How High Can I Build My Fence – CA Fence Law 2019

fence and retaining wall regulations

LEGAL DISCLAIMER:

The legal information provided in the article is, at best, of a general nature and cannot substitute for the advice  of a licensed professional, i.e., by a competent authority with specialized knowledge who can apply it to the particular circumstances of your case. Please contact a local bar association, law society or similar association of jurists in your legal jurisdiction to obtain a referral to a competent legal professional if you do not have other means of contacting an attorney-at-law.  RC Fences can take no responsibility for the results or consequences of any attempt to use or adopt any of the information or disinformation presented in this article.

How Tall Can I Build My Fence? Codes, Rules and Regulations Regarding Fences in your City

Having gotten the legal disclaimer out of the way, what we are going to explain and detail in this article is the various codes, rules, and restrictions each city has in our service area.  This will include about 12 various cities surrounding Concord, CA. in the East Bay Area.

For those of you planning on building a new fence or looking to hire a company who specializes in fences such as RC Fences and Decks, you have probably ran into issues regarding fence height restrictions and set back rules and what they mean.

super tall privacy fence
When is a Fence to Tall?

It seems more often than not these days neighbors are wanting to build their fences higher and higher as to keep there nosy neighbor at bay and gain more privacy and/or provide more security.  Whatever the reason, if you are presented with the question, “How high can I build my fence” then it is a must you read on!  Height restrictions are just a small part of the laws regarding fences in California and elsewhere, although we will solely concentrate on the East Bay Area in CA for this article!

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors…Yet They Might be Illegal!

Robert Frost once famously said, “Good fences make good neighbors” and while issues regarding fences may seem petty they can have a major impact on property rights as well as the ability to greatly affect property values, which most would agree is incredibly important.

While this article outlines the actual laws regarding fences in your city, if you need more information regarding the laws surrounding which neighbor is monetarily liable, then jump on over to our post regarding CA’s Good Neighbor Law, where we explain in detail how both neighbors are now responsible to split the costs of a new fence or repairs 50/50!

Concord, CA. Fences and Wall Regulations

Since RC Fences and Decks is based out of Concord, CA. and it is the city where we do 50% of our work, we figured we would explain Concord’s rules regarding fences first.

All the information for Concord can be found in the Concord Municipal Code, Division IV. Development Standards Chapter 18.150
GENERAL DEVELOPMENT STANDARDS

Within the Concord Municipal Code lies 18.150.040 which is the section Titled, “Fences and Walls.”

Why are There Municipal Codes Regulating Fences

Well, according to the Concord municipal code, it states it’s purpose is that it,

“establishes standards to encourage variety and flexibility in the design, development, and maintenance of fences and walls and to permit increased use of yard areas, as well as to establish the maximum heights of such fences and walls for maintaining clear sight distances.”

Fence Height Limits and Exceptions in Concord, CA.

1. Fencing and walls located within the sight visibility triangle along a street intersection or driveway shall comply with CDC 18.150.170, Traffic visibility at intersections and driveways.

2. Fences and walls located along a front property line and/or within a required front setback shall not exceed a height of three feet.

3. On properties where residential uses are allowed, fences and walls shall not exceed a maximum height of six feet, except under the following circumstances:

a. Fences within required side or rear yard setbacks may be increased in height to seven feet if the top one foot is constructed of lattice (see Figure 18.150.040(A)), provided the fence complies with all other requirements of this section, including fence material limitations in subsection (E) of this section (Prohibited Fences).

How High Can I Build My Fence - CA Fence Law 2019

FIGURE 18.150.040(A) – ADDITIONAL FENCE HEIGHT ALLOWED

b. Fences or walls within required side and rear yard setbacks may be increased in height to eight feet, subject to approval of a minor exception (Chapter 18.425 CDC, Minor Exceptions).

c. Fences or walls that meet the setback requirements for the primary structure may be increased in height up to eight feet.

4. On properties where nonresidential uses or mixed uses are allowed, fences and walls in the side and rear yards shall not exceed a maximum height of eight feet.

5. Retaining walls shall not exceed a height of four feet. An embankment to be retained that is over four feet in height shall be benched so that no individual retaining wall exceeds a height of four feet above finished grade, and each bench has a minimum horizontal distance of two feet between each wall (see Figure 18.150.040(B)). An exception may be granted for a taller wall if necessary due to slope and/or soils, based on a geotechnical report from a licensed civil or geotechnical engineer, and approved by the city engineer.

How High Can I Build My Fence - CA Fence Law 2019

FIGURE 18.150.040(B) – RETAINING WALL DESIGN

*See CDC 18.150.040(C)(5), fences and walls, and 18.300.070(E)(1), Retaining Walls.

6. See CDC 18.150.180, Transitional requirements, for additional fencing and wall requirements between properties.

D. Measurement of Fence and Wall Height.

1. Fence and wall height shall be measured as the vertical distance between the finished grade at the base of the fence or wall to the top edge of the structure. The grade shall not be modified in order to increase fence height.

2. Where the elevation of the finished grade within six feet of the base of the fence differs from one side of the fence to the other, as when a fence is placed at the top of a slope or on a retaining wall, the height shall be measured from the side with the lowest natural grade.

3. Combination fence/retaining walls shall be measured as the total height of both structures, from the base of the wall at the finished grade on the lowest side to the top edge of fence material. When a fence is placed a minimum horizontal distance of 24 inches away from a retaining wall, the height of each structure shall be measured separately.

E. Prohibited Fences. The following types of fences or fencing material are prohibited unless specifically approved by the planning division for animal control, special security needs, or as required by city, state, or federal law or regulation:

1. Barbed wire, razor, or concertina wire;

2. Electrified fence;

3. Chain link fencing when visible from public areas, public rights-of-way, and/or private roadways; or

4. Temporary fencing such as plastic or wire mesh fencing, barricades, and panel-system fences, except for construction sites, city-sponsored events, and temporary uses approved under CDC 18.200.200, Temporary uses and structures. [Ord. 17-5 § 2 (Exh. C); Ord. 13-5; Ord. 12-4. DC 2012 § 122-297].

Summary of Regulations on Fences and Retaining Walls in Concord, CA.

To summarize the legal jargon above and drastically simplify it, here are the few regulations every homeowner in Concord, CA. should be aware of:

  • Fences in the front yard shall not exceed 3′ high, EVER!
  • Fences in the backyard shall not exceed 6′ tall, except as long as they are within the required set back from the street, the height can be increased to 7′ tall as long as the top 1′ is constructed of lattice.
  • If homeowner wishes to build there fence even taller, 8′ in height is allowed as long as they receive approval of a minor exception through the city office.
  • On commercial properties or mixed commercial and residential fences may never exceed 8′ tall.
  • Retaining walls shall not exceed 4′ in height, and if the hill is higher than that they must be tiered.

How Measuring Must Be Done

Measurements are the vertical distance from finished grade to top of fence or retaining wall structure.

If the elevation of the finished grade differs within 6′ of fence on either side (i.e. if your neighbor is uphill/ or downhill from you) than the measurement must be taken from side with lowest natural grade.

Combination retaining walls and fences shall be measured as one structure unless they are at least 24″ away from each other.

Prohibited Fences

Barbed and razor wire, electrified fence, chain link fencing when visible from public or private areas, along with temporary plastic fencing are all prohibited in Concord!

So there you have it, a basic summary of all the rules and regulations a homeowner in Concord, CA. must know before building a fence or retaining  wall.  Since we have 19 other cities we service, in which we are going to summarize there regulations on a city by city basis, we have decided to place the information of the individual city pages under the “Locations Served” menu option!

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