Frequently Asked Questions

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The responses to many of the most common questions posed to the Community Development Department staff are provided below.

"Why can't I just build . . .?"

One of the overriding concerns of government is to protect the health, safety, and general welfare of the community. Building permits assure the community that applicable structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, or fire codes have been checked and that the construction has been inspected. Without building permits, you may endanger yourself, your family, or the subsequent user of the structure. Even if you are knowledgeable in the construction trades, what assurance do you have that the structure was built correctly and inspected unless the City has a record of it? Lending institutions often ask for this type of information to protect the value of their real estate loans.

Planning permits may be required for certain projects. City review and approval of these permits helps ensure that the land use is compatible with the community. The permit process also serves to inform the adjacent property owners about the future plans for that "vacant lot next door."

"Why can't you just give me a variance for that?"

Under State law and the City’s Municipal Code, variances can only be granted under certain limited conditions. Before it may grant a variance, the Planning Commission must find that “because of special circumstances applicable to the property including size, shape, topography, location or surroundings, the strict application of the provisions of this title deprive such property of privileges enjoyed by other property in the vicinity and under identical zoning district classification. The circumstances so found must be specifically set forth by the commission in its findings.” (Section 12036.05, Santa Maria Municipal Code).

Incidentally, the granting of a variance does not permit a use or activity on a property, that would not otherwise be allowed in the zoning district for that property.

"Is my property in the City?"

City boundaries periodically change, through the annexation process. We recommend that you contact the Community Development staff, and provide specific details about your property, such as your Tax Assessor Parcel number (found on your most recent property tax bill).

"How do I get more information about the area?"

The following links will answer common questions: 

Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce

City Profile

Community Services Directory

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