Tom Butt for Richmond City Council The Tom Butt E-Forum About Tom Butt Platform Endorsements of Richmond Councilmember Tom Butt Accomplishments Contribute to Tom Butt for Richmond City Council Contact Tom Butt Tom Butt Archives
  E-Mail Forum
  One Year Later - A Review of Enforcement of Richmond Residential Fence Zoning Requirements
January 23, 2005



After months of rancor, Richmond’s revised ordinance regulating residential fences was passed by the City Council on December 16, 2003 (first reading) and January 6, 2004 (second reading).


The ordinance set the height of front yard fences at a maximum of 4 feet, but allowed exceptions following public noticing of an application and completion of a site and Administrative Design Review by the Zoning Administrator resulting in the following findings (15.04.810.039):


  1. The proposed fence will not create or exacerbate a public safety hazard.
  2. The proposed fence is of design, materials, scale and color that are compatible and harmonious with the subject site, site improvements and other properties within the immediate vicinity.
  3. Front yard fencing that prohibits access to the home shall be equipped with a doorbell device.


It appears that applications for exceptions to the 4 foot height are being routinely granted without any apparent guidelines, documentation or findings. There are other troubling aspects to the amended fence ordinance. First, fences not conforming to the “deemed approved” provisions were to be modified or removed within 6 months, which would have been in July of 2004 (15.04 810.035.A). Second, existing non-conforming fences, even though “deemed approved” were to be registered and permitted in a process determined by the Planning Director (15.04 810.035.B).


At the passage of the ordinance, the Planning Director has neither enforced the exceptions to the “deemed approved” provisions nor initiated an effort to register non-conforming fences. Add to that a failure to develop any guidelines for evaluating applications for height exceptions or providing conventional staff reports documenting the required findings.


This is another good example of how some Richmond City staff members take a policy enacted by the City Council and then decide what parts they will and will not implement, or how they will subvert the intent of the ordinance by carrying on business as usual with the window dressing of enforcement.


See attached PDF file for full report.