The City of Redwood
City (City) issues permits for family day care homes as authorized by the
California Health & Safety Code. The Health and Safety Code limits restrictions
imposed by local government on the use of single-family residences for family
day care homes.
There are two categories of family day care homes: 1) small homes for 6
or fewer children and 2) large homes for 7 to 14 children, including children
under the age of 10 who reside at the home. Permits for small family day
care homes are automatically issued. Under the Health and Safety Code, local
jurisdictions have three options for qualifying a residence as a large family
day care home:
The Grand Jury received a complaint regarding the correctness and fairness
of the City’s procedures in considering applications for large family
day care homes. It reviewed documents on Redwood City’s website, two
versions of the ordinance, Council meeting minutes, and other city documentation
of its proceedings. The Grand Jury interviewed affected neighbors and city
officials who participated in, or were present at, the relevant proceedings.
- Automatic approval upon the home’s owner meeting certain minimum requirements
- Issuance of a non-discretionary permit upon the home’s owner complying
with health, safety and fire regulations determined under state standards
- Issuance of a use permit through a process that includes:
- Notice to neighboring property owners of intended action
- Authorization by a zoning administrator
- Right to a hearing before local officials
- Right to appeal by either the permit applicant or other affected
person, e.g., a neighbor or neighbors.
1991, the Redwood City Council adopted an ordinance, using option 2, to
provide non-discretionary permits for the approval of large family day care
homes. In 1998, the City Council amended the ordinance to include some steps
in the option 3 process.
In 2002, there was a contested application to establish a large family day
care home on a cul-de-sac in a residential area. In spite of the neighbors’
objections at the hearing, the Redwood City Zoning Administrator issued
The neighbors appealed and were granted a hearing before the City Council.
While the neighbors were allowed to speak at the City Council meeting, the
City Council refused to consider their appeal based on the City Attorney’s
advice that the amended ordinance provided for issuance of a non-discretionary
permit. The City Attorney stated both at the meeting and in a subsequent
opinion, that the current ordinance violated state law. The City Attorney
based his opinion upon his review of the administrative record of the 1998
ordinance amendment, and stated that it was clear the non-discretionary
permit was the alternative chosen and duly adopted by the City Council.
As option 2 makes no provision for notice to neighbors or an appeal to the
Council, the City’s current ordinance violates state law by requiring
such notice and allowing an appeal.
At the meeting a Council Member confirmed that an incorrect version of the
amended ordinance had been certified as adopted by the Council, on its face
it allows a hearing and an appeal. The neighbors complained of being denied
the right to have their appeal considered.
The City Council, acting in reliance upon the opinion of the City Attorney
that it could not consider the appeal, caused confusion because:
To date, the City has not amended, or proposed any amendment to, an ordinance
that has been determined by the City Attorney to violate state law.
- It admitted that it adopted, and the City Clerk published, the wrong
version of the amended large family day care ordinance
- The ordinance that was supposedly approved specifically permitted
a hearing before the Zoning Administrator, while the published version
omitted that requirement, and both versions of the ordinance permitted
an appeal to the City Council
- The information on the City’s website states that a permit for a large
family day care home is non-discretionary and can be obtained from the
City Planning Division, which is contrary to both versions of the ordnance.