Fremont Community Joint Zoning Ordinance

Table of Contents

Chapter 5: Commercial Districts

Article 1: Downtown Commercial District (C-1)

Type of District: Form-Based

Section 5-1.01: Purpose and Intent

The regulations applicable to the Downtown Commercial District are planned to permit a mix of land uses that complement the historic character ingrained in the features of the built environment. The downtown is intended as a diverse, concentrated, pedestrian- oriented environment where residents can live, work, shop and socialize throughout the day and evening. Its purpose is to provide a sense of place for Fremont residents and to instill a sense of civic pride throughout the region.

The ground floor space along Downtown Main is intended for pedestrian-oriented retail and personal service uses, with offices and residential units above. The Central Business District, as the physical, business and cultural hub of the community, has a relatively higher intensity of development, with services close to one another, a diversity of uses, and the presence of older, often historic, buildings. This District is intended to maintain and enhance the vitality of the Downtown area. Specific objectives include:

  1. To reinforce and enhance a compact development pattern;
  2. To improve mobility options downtown and to reduce the need for on-site parking by providing automobile alternatives, such as walking and bicycling;
  3. To accommodate and promote commercial, residential, entertainment, educational, cultural, artistic, health care-related and governmental uses;
  4. To preserve and reuse older buildings, as well as establish standards for their reconstruction and the construction of new buildings;
  5. To expand the employment base and residential population downtown;
  6. To reinforce the unique physical character of downtown, focusing on the design context;
  7. To express the community’s special commitment to the visual quality of downtown by establishing the minimum criteria for building design compatibility while promoting amenities necessary to attract business, residents and visitors; and
  8. To establish clear development requirements in order to provide quick, efficient responses to typical development issues.

Section 5-1.02: Uses

Purpose and Intent

The uses planned for the Downtown Commercial District are intended to fulfill the Purpose and Intent of the District and to provide a comfortable balance of uses appropriate for a downtown setting. At the same time, some uses have more restrictive requirements or are prohibited altogether because they take up valuable retail space, which should be the focus of the downtown as a central shopping area for the community and the region. The adaptive reuse of residential units within the downtown for home occupations, specialty and office uses is encouraged.

Use Use by Right Development Requirements Special Land Uses Use Restrictions and Requirements
Residential Upper story residential Single family detached and two family freestanding dwelling units are not permitted. Attached single family
Senior housing
Multiple family
Government & Institutional Park, plaza, square, playground, walkway and similar uses All except Uses by Right
Financial, Medical and Professional Office and Related Services Artist/craft studio None
Mailing & stenographic service, courier service None
Bank, credit union and financial service offices None
All others None
Personal Service All except Special Land Uses Tailor, dry-cleaning drop off/pick-up station, coin-operated laundry
Retail Sales All except Special Land Uses Commercial bakery, brewery, micro- brewery
Automotive Oriented Business None, except Special Land Uses Drive in & drive- through uses
Entertainment & Recreation Restaurants For uses with outdoor seating a minimum of 5 ft. of sidewalk along the curb and leading to the entrance to the establishment shall be maintained so that pedestrian circulation and access to the building entrance shall not be impaired by tables, chairs and other encumbrances. Hotel, including accessory commercial use
Bowling alley, skating rink, pool & billiard hall
Bed and breakfast inn
Outdoor seating areas shall be limited to the area directly in front of the use to which it is accessory and shall not extend into adjoining sites. If located in the rear or side yard, it shall be contained within the same lot, unless an agreement between the adjoining owners is approved by the Zoning Administrator. Night club
Entertainment & Recreation Aerobics and dance studio
Utility None Transit center, train & bus station
Off-street parking, surface or structured Parking facilities must adhere to the RBL and screening requirements of this District.

Section 5-1.03: Siting

Purpose and Intent

The Siting provisions of this District are intended to provide a compact development pattern, ensure that uses are adjacent to the sidewalk, and provide for certain building projections and variations in design. An additional purpose is to create a walkable, pedestrian environment that promotes accessibility to retail spaces.

Siting Element Standard Development Requirements Administrative Departures
Building Placement and Projections Required Building Line The RBL shall be consistent with the established dimension of existing main buildings. The RBL for a new structure shall be equal to, or the lesser of the front setbacks of existing main buildings within 200 ft. of the lot where the front yard setbacks are:
  1. On the same side and facing side of the street; and
  2. In the same zoning district as the subject parcel
The RBL may be varied up to 5 ft. to account for changes in grade, landscape features or other physical obstruction that does not permit the average RBL to be maintained.
The building façade shall occupy no less than eighty percent (80%) of the RBL for at least the minimum required building height.
The building façade shall be built to the RBL within 30 ft. of any block corner. At corners, the minimum RBL may be increased if necessary to ensure clear vision at the intersection.
A street wall shall be required along, or not more than 8 inches behind, any RBL frontage that is not otherwise occupied by a building. A street wall shall not be required if a through-block connection is provided.
An outdoor activity area or entry courtyard may occupy that portion behind the RBL frontage that is not otherwise occupied by a building. Space for bike racks, civic art, or other similar uses/activities may be permitted within the activity area or courtyard.
Roof top dining is allowed if properly secured for safety, subject to approval by the Zoning Administrator.
An outdoor seating area on public right-of-way may be allowed by permit. However, no liquor may be served in the public right-of-way.
If outdoor service is requested by a permanent liquor license holder, then service and consumption of alcoholic beverages and the area for patron assembly shall be confined to a permanent, structure or area approved by the Zoning Administrator.
Side yard setback None, except on a lot where a common lot line is shared with a property located within a residential district, the main building shall be set back at least 10 ft. from the shared lot line.
Rear yard setback 20 ft., except for lots with alley access where no setback is required.
Projections No part of any building, except overhanging eaves, canopies, awnings, covered walkways, balconies, shop fronts, and bay windows, as specified by this District, shall project forward of the RBL.
The sections of the building façade at the RBL may include jogs of not more than 18 inches in depth, except as specified by this District to allow shop fronts, bay windows and balconies.
Awnings or canopies that project over the sidewalk portion of a street space shall maintain a clear height of at least 8 ft.
Siting Element Standard Development Requirements Administrative Departures
Lot Requirements Minimum lot area None
Minimum lot width None
Lot coverage At least ten percent (10%) of the total buildable area shall be preserved as contiguous open area on every lot. The contiguous open area may be located anywhere behind the building setback. Buildings that existed on the effective date of this ordinance are exempt from this requirement.
Dwelling Requirements Minimum floor area per unit 450 sq. ft.
Variances and Deviations; Siting Variances Placement of buildings, parking areas, driveways or projections resulting in a RBL or setback that is less than the above requirements, other than administrative departures
All minimum lot requirements
Dwelling requirements
Deviations All others

Section 5-1.04 : Building Elements

Purpose and Intent

The intent of regulating building elements is to align building facades along the street and sidewalk. By doing so, building facades along a block face will form a street edge that frames the public realm, while retaining sufficient width for people to walk 2-3 abreast. Horizontal elements should be reflected in the design including lintels, windowsills, cornices, transoms, etc., but the vertical character of traditional storefronts as expressed by entries, window openings, and building height is emphasized. Walls visible from the public right-of-way include windows and architectural features customarily found on the front façade of a building, such as awnings, cornice work, columns, edge detailing or other decorative finish materials. A prominent and usable public building entrance is provided at the front of the building. Wall massing is broken up with architectural elements to reduce scale.

Building Element Standard Development Requirement Administrative Departure
Height Minimum of 1 story;
Maximum of 3 stories
Up to one additional story not to exceed 4 stories may be permitted, provided that the additional story is used for residential purposes.
Building height shall not vary from the height of adjoining buildings by more than 2 stories. The provision may be waived for residential use.
Ground Story Interior Height The ground story finished floor elevation shall be equal to, or greater than the exterior sidewalk elevation in front of the building, to a maximum finished floor elevation of 18 inches above the sidewalk.
The ground story shall have at least 15 ft. of clear interior height (floor to ceiling) contiguous to the RBL frontage for at least a depth of 15 ft.
The maximum story height for the ground story is 20 ft.
Upper Story Interior Height The maximum interior clear height (floor to ceiling) for stories above the ground story is 12 ft.
At least eighty percent (80%) of upper stories shall have an interior clear height (floor to ceiling) of at least 9 ft.
Mezzanines Mezzanines having a floor area greater than fifty percent (50%) of the floor area of the story in which the mezzanine is situated shall be counted as full stories. Mezzanines shall not sit within 15 ft. of the RBL and are subject to the use requirements of this District.
The height requirements may be exceeded by parapet walls not over 4 ft. in height, or as needed to conceal mechanical equipment, roof structures (attic stories), chimneys, television and radio antennas, cupolas, spires or other ornamental projections. Additional non-habitable height may be approved for ornamental projections that reflect the character of the Downtown Commercial District, such as those that house clocks, historic symbols and other similar elements.
Additional habitable space is permitted within the roof where configured as an attic story.
Façade Variation New buildings whose façade exceeds 30 ft. in linear width shall be divided into multiple bays or shall create the impression of multiple storefronts at the discretion of the Zoning Administrator.
The ground level façade shall be designed to include the elements that make up a traditional storefront including:
  • A base panel between the sidewalk and the display windows
  • Display windows and an entry framed by piers/pilasters
  • A sign band
  • A middle cornice separating the ground level façade from the upper story(ies)
Building Element Standard Development Requirement Administrative Departure
Windows/Transparency Transparency requirements shall apply to the area of the façade between 2 and 10 ft. above the sidewalk regardless of where windows are located. Only clear or lightly tinted, non-reflective glass in windows, doors, and display windows shall be considered transparent. Windows shall not be blocked by interior displays or otherwise have views to the interior obstructed for a depth of not less than 5 ft. into the building.
Façade transparency requirements do not apply for portions of structures in ground floor residential use, assembly area of theaters, auditoriums, churches, and similar uses, provided that façade is enhanced by architectural detailing, artwork, landscaping or similar features. Transparency shall also not apply to buildings less than 20 ft. in length at the RBL.
Building facades facing public streets, parks, and through block walkways shall have the following percentages of window and door openings:
  • Minimum forty percent (40%); maximum of ninety percent (90%) for ground level storefronts
  • Minimum twenty percent (20%); maximum of forty percent (40%) for the building façade above storefronts
Shop front or ground floor window sills shall not be higher than 2 ft. above the fronting sidewalk. The minimum height for sills may be varied to account for changes in grade or other physical features that make the minimum height impractical.
Window openings and window panes shall be taller than they are wide or be divided into segments that are taller than they are wide.
Exterior steel barriers and similar security devices are not permitted. If they are located inside a building, they may not be visible from the outside during business hours. Security devices may be permitted for those uses required by law to provide them.
Roof Type Pitched roofs shall be moderately steep with symmetrical slopes no less than 4:12 and not more than 12:12, except that entry ways may have slopes of not less than 2:12. Public buildings are exempt.
Flat roofs shall not be visible when viewed from street level in the immediate vicinity of the building and shall be enclosed by parapets a minimum of 42 inches high, or as required to conceal mechanical equipment
Building Element Standard Development Requirement Administrative Departure
Exterior Building Wall Materials Durable building materials, simple configurations and solid craftsmanship are required. Eighty percent (80%) of the building façade (after transparency requirements are met) visible from public streets shall be constructed of the following materials:
  • Brick
  • Gypsum reinforced fiber concrete (for trim and cornice elements only)
  • Metal (beams, lintels, trim elements and ornamentation only)
  • Split faced block (piers, foundation walls and chimneys)
  • Stone
  • Wood lap siding
  • Wood designed for exterior use
  • Cement board siding
  • High quality composite board siding (containing wood particles)
  • High quality vinyl siding
Awnings shall be made of a waterproof canvas or similar material, and shall be opaque to light (no under or in canopy illumination showing through) Similar materials shall be approved before use to ensure the waterproofing and color elements. Vinyl/plastic awnings are not permitted.
No bright or distracting colors shall be used as primary building hues.
Entry A visible and usable building entrance is required for every 50 ft. of a building’s frontage on the primary street. The requirement for more than one entry on the building frontage may be waived where an entrance is provided to a parking area located to the side or rear of the building.
The entrance shall be clearly identified using an awning, paving treatments, change in roofline or other features, such as awnings, porticos, arcades, arches and integral planters. Other methods, such as unique color treatments or other similar means may be approved provided the same effect is achieved.
At least one main building entrance and exit shall face a street and shall be recessed.
Variances and Deviations Variances Maximum building height and/or number of stories other than administrative departures
Deviations All others

Section 5-1.05: Accessory Provisions

Accessory Provisions Development Requirements Administrative Departures

See Chapter 2 for “Definitions” and Chapter 3 for “General Provisions”
Wall or Projecting One wall sign or one projecting sign is permitted per façade and/or frontage onto a parking area. If the building is located on a corner, a projecting sign on the first floor is allowed in addition to the allowed wall sign. In through-block connections, an additional projecting sign, not exceeding 8 sq. ft. is permitted per business in building and one projecting sign not exceeding 16 sq. permitted for multiple tenants.
On corners of downtown buildings, an additional projecting sign on the upper level of the building, not exceeding 32 sq. ft., is permitted.
Wall signs shall not exceed 1.25 sq. ft. per each linear foot of building wall length associated with the use to which it refers, with a maximum of 32 sq. feet. Projecting signs shall not exceed 16 sq. ft. on lower levels of downtown buildings and shall not project farther than 4 feet from the building to which it is attached, and shall be no less than 8 feet above the grade.
Signs shall be located on the wall facing the street or off-street parking area designated for that use.
See “General Provisions” Chapter for regulations pertaining to multiple uses in a building.
One additional wall or projecting sign per building, not exceeding 10 sq. ft. per use, is permitted for the purposes of identifying uses on upper floors.
Sidewalk Sidewalk signs shall be limited to locations within ten (10) feet of the primary entrance to the use with which they are associated unless the sidewalk sign is for a special event that is taking place downtown. If the sidewalk sign is to advertise a special event taking place downtown, the sidewalk sign may be permitted if it satisfies all the other pertinent regulations and if the sign is placed in a location downtown that is approved by the Zoning Administrator via a special event permit. The sign shall be no less than two (2) feet from a curb. No sidewalk sign shall be placed in a manner that reduces the traveled width of a required sidewalk to less than five (5) feet. Sidewalk signs located in the public right-of-way shall be subject to approval of the Zoning Administrator.
No sidewalk sign shall be higher than 4-1/2 feet or more than 3 feet wide.
The sign shall be removed from the sidewalk and taken inside at the close of business each day.
Changeable letters (reader board/message board) or handwritten advertisements are allowed on sidewalk signs, but the signs must be maintained so as not to have letters that do not stay in place.
The sign must be constructed of weather- proof, durable material and kept in good repair. The sign must be constructed of wood, metal or other natural material and must be heavy enough to withstand normal wind loads and occasional jostling by pedestrians, etc. Plastic signs are not allowed. Example:
The owner of the sign shall provide proof of insurance for the sidewalk sign in the amount determined from time to time by the Fremont City Council and shall provide proof that the City of Fremont is an additional named insured on the policy.
Window Signs may be painted, etched or affixed to glass windows or doors provided they pertain to the business conducted on the premises and do not exceed 25% of the glass surface area. Signs noting business hours and/or “Open” or “Closed” signs are excluded from this calculation; these signs shall not exceed one square foot. One electronic display sign may also be affixed to a window or door provided it does not exceed 20% of the glass surface area.
Awning or Canopy A sign may be painted, stenciled or otherwise affixed flat to the surface or fascia of the awning or canopy but cannot extend vertically or horizontally beyond the limits of the awning.
Characters can take up no more than fifty percent (50%) of the awning or canopy surfaces that face the primary street, but designs can encompass the entire canopy.
One suspended sign may be hung under an awning or canopy for each business establishment, not exceeding 4 sq. ft. in area and having a minimum clearance of 8 feet above the sidewalk
Real Estate One wall sign in addition to that permitted above per lot is permitted not exceeding 6 sq. ft. in area, provided a corner lot may have one sign on each street frontage.
Political One wall sign in addition to that permitted above per issue or candidate not exceeding 6 sq. ft. in area.
Banner Banners may be erected in the rear of a building as long as they do not exceed 32 sq. ft., are properly maintained, and are safely secured to the building or pole mount.
Entryway An entryway sign not exceeding 60 sq. ft. and 15 ft. in height is allowed where there is a drive entrance onto a private lot and the placement of the sign satisfies setback requirements and does not impair a driver’s line of vision.
Temporary Flags and banners are permitted subject to the requirements of the “General Provisions” Chapter. One flag, erected strictly to signify that the business is open, with a maximum area of 20 sq. ft. may be located on the front of the building, provided that no portion of the flag may be less than 6 feet from the sidewalk or obstruct the sidewalk in any way, and provided that such flags shall only be displayed between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. the next morning during the week and between 8:00 a.m. on Sundays and holidays and 8:00 a.m. the following day.
Accessory Provisions Development Requirements Administrative Departures
Parking Location Off-street parking shall be located at least 20 feet behind the RBL. Parking may be permitted nearer to the RBL where no other location or parking arrangement is possible provided that the location of parking ensures compatibility with surrounding building lines and the pedestrian environment of the site and area. Appropriate screening shall be required.
No parking shall be permitted forward of the RBL.
Number The number of off-street parking spaces provided shall not exceed Standard Requirement for uses on the parcel. Fewer parking spaces may be approved, provided a parking analysis submitted by the owner is approved demonstrating that the spaces planned will be sufficient.
Additional parking spaces may be approved, based on documented evidence provided by the applicant demonstrating that the parking will be required to accommodate the use on a typical day.
On-street parking spaces adjacent to the parcel shall be included in calculating the number of parking spaces required. Storefronts split by multiple spaces shall be counted for the building frontage occupying at least fifty percent (50%) of the length of the space in front of the storefronts. Each space may only be counted one time. If the owners are in dispute, the Zoning Administrator shall make a determination as to which space will be counted toward a specific use, giving due consideration to the use already established.
Except for Residential uses, off-street parking requirement may be met in a public or private shared off-street parking lot located within 300 ft. of the building/structure served.
Parking requirements shall not apply to that portion of restaurant seating which is outdoors and adjacent to the street and other uses generally considered as accessory to other principal uses.
Residential uses may utilize public parking spaces provided that a City sponsored parking or permit program allows this use.
Except for residential uses, the minimum parking space requirements shall apply only to new structures built after the effective date of this Ordinance and to areas rezoned to Downtown Main after the effective date of this Ordinance.
UseStandard Requirements
Residential1.5 spaces per dwelling unit except senior housing, which shall provide 1 space per dwelling unitResidential uses shall provide reserved parking spaces or designated parking areas for each dwelling
Retail Sales3 spaces per 1,000 sq. ft. of UFA
Personal Service1 space per 500 sq. ft. of UFA
Office3 spaces per 1,000 sq. ft. of UFA
Utility1 space per use
Entertainment & Recreation1 space per 3 persons by occupancy
Government & Institutional1 space per 3 persons by seating capacity in the largest assembly area; if no assembly area is provided, 1 space per 1,000 sq. ft. of UFA
Parking should be located within 100 ft. of the building in which the dwelling is located except upper level residential may use public parking lots subject to the requirements established by the City of Fremont for upper level residential; however, the Zoning Administrator may approve a greater distance provided that pedestrian ways are provided.
Special provisions Parking lots with more than 50 spaces shall provide one bicycle parking space for each 50 automobile parking spaces, with a minimum of 6 bicycle spaces.
Accessory Provisions Development Requirements Administrative Departures
Sidewalks Sidewalks A minimum combined sidewalk and parkway dimension of 12 ft. shall be provided for the width of the lot. Space for bike racks, civic art, or other similar uses/activities may be permitted, provided the minimum sidewalk clear area is met.
Outdoor Temporary Display Areas Outdoor temporary display areas are permitted, limited to the area within 3 ft. of the façade of the building to which it is accessory and shall not extend into adjoining sites. If located at the rear or side yard, it shall be contained within the same lot. A minimum of 5 ft. of sidewalk along the curb and leading to the entrance to the establishment shall be maintained so that pedestrian circulation and access to the building entrance is not impaired. Alternate locations may be approved where pedestrian circulation or entrances to buildings are not impaired.
Landscaping/Screening Street Trees One 2-1/2 inch caliper street tree shall be provided and located at not less than 30 foot intervals of street frontage. Spacing shall comply with Chapter 18 of the City Code of Ordinances. Spacing may be varied by the Zoning Administrator for individual site conditions.
Parking Areas In order to enclose the portion of the parking exposed to view of public streets, parking lots visible from a public street, walkways or adjacent Residential Districts or uses shall be screened by a decorative masonry wall not less than 3 ft. and no greater than 5 ft. high, constructed at the RBL of the lot. However, screening must be broken up at intervals no greater than 50 ft. to allow pedestrian access. Landscaping of the same height (at planting) may be used if it screens the parking area with at least seventy-five percent (75%) opacity.
Parking lots exceeding 50 spaces shall provide interior landscaping, dispersed evenly throughout the parking lot in order to break up large expanses of pavement and assist with vehicular and pedestrian flow. At least one canopy tree shall be provided per 12 parking spaces provided. Location and design of interior landscaping shall be approved by the Joint Planning Commission if Site Plan Review is required.
Accessory Provisions Development Requirements Administrative Departures
Other Trash Enclosures and Other Outdoor Equipment Exterior trash disposal areas/equipment shall be enclosed by brick, decorative concrete, or a material that matches the material of the main building. The enclosure shall be a minimum of 6 ft. high, with 3 sides with a gate on the fourth side. Outdoor mechanical equipment shall be similarly screened, provided that the enclosure need be only to as high as necessary to fully screen the equipment. Trash enclosures used in common by multiple users are permitted. Group enclosures that span the width of one building may be constructed of a uniform material throughout, provided that it is complimentary to the adjoining buildings.

See Chapter 3 “General Provisions” for General Requirements.
Lighting, if installed, shall be pedestrian- style lighting along all sidewalks, within parking areas, and along other pedestrian ways.
For pole lighting within parking areas, light fixtures shall not exceed a height of 20 ft. Higher fixtures not exceeding 30 ft. may be permitted for pole lighting if the fixture is located at least 200 ft. from any adjacent Residential District or use property line.
Building, wall and pole exterior lighting fixtures shall be directed downward in order to reduce glare onto adjacent properties and streets. Any fixtures or structures used in relation to lighting shall be architecturally compatible with the remainder of the structure.
All outdoor lighting used to light the general area of a specific site shall be shielded to reduce glare and shall be arranged to reflect lights away from all adjacent Residential Districts or uses. Greater intensities may be allowed where additional security to prevent vandalism or to protect pedestrians or drivers may be needed. A lighting plan shall be submitted as part of a request for greater lighting. In no case shall illumination exceed 10 foot candles.
Light shall not exceed more than 0.5 foot candles at a residential property line. Light shall not exceed more than 1.5 foot candles at a non-residential property line. The maximum intensity of lighting internal to the site shall be 10 foot candles.
Accessory Buildings Not permitted Public art is encouraged and may be located in appropriate areas without regard to setbacks, RBLs, etc., provided that clear vision at corners is maintained.
Public Art Public art is encouraged and may be located in appropriate areas without regard to setbacks, RBLs, etc., provided that clear vision at corners is maintained. Sponsorship signs on a decorative town clock or similar community art piece are permitted, provided that the area of such signs do not exceed 15 sq. ft.
Variances and Deviations; Accessory Provisions Variations: Signs All sign types: number permitted, height and maximum area
Suspended awning signs: minimum clearance above the sidewalk
Variations: Parking Location
Minimum number of parking spaces, except administrative departures
Variations: Access Management All requirements, other than administrative departures
Variations: Sidewalks Minimum sidewalk and parkway dimension
Variations: Landscaping/Screening Dimensions of landscaping/screening (height, number, separation, etc.) except administrative departures
Parking area requirements
Variations: Lighting All requirements, except lighting style and administrative departures
Deviations: All others