Frequently asked questions about the Community Plan and the North Fair Oaks Rezoning.

What is North Fair Oaks?

North Fair Oaks is a portion of unincorporated San Mateo County, within the boundaries shown on this map. While it is adjacent to Redwood City, Menlo Park, and Atherton, it is not a part of any of these jurisdictions. It is a part of the unincorporated County, governed by County laws and codes.

However, mailing addresses in North Fair Oaks will reflect one of the adjacent jurisdictions, typically Redwood City or Menlo Park, and some services in some parts of North Fair Oaks, including Fire Protection and Water Service, are provided by Redwood City or Menlo Park.

What is the North Fair Oaks Community Plan?

The North Fair Oaks Community Plan is part of the County General Plan, focused specifically on North Fair Oaks. Based on input from residents, it describes a vision and goals for future development in North Fair Oaks (NFO), with the intent of meeting the expressed needs of NFO residents. In addition to regulations around what may be built in specific areas of North Fair Oaks, the Plan includes a broad range of policies related to health, infrastructure, transportation, housing, economic development, and other topics. The Plan was created between 2009 and 2011, through an extensive community process including public workshops, stakeholder meetings, and hearings at the NFO Community Council, Planning Commission, and Board of Supervisors.

How was the North Fair Oaks Community Plan created?

The Plan was created between 2009 and 2011, through an extensive community process. Outreach and input for the Community Plan included:

  • Three community-wide workshops (with bilingual translation)
  • Multiple smaller stakeholder meetings, including meetings with business owners, neighborhood associations, and other involved residents (with bilingual translation as needed)
  • Direct interviews with residents, business owners, and other groups
  • Youth training exercises related to the Plan, held by the North Fair Oaks Youth Initiative.
  • Information and comment sessions specifically related to the North Fair Oaks Community Plan EIR (with bilingual translation)
  • Hearings at the North Fair Oaks Community Council (with associated noticing; with bilingual translation as needed)
  • Multiple meetings at the County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors (with associated noticing; with bilingual translation as needed)
What kind of public noticing was done for the Community Plan? Why haven’t I heard about the Plan?

Noticing for the various outreach and input opportunities included the following methods:

  • Flyers posted in the windows of local businesses on Middlefield Road and El Camino Real
  • Flyers posted in the North Fair Oaks Library, Redwood City Library, Menlo Park Library, North Fair Oaks Community Center, HSA Building, Fair Oaks Health Clinic, Sheriff’s substation, and Garfield and Fair Oaks schools
  • Flyers sent home with every student at Fair Oaks and Garfield Schools, on multiple occasions
  • Announcements made at North Fair Oaks Council meetings, County Planning Commission meetings, neighborhood association meetings, and other local events
  • Radio notices on local Spanish-language radio
  • An informational booth exclusively dedicated to the North Fair Oaks Community Plan at the North Fair Oaks Festival, in both 2009 and 2010
  • Notices in local papers, including the San Mateo County Times
  • Two separate community-wide notices mailed directly to every property owner in North Fair Oaks, as listed in the San Mateo County Assessor-Recorder’s database
  • Notices distributed via email to mailing lists of interested parties, and redistributed by local partners to larger email lists not generated or maintained by the County
  • No noticing or outreach effort can reach every concerned or interested participant. However, the outreach effort attempted to cover enough methods of distributing information in enough diverse formats and venues that most residents would be likely to receive the information in one or more forms that were easily noticeable, clearly understandable, and provided substantive information on how to engage in the Plan process. Regardless of these attempts, there were very likely residents who did not receive notice, did not receive notice in a fashion that was useful to them, or did not have an opportunity to participate. The County is constantly attempting to learn from and address any gaps in noticing and publicity, so that the outreach and input process is more robust.
What is the NFO Plan Environmental Impact Report, or EIR?

The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the North Fair Oaks Community Plan assesses the potential impacts of the levels and types of development allowed by the changes incorporated in the Plan. As required by the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA,” which is a state law), this assessment includes:

  • The potential environmental impacts that might stem directly from the changes incorporated in the Plan
  • The cumulative environmental impacts of the changes incorporated in the Plan, in combination with other ongoing, known, and/or foreseeable projects in North Fair Oaks and surrounding areas, including Menlo Park, Atherton, and Redwood City
  • The form of the EIR, the topics covered, and the nature of the analysis, and the types of measures required to address environmental concerns are regulated by State Law, and are not optional. The EIR for the North Fair Oaks Community Plan was completed, and certified by the Board of Supervisors, in 2011. The Draft and Final EIR can be found on the Community Plan website.
Does the EIR take recent development patterns into account? Have conditions changed so much that it needs to be redone?

The EIR for the Community Plan already assesses the potential cumulative impacts of multiple projects, including the Redwood City Downtown Plan and Redwood City General Plan update, the Menlo Park Downtown Plan, and the Stanford in Redwood City project, among others. In the case of later projects that were unforeseen during the EIR process, those later projects themselves must independently assess the cumulative impacts of the projects, in combination with the impacts of the NFO Plan, and must provide mitigation for those impacts. For the most part, however, the projects and development that have occurred after creation of the Plan were known and anticipated when the EIR was completed.

Regarding the issue of whether the Plan EIR should be revisited specifically due to new development in Redwood City’s jurisdiction, the Plan EIR’s assessment of cumulative impacts includes Redwood City’s growth and development potential based on the City’s adopted Downtown Specific Plan and adopted General Plan. The EIR also assesses the potential impacts of projects that have not yet, and may never come to fruition, such as the California High Speed Rail project and the Dumbarton Rail Line project.

Where can I find out more about what zoning standards mean?

An explanation of zoning terminology can be found on the Rezoning page.

How does the Community Plan relate to the proposed rezoning?

The Community Plan establishes very basic rules controlling the type and size of buildings and kinds of uses that may be created on properties in North Fair Oaks. Zoning takes these basic rules and refines them into very specific regulations that cover every aspect of how properties may be developed and used. The Community Plan and the zoning work together to establish how development in parts of NFO may occur.

What areas are being rezoned?

There are four areas to be rezoned, as shown in this map. The rezoning is proceeding in the following phases:

  • Phase 1: Middlefield Road between 1st Avenue and 8th Avenue (completed and adopted in 2016)
  • Phase 2a: Eastern side of El Camino Real (completed and adopted in 2017)
  • Phase 2b: The crossing of the Caltrain and Dumbarton Rail tracks (in process – to be completed in 2019)
  • Phase 3: Industrial areas along Edison, around Spring St. and Bay Rd. (in process – to be completed in 2019)
How were the rezoning areas selected? Why these areas?

During the creation of the North Fair Oaks Community Plan, NFO residents were asked to identify their needs, goals, and vision for future development of North Fair Oaks. This included identifying types of development residents would like to see, and the areas in which residents would like to see those changes. Existing residential areas were specifically excluded from rezoning, based on the community’s direction. The areas selected for rezoning are primarily commercial and industrial areas that many residents feel would benefit from redevelopment, and that have the capacity to sustain a greater mix and intensity of uses, including new housing and a greater mix of commercial uses and services.

Will the rezoning cause new development and new construction? Is the County planning to build new buildings in the rezoning area?

NO. Zoning only establishes the rules for future development. Zoning does not change any property ownership, does not cause any businesses to close, leave, or change, and does not force any residents to take any action whatsoever. Zoning only applies when new businesses open or new buildings are built.

Will the rezoning force property owners or residents to leave, or force businesses to close?

NO. Zoning only establishes the rules for future development. Zoning does not change any property ownership, does not cause any businesses to close, leave, or change, and does not force any residents to take any action whatsoever. Zoning only applies when new businesses open or new buildings are built.

Is there a plan to rezone or otherwise change any areas outside of those specifically shown on the rezoning maps?

NO. The only areas of North Fair Oaks designated for zoning changes are those shown specifically on the maps.

How can the public give input on the rezoning? Who makes the final decision?

The public process for the rezoning includes:

  • Community information and outreach meetings
  • Hearings at the North Fair Oaks Community Council
  • Planning Commission hearings
  • Board of Supervisors hearings

Each of these stages in the rezoning process is public, and provides an opportunity for community input on the rezoning, and on other phases of Community Plan implementation.

Ultimately, the County Board of Supervisors will review and approve any changes to the zoning, at a public hearing of the Board.

Are developers involved in or driving the decision-making around the proposed rezoning?

NO. While the County Planning and Building Department gathers input from a broad range of stakeholders, including experts in the development and real estate community, the proposed rezonings are a direct implementation of the North Fair Oaks Community Plan, which was adopted in 2011. The proposed zoning changes are entirely consistent with the direction selected by the community and Board of Supervisors through the adopted Plan.

Is the County planning to purchase or otherwise acquire private property in the rezoning area or adjacent areas to create new road connections, public spaces, or other uses?

NO, but also MAYBE, depending on the nature and intent of the purchase. The County has no plans to purchase any private property for road connections, connections between neighborhoods, or creation of any new buildings. However, the County will potentially consider purchasing vacant or abandoned properties for new parks and/or parking lots, if such properties become available and are appropriate for such uses. No such properties are currently identified, although the County recently purchased property for the creation of a public parking lot on Middlefield Road.

Have decisions around the rezoning been made? What is the purpose of the community meetings?

The North Fair Oaks Community Plan established many of the basic rules around what can be built on properties in the rezoning areas. However, there are many nuances of development regulations that are not determined by the Plan. The purpose of the community meetings is to help determine these nuances, in much more detail than the regulations in the Community Plan.

Are the new zoning standards/parking standards/other standards being created from scratch? What is the basis of the new standards?

The standards incorporated in the proposed zoning are in many cases refinements of standards that already exist in the North Fair Oaks Community Plan; the zoning standards are based on the regulations in the Community Plan. The standards in the Plan are crafted to ensure that the impacts of development are addressed, and that parking and other standards are appropriate to the levels of development contemplated.

My area is impacted by parking shortages; will rezoning or new development create greater parking problems?

The County is committed to ensuring that new development does not worsen parking in the area; in some cases, new development can improve parking conditions. The County will pursue the following strategies to address potential parking impacts:

  • All new development in the rezoning areas will be required to “park itself.” In other words, any new development will be required to have sufficient parking for all residences and businesses on the property. This means that, in many cases, more parking will be provided than currently exists. These parking standards will be incorporated in the new zoning.
  • The County is increasing enforcement of commercial vehicle parking in residential areas, to limit commercial vehicles using residential spaces.
  • The County is committed to exploring a Residential Parking Permit program in residential areas adjacent to the rezoning areas, if area residents are interested and committed to such a program. A residential parking permit program limits long-term parking to those who live in the area (parking permit-holders), while allowing only short term parking for any non-residents.

While the rezoning alone cannot fix existing parking problems in residential areas, the combination of required parking spaces, increased enforcement, and new parking programs can help ensure that parking problems are not increased by any new development allowed by the rezoning.

How does this work connect with other efforts in NFO, such as the Middlefield Road Redesign, Waverly Place project, and others?

The proposed rezoning is a separate effort from the Middlefield Road redevelopment, and a separate project from Waverly Place. Although these projects are all in North Fair Oaks, they are not connected, and are managed separately, reviewed by different departments within the County, and are not contingent on each other. Importantly: because you have attended or joined a mailing/notice list for one of these projects, you will not automatically be added to any other notice list. You must sign up for notices from the various projects separately.

How do I find out about public meetings?

Information related to past and future meetings can be found our Public Outreach & Meetings page.

What is the rezoning along Middlefield Road between 1st and 8th Avenues?

The rezoning replaces the previous C-1/NFO/S-1/DR zoning along Middlefield Road between 1st and 8th Avenues with the new Neighborhood Mixed Use (NMU) Zoning designation, which implements and is consistent with the land use categories adopted in the North Fair Oaks Community Plan. Design review will continue to be required for most new commercial development, but the Design Review regulations applicable to this portion of Middlefield Road were modified slightly to ensure consistency with the Community Plan.

What is the purpose of this rezoning?

The Community Plan does not call for a dramatic change in the character of this stretch of Middlefield Road, but seeks to enhance the area’s appeal as a pedestrian-friendly shopping area, featuring small to medium scale shops and services, restaurants, and offices catering to the local neighborhood. To increase housing opportunities in the community, the Community Plan also aims to facilitate the development of additional residential uses in mixed-use developments. The standards included in the new NMU Zoning are consistent with the standards incorporated in the Community Plan and with the community’s expressed preferences for Middlefield Road, and are intended to help maintain and enhance Middlefield Road’s character while increasing the safety and aesthetics of the street for all users, including pedestrians and bicyclists. Because the vision for this portion of Middlefield Road is not dramatically different from the existing use pattern or the existing zoning, the new zoning regulations incorporate the majority of the prior zoning regulations, with only relatively minor changes.

What is the Mixed-Use Rezoning on El Camino Real and 5th Avenue?

The rezoning is a change in the rules regarding development and use of properties currently zoned for commercial uses, in a specifically designated portion of North Fair Oaks along El Camino Real and both sides of 5th Avenue. The rezoning does not change the rules for any residential properties in the area. The rezoning is an implementation of the land use policies contained in the North Fair Oaks Community Plan, adopted by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in 2011. The rezoning would allow greater diversity and intensity of uses in these areas, with mixed-use residential and commercial development ranging from four to five stories, depending on location.

What is the purpose of this rezoning?

The purpose of the zoning along El Camino Real and 5th Avenues is to allow some redevelopment of existing commercially zoned areas, with more attractive and appropriate development and a greater mix of residential and commercial uses, with moderately greater heights and densities, while still preserving the character and quality of life in adjacent areas. The intent of the rezoning is to provide a greater variety of neighborhood- and regionally-oriented goods and services, and new housing units.

Is 6 story development proposed in the El Camino Real rezoning area, or adjacent areas?

NO. The only area potentially designated for future 6-story development is the area immediately adjacent to the crossing of the Caltrain and Dumbarton Rail tracks, which is included in Phase 2b of the proposed rezonings.

The rezoning will allow taller buildings along El Camino Real and 5th Avenue. Will these buildings create shadows across my property? Will they block my views?

While new buildings on properties along El Camino Real and 5th Avenue would be allowed to be between one and two stories taller (depending on location) than the 3-story development previously allowed, they will be required to be set significantly back from the property lines facing any adjacent residential uses. When buildings are next to residential properties, they will be required to be set back at least 15 or 20 feet from the property line (depending on location). In addition to these setbacks, buildings must also be stepped back further at upper stories. Previously, buildings in these areas were only required to be five feet from the property line, and no upper story stepbacks were required. These greater setbacks and stepbacks (see our Rezoning page for explanations of these terms) will ensure that adjacent properties are protected from shadows, and impacts on views are minimized.

What areas are included in the Phase 2B rezoning?

Phase 2B includes the areas surrounding the crossing of the Caltrain and Dumbarton Rail tracks, centered along Middlefield Road (west of 1st Avenue) and Edison Way (west of 5th Avenue). This area is currently characterized by a mix of industrial uses, various commercial uses, residential uses, and some community facilities. It includes the Redwood Junction industrial/office park, various automobile repair facilities, storage facilities, small local stores, and a variety of other establishments.

What are the goals of the Phase 2B rezoning?

The Community Plan designates these areas as Commercial Mixed-Use with the goal of providing a mix of multi-family housing, commercial uses (e.g. general retail, restaurants, pharmacies, and others), and institutional uses (schools, childcare facilities, etc.). Some types of light industrial uses, such as warehouses, storage, industrial office, and other less intensive uses, are allowed, but only through a conditional use permit.

The Plan allows for greater heights and densities (roughly 5 stories, 80 units/acre), with an increase in height (up to 6 stories) and densities (up to 120 units/acre) within ¼-mile of anticipated transit facilities.

What areas are included in the Phase 3 rezoning?

Phase 3 encompasses the two industrial areas of North Fair Oaks: the area north of Fair Oaks Avenue and west of 2nd Avenue, and the area between Edison Way and the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks, between 5th and 12th Avenues. The majority of these areas currently consist of industrial uses, with some office and commercial uses.

What is the purpose of this rezoning?

The Community Plan designates these rezoning areas as Industrial Mixed-Use, with the goal of continuing and expanding industrial uses, while also allowing some commercial, public, and institutional uses. Within the Spring Street Industrial Mixed-Use area, the focus is on preserving existing industrial uses, while allowing limited commercial uses, mainly fronting Bay Street. For the Edison Way corridor, a mix of uses is encouraged, including industrial, commercial, and live-work residential. Commercial is a permitted use, while industrial and residential is allowed by conditional use permit.

The Plan allows for greater heights and densities (roughly 5 stories, 80 units/acre), with an increase in height (up to 6 stories) and densities (up to 120 units/acre) within ¼-mile of anticipated transit facilities.

More Information

More information on the North Fair Oaks Community Plan, the Plan EIR, the proposed rezoning, the public process and upcoming meetings, and other information are available on these websites:

If you have additional questions or comments, please contact one of the project managers:

Para preguntas en español, por favor contacte a Ofelia Guner,, (650) 363-1869.