The City of Fremont is one of the San Francisco Bay’s hidden gems. It’s bustling with life and growing numbers of properties, which also means more area is being landscaped than ever.
Property owners of all kinds are tasked with keeping up with the city’s rules and regulations. Below, we’ll look at what you need to know to design a landscape that ticks all the right boxes.
- Fremont requires that all landscape projects (for properties with a certain lot width or dimensions) start with a landscape plan. The plan must list all relevant details that help the city understand what will be in the landscape and why.
- The maximum number of plants, trees, hardscape areas, and other features depends on the size and nature of your project. Work with professional landscape service providers to determine your property’s needs.
- Conformance with these requirements is necessary for landscape plan approval. Construction can’t begin without approval and the issuance of necessary building permits.
In Fremont, local Landscape Development Requirements and Policies (LDRP) created by the city council outline landscaping requirements residential and commercial property owners need to follow. These policies are designed for use by a landscape architect, a professional tasked with preparing and facilitating construction.
The architect is responsible for completing appropriate documents and permit requests. Most important are a Site Plan and Architectural Review, which the City of Fremont uses to verify that all rules are followed before work begins. In some cases, you may also need to work with a city planner, arborist, or civil engineer to receive approval.
- An official Landscape Architect must prepare landscape plans and calculations. Someone with a valid State of California Landscape Architect’s license must stamp them electronically or otherwise.
The LDRP features several sections focused on different aspects of landscape design. It’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the complete list of standards as you create a landscape plan.
Each set of rules falls under the area’s “Bay-Friendly Landscape” approach to design and maintenance. This approach is all about reducing waste, conserving water, and achieving harmony between landscapes and natural conditions.
Specific landscaping requirements can vary based on the size of the property, its purpose, and who owns it. Overall, most requirements focus on achieving Bay-Friendly Landscape goals: to protect the natural environment, limit water use, and avoid excess waste. Below is a brief look at some of the most important rules to consider.
- All projects require the submission of a Landscape Documentation Package, which displays the applicant’s name and address. It also includes a turf and plant material breakdown, total landscape area (in square feet), project type, water supply type, structures (patios, parking lots, dwelling units, etc.), and contact information.
- Property owners must incorporate compost to a depth of six inches into the landscaped area at a rate of at least four cubic yards per 1,000 square feet (unless a soil test indicates this isn’t necessary).
- 75% of the plant area in residential areas must be covered with native and drought-resistant plant life requiring occasional, little or no summer water. For non-residential areas, this number jumps up to 100%.
- A minimum three-inch layer of mulch must be applied to all exposed soil surfaces aside from turf areas, creeping or rooting groundcovers, or seeding application sites.
- All landscape designs must minimize hardscape. The goal of this rule is to reduce heat gain and stormwater runoff.
- Tree planters shall be as big as possible to ensure trees grow effectively. The minimum planter size for trees is dimensions of six feet in any direction and no less than 48 square feet of soil surface area.
- All landscape project work that crosses the city’s right-of-way line or city-owned easements must comply with the same standards that city-owned properties are held to.
Landscape Water Management
Fremont and nearby cities like San Jose refer to California’s Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (WELO) for water management regulations. This ordinance applies to new construction projects with a total landscape area of 500 square feet or more and rehabilitated projects with an area of 2,500 square feet or more.
WELO is a large part of why the landscape planning and approval process is so rigorous; it’s up to the City of Fremont to enforce its rules, including the following requirements.
- Automatic irrigation controllers are required. They must use evapotranspiration or soil moisture sensor data and a rain sensor to measure hydration needs. All irrigation controllers must be high-quality enough to retain programming data should the primary power source be interrupted.
- Pressure regulators must be installed on each irrigation system. Manual shut-off valves are also required and must be as close as possible to the water supply.
- Areas less than ten feet wide in any direction must be irrigated using subsurface irrigation or other tactics that don’t produce runoff or overspray.
- Non-residential projects with 1,000 square feet or more of landscape area require a private submeter(s) to measure landscape water use.
Failing to meet any requirements outlined by the City of Fremont is technically prohibited. However, there are some explicitly outlined things to avoid as you create your dream landscape. These hiccups can keep your landscape plan from being approved.
Unfortunately, you can’t just plant whatever you want in your back or front yard — if you plan to use turf or add new plants to the mix, you’ll have to steer clear of these prohibitions.
- Turf may not make up more than 25% of landscaped areas for residential properties.
- Turf is prohibited altogether in non-residential areas.
- Turf is also prohibited in parking areas less than 10 feet wide unless these parkways are adjacent to a parking strip and used to enter or exit vehicles.
- No irrigation system that creates overspray or runoff may be used for turf maintenance.
- Planting invasive plant species of any kind is also prohibited.
Landscape Water Management
In general, unrestricted water use can pose a problem in Fremont. Most of the notes to avoid come directly from WELO. These water management prohibitions outline specific choices to avoid.
- Spray irrigation is prohibited in areas less than 10 feet wide.
- No irrigation run-off is allowed. Each irrigation system must be designed for zero run-off onto paved surfaces. The exception is if the paved surface in question drains to another landscaped area, such as a walkway with landscaping on each side.
There aren’t many clear exemptions to these regulations; you’ll likely need to speak to city officials directly if your circumstances warrant an exception to the rules.
However, it is true that residential properties are held to different standards than city-owned properties when it comes to things like frontage, land use, tree planting, and more. Likewise, if the lot area in question falls below 500 square feet, you’ll likely be exempt from most of the rules applied to larger landscapes.
Wildfires are a massive health and safety concern for Californians. Fremont responds to this risk by implementing basic fire safety rules in its landscaping requirements.
- A wetband is required for projects in hillside fire areas adjacent to open space or undeveloped land.
- This wetband must include a labeled, dimensioned, 30-foot wide irrigated or paved protection zone that sits between structures and any open space near the rear of the property line.
- These areas must contain fire-resistant groundcover or grass. However, large understory shrubs and high-canopy trees closer than 10 feet together are not allowed.
- Hardscape surfaces and swimming pools are allowed in the wetband area.
Aside from minimizing waste that comes from the landscape, property owners are expected to manage their plant debris appropriately. County law prohibits the disposal of plant debris in local landfills. Landscape professionals are required to separate all plant debris from other waste. Debris may be used for composting purposes or disposed of separately.
Fremont is among the best-landscaped cities in the U.S. thanks to landscaping requirements like these. While it may take effort, complying with these rules is well worth protecting the area’s natural beauty. When in doubt, it’s always best to consult a professional who understands local regulations. Good luck, and happy landscape designing!