What Berkeley’s Creek
Ordinance Does and Doesn’t Say
Here’s a quick summary of some key points about Berkeley’s Creek Ordinance. For a copy of the ordinance itself, see Section 17.08 (“Preservation and Restoration of Natural Watercourses”) of the Berkeley Municipal Code at www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/bmc/.
What it says:
(1) Berkeley’s Creek Ordinance prohibits certain types of new construction and expansion within a 30-foot “setback” distance from a creek (including a culverted creek), to protect property from damage, as well as to protect the creek and improve flood control. In particular, the ordinance prohibits the construction or expansion of roofed structures within the setback distance.
(2) The ordinance prohibits the construction of new culverts, walls, channels, etc., within the creek banks. Such “hardscaped” engineered structures cause problems with water quality, flooding, and loss of habitat, and thus they are only allowed as a last resort, and require special permitting.
What it doesn’t say:
(1) The ordinance does not prevent improving or repairing existing structures subject to the ordinance. Only new building (including expansion) within the creek setback is prohibited.
(2) The ordinance does not prohibit homeowners from building a fence. The creek ordinance only prohibits the construction of roofed structures within the setback area.
(3) The ordinance does not require homeowners to pay for repairing culverts on their property. The ordinance is silent on this issue, except for culverts that were illegally installed after the ordinance took effect. The claim that property owners are responsible for culvert repairs on their property is the City of Berkeley’s position on this issue and is not a part of the creek ordinance.
(4) A new map has been produced by the City of Berkeley to assist in the identification of sites that might be subject to the creek ordinance. This map is a guide to help both landowners and the city understand potential permitting issues and restrictions on properties. The map shows property parcels that may be subject to the ordinance; not all necessarily are. Moreover, there may be properties that are not identified by the map, but that may be subject to the ordinance (if some creeks don’t go where the city thinks t hey do). The ordinance is the law. The map simply provides guidance as to the location of the city’s creeks.
For more information about how you can help to protect and restore creeks—and about projects happening right near you—visit the Urban Creeks Council website at www.urbancreeks.org , or contact UCC at email@example.com or 540-6669.