San Rafael to expand animal care business zoning

Pet hospitals, groomers and other animal care centers will soon be permitted to operate in San Rafael in areas reserved for business offices to meet a growing demand for such services and to fill offices as vacancy rates are rising.

City council unanimously approved the move on Monday. The zoning text amendment to achieve this was proposed by San Rafael attorneys Peter Spoerl and Riley Hurd, who said they have a number of clients keen to bring animal care businesses to the city.

“I think it’s going to be a really good fit,” Hurd told the board.

Animal care centers, excluding outdoor kennels and dog pens, were already permitted in other commercial districts of the city, said Jayni Allsep, a contract town planner.

The new ordinance will extend that to the city’s office district, which runs along the 101 Freeway corridor and throughout the northern part of the city, Allsep said.

Companies will be held to a set of performance standards, such as providing on-site employee handbooks, carrying out sound attenuation studies and providing adequate waste management facilities. The conditional use permit to operate would require approval from the city’s zoning administrator.

Allsep said the Planning Commission approved the proposed ordinance at a meeting in June.

Cindy Machado, director of animal services at Marin Humane, said while there’s no way to count the number of pets in Marin, national trends indicate more households have them since the pandemic. struck more than two years ago.

“Marin definitely has a higher number than many other counties,” Machado said, noting that the county averages about 17,000 registered dogs per year.

While the county has about 40 veterinary clinics, Machado said “nationally, there is a huge shortage of veterinarians and staff that has created a backlog in the service capabilities of many hospitals in Marin and outside the county. county”.

“It seems like a great decision on the part of the city,” Machado said. “It reflects the perspective on how the pets involved in our lives are more like family members than just animals.”

Across Marin County, commercial office vacancy rates have fallen from 8.7% in 2015 to 17.1% today, according to market research by Cushman and Wakefield, a commercial real estate firm. .

San Rafael is part of this trend, registering an office vacancy rate of 11.6% in 2015 and 17.3% today.

By comparison, the office space vacancy rate has been more stable in Sonoma County, rising from 12.8% in 2015 to 11.9% today, according to the report.

“Marin owners need to rethink how they use existing office space,” Hurd said after the meeting. “While housing appears to be the predominant development for these sites, there are fortunately other uses that are also in high demand, such as veterinary services.”

Vice Mayor Rachel Kertz said the ordinance provides additional opportunities to expand commercial uses.

“We must continue to update our ordinances to also meet the needs of our business community,” Kertz said.

Benjamin M. Yerger