system adequate to accommodate projected traffic and to provide emergency access to the ES-R district and a program of implementation actions including finance measures necessary to carry out those proposal; and

(c) Include consideration of the needs and future growth of adjacent areas in the City of Oakland that are now or can feasibly be served by the proposed facilities and services.

3. The Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) may approve a new residential unit in the ES-R district only after finding that:

(a) The project is consistent with the Plan; and

(b) The public facilities and services that the Plan requires have been provided or will be developed as a condition of approval.

F. Environmental Assessment.

1. General.

(a) Due to Panoramic Hill’s inadequate infrastructure and special vulnerability to natural hazards, a project that is ordinarily insignificant in its impact on the environment may be significant if it occurs in the ES-R district.

(b) Any discretionary entitlement under the Zoning Ordinance or Subdivision Ordinance (Municipal Code Title 21) will not be considered exempt from environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act, except for alterations to create bedrooms and residential additions with a gross floor area of up to 10 percent of the lot area or 200 square feet, whichever is less, and which otherwise meet all applicable standards of this section.

(c) Environmental review shall be based on documentation in the record including the reports as described in this section where applicable. Environmental review shall include consideration of the cumulative impact of new construction, alterations, and changes in use that would result in intensification of land use in combination with other projects on Panoramic Hill and adjacent areas that affect conditions in the area.

(d) For purposes of this section, any project that increases habitable floor area, increases the size or number of sleeping rooms, or has the potential to increase vehicular trips in the area is considered an intensification of land use.

2. Reports Required. All applications for construction and development in the ES-R district that are not exempt from environmental review require the following special studies:

(a) New Construction. All new construction requires a soils report, a geologic report, and a traffic impact study subject to the requirements in this section.

(b) Additions and Accessory Structures. All new accessory structures and additions to existing structures that require the installation of a foundation require a soils report, subject to the requirements below. The Building Official may waive this requirement for additions with less than 50 square feet of gross floor area or detached non-habitable structures with less than 225 square feet of gross floor area.

3. Soils Report. When required by Section 23.202.070.F.2--ES-R Environmental Safety-Residential District (Reports Required), a soils report shall be prepared by a civil engineer registered with the State of California, subject to the following requirements:

(a) Contents. Based upon adequate test borings or excavations, the report shall assess the potential for landslides, ground shaking, and surface faulting. If the soils report indicates the presence of soil conditions which, if not corrected, could lead to structural defects, the report shall recommend corrective action that is likely to prevent structural damage to each structure proposed to be constructed.

(b) Review of Report. The report shall be reviewed and approved by the City before issuance of any discretionary permit under the Zoning Ordinance, or before issuance of a building or grading permit if a discretionary permit is not required. The City may have the soils report independently reviewed by a licensed geotechnical engineer, registered by the state of California, the cost of which shall be borne by the applicant. The report’s recommended action shall be incorporated in the construction of each structure as a condition to the issuance of any building permit.

4. Geologic Report. When required by Section 23.202.070.F.2--ES-R Environmental Safety-Residential District (Reports Required), a geologic report in compliance with the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act and related regulations shall be prepared by a certified engineering geologist, subject to the following requirements:

(a) Contents. The report shall identify, describe, and illustrate potential hazards of surface fault rupture, seismic shaking, liquefaction or landslide.

(b) Review Conditions. The report shall review of the local and regional seismic and other geological conditions that significantly affect the proposed use.

(c) Assessment. The report shall assess conditions on or near the site that would contribute to the potential for damage to a proposed use from a seismic or other geological event, or the potential for a new use to create adverse effects upon existing uses because of identified geologic hazards. The conditions assessed are to include, where applicable, rainfall, soils, slopes, water table, bedrock geology, and any other substrate conditions that may affect seismic response, landslide risk, or liquefaction potential.

(d) Recommendations. The report shall recommend building techniques, site preparation and mitigation measures, or setbacks necessary to reduce risks to life and structural damage to property.

5. Traffic Impact Study. When required by Section 23.202.070.F.2--ES-R Environmental Safety-Residential District (Reports Required), a traffic study shall be prepared by a qualified traffic engineer or transportation planner for any project that may generate new trips, subject to the following requirements:

(a) Content. The report shall identify, describe, and illustrate traffic, parking, and roadway conditions in the project vicinity including design characteristics, topography, parking and traffic regulation, accident rates, and pavement condition and width.

(b) Assessment. The report shall assess how the project will affect traffic operations and emergency access based on the size, use, and location, and the proposed site design including driveway locations, turn movements to and from the project site, surrounding uses, locations of nearby intersections, and potential to create unsafe traffic conditions.

(c) Recommendations. The report shall recommend measures to reduce the project’s impact on traffic safety including site design, location of parking and driveways, and off-site improvements necessary to ensure that the project would not exacerbate traffic safety problems in the area.

G. Projects in the Panoramic Hill Historic District.

1. Landmarks Preservation Commission Review.

(a) Before the Zoning Officer or the ZAB may take action on AUP or Use Permit for a project in the Panoramic Hill Historic District that involves new construction, exterior alteration, or demolition, the Zoning Officer shall submit the application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for review and an advisory recommendation.

(b) The purpose of this review is to ensure that proposed buildings, structures, landscaping, and other architectural and site design features are compatible with the design and appearance of existing buildings and structures in the Panoramic Hill Historic District that have established and contribute to its significant character.

(c) This requirement is in addition to but does not supersede any authority or responsibility the Landmarks Preservation Commission has pursuant to Municipal Code Chapter 3.24--Landmarks Preservation Commission.

2. Parking Expansion. An AUP is required for any project in the Panoramic Hill Historic District that expands an existing parking area or structure or creates additional parking to comply with the requirements of Chapter 23.322--Parking and Loading.

3. Findings. To approve any project involving exterior alterations, construction, demolition or site plan revisions within the Panoramic Hill Historic District, the review authority must find that:

(a) The proposed work will not adversely affect the exterior architectural features of the subject property or the relationship between the subject structure or feature and its neighboring structures and surroundings, including facade, massing, scale, materials, setbacks, height, orientation, site design, and landscaping; and

(b) The proposed work will not detract from or adversely affect the special historical, architectural and aesthetic characteristics of the Panoramic Hill Historic District.

H. Development Standards.

1. Basic Standards. See Table 23.202-4: ES-R Development Standards.

2. Supplemental Standards. Supplemental development standards that apply in the ES-R district are noted in Table 23.202-4: ES-R Development Standards.




Lot Area for New Lots, Minimum

25,000 sq. ft.

23.304.020--Lot Requirements
23.202.070.H.3 (Minimum Lot Area Per Dwelling Unit Exception)

Usable Open Space Per Dwelling Unit, Minimum

400 sq. ft.

23.304.090--Usable Open Space

Floor Area Ratio, Maximum


23.202.070.H.4 (Lots under 5,000 Square Feet)

Main Building Height, Average

23.304.050--Building Height

New Buildings and Non-Residential Additions

24 ft. and 2 stories [1]

Residential Additions

14 ft. [2]

Main Building Height, Maximum

35 ft.

Lot Line Setbacks, Minimum



20 ft.


20 ft.

Interior Side

15 ft.

Street Side

15 ft.

Building Separation, Minimum

30 ft.

23.304.040--Building Separation in Residential Districts

Lot Coverage, Maximum


23.304.120--Lot Coverage


[1]Maximum building height of 35 ft. allowed with an AUP. See 23.202.070.H.5--ES-R Environmental Safety-Residential District (Height Increases) for findings.

[2]Height greater than 14 ft. up to 28 ft. allowed with a Use Permit. Height greater than 28 ft up to 35 ft allowed with an additional Use Permit. See 23.202.070.H.5 for findings.

3. Minimum Lot Area Per Dwelling Unit Exception. A legally-created lot less than 25,000 square feet may be developed in compliance with ES-R district requirements if, on the effective date of the regulations that made it substandard, it was in single ownership separate from any abutting lot under the same ownership.

4. Lots Under 5,000 Square Feet. Lots less than 5,000 square feet are allowed no more than one dwelling unit of no more than 1,000 square feet of gross floor area. Accessory Dwelling Units as defined in Section 23.306 (Accessory Dwelling Units) are not subject to this restriction.

5. Height Increases. To approve an AUP or Use Permit to allow an increase in building height, the review authority must find that the increased height is:

(a) Justified due to the topography of the site; and

(b) Consistent with the purposes of the ES-R district as stated in Section 23.202.070.A--ES-R Environmental Safety-Residential District (District Purpose).

6. Land Use Intensification. To approve any project that increases habitable floor area, increases the size or number of bedrooms, may increase vehicular trips in the area, or will otherwise intensify the use of land in the ES-R district, the review authority must find that the project individually or together with other projects within or adjacent to the ES-R district will not threaten the safety and general welfare of Panoramic Hill residents.

7. Nonconforming Uses and Structures.

(a) Additions and enlargements to structures that contain a nonconforming use are not permitted.

(b) Alteration, addition, or enlargement of a nonconforming structure that contains a conforming use is allowed provided that:

i. The project complies with Section 23.324.050.D--Nonconforming Structures and Buildings (Expansion); and

ii. All findings required for the project by the Zoning Ordinance can be made. (Ord. 7787-NS § 2 (Exh. A), 2021)