San Antonio, TX, Code of Ordinances

Updated October 2020

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Table of Contents

Accessory Dwelling Units

The city’s unified development code permits internal, attached, and detached accessory dwellings by right in multiple rural and residential districts, subject to use-specific standards (§35-311). These standards address owner occupancy, permitting, utilities, maximum occupancy, unit size, number of bedrooms, units per lot, parking area location, and setbacks (§35-371). The code’s off-street parking standards address accessory dwellings (§35-526).

Age-Friendly Communities

The city’s zoning code requires that residential projects receiving funds administered by the city comply with universal design guidelines (Chapter 6, Article XII). §6-316 sets standards for entrances, interior routes, bathrooms, environmental controls, and hardware.

Food Systems | Food Trucks

The city’s unified development code allows for mobile food courts on private property (§35-399), specifying location and placement, site development standards, performance standards, lot requirements, and license and permit requirements.

Grayfields Reuse and Redevelopment

The city's unified development code includes Commercial Retrofit provisions intended to encourage redevelopment of large grayfield sites, like shopping centers and big box retail. Density bonuses may be permitted for commercial retrofits. Standards vary by district and variances to all standards are available. Traffic impact analysis, open space, natural resource protection, landscaping, screening, and buffering standards do not apply to commercial retrofits (§35-206).

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

The city’s code of ordinances offers bonus credits for the use of low-impact development (LID) for nature preservation and stormwater management. It outlines the process and requirements of a “Low-Impact Development and Natural Channel Design Protocol” which offers credit, offset, and fee-based incentives (§35-210). It also identifies allowable development within floodplains including that which satisfies “environmentally friendly design criteria”(§35-F124.f.12). The code of ordinances allows developers to assess the benefits of LID on their site and uses the San Antonio River Basin Low Impact Development Technical Design Guidance Manual for reference (Unified Development Code Appendix H §4.10).

Historic Preservation

The city’s unified development code creates the position of City Historic Preservation Officer and lays out designation and development review processes (§35-601 to 681). It includes special provisions for archaeological sites and cemeteries, public property, and properties surrounding the San Antonio River, called the RIO District. Tax exemption qualifications are listed in §35-618.

Home Occupations

The city’s unified development code permits home occupations by right subject to use-specific standards (§35.378.a). Home occupations must comply with dwelling modification, nuisance, storage and display, sign, employee, location and space, equipment, sales, and vehicle standards (§35.378.a).

Certain uses are prohibited, while additional standards apply to others (§35.378.b). It exempts cottage food businesses from the prohibited uses (§35.378.b.4). Barber and beauty shops require a discretionary use permit (§35.378.b.2).

Housing Supply Planning

The city's unified development code encourages increasing housing supply and affordable options for all by enacting inclusionary housing. Density bonuses are offered as an incentive for more affordable housing units. Also permitted are accessory dwelling units to allow another housing option for residents. 

Inclusionary Housing

The city's unified development code addresses voluntary affordable housing provision in its zoning ordinances (§35-372). The ordinance starts with a statement of purpose that references the city’s master plan. It establishes a density bonus in return for meeting affordable unit set-aside requirements. For low-income housing, a 10 percent set-aside is required for a 20 percent density bonus; for very low-income housing, a five percent set-aside is required for a 10 percent density bonus. The code provides detailed methodologies for determining density bonuses.

The code also provides standards for project phasing and administration, including household eligibility and establishment of sales and rental prices.

Scenic View Protection

The city’s unified development code authorizes the use of viewshed protection districts to preserve views and vistas of historic places, landmark buildings, and other historically significant spaces. It identifies sites that require viewshed protection, discusses the zoning process and classification, identifies boundaries, and provides development standards (§35-337). It includes details on the Alamo Viewshed Protection District, including designation criteria and boundaries (§35-337(f)(1)).

Solar Energy

In the city's unified development code, site development standards and permit submittal requirements are provided for large, ground- mounted solar farms (§7-35-398.b). These are permitted uses in MF-33, MF-40, and MF-50/MF-65 residential districts, along with all rural, farm, and mixed industrial nonresidential districts; they require specific use permits in all other residential districts and urban nonresidential use districts (Tables 311-1, 311-2a).

Solar installations as an accessory use must comply with the design standards of certain overlay districts, including the neighborhood conservation districts, corridor districts, and National Highway System High Priority Corridor Districts (§35-335.e.4; 35-339.01-f.17; and 35-339.03.f.18).

Tree Preservation and the Urban Forest 

The city’s unified development code includes tree preservation standards that establish requirements for tree preservation, planting, and maintenance for public and private property (§35-523). These standards address administration, enforcement, the tree preservation and tree canopy calculation process, tree canopy cover requirements by land use, tree preservation requirements, mitigation and alternative mitigation methods, floodplains and other environmentally sensitive areas, tree preservation incentives, root protection zones, tree protection during construction, general maintenance, general planting standards, variances, tree mitigation fund, public projects, tree canopy investment fund, and definitions. 

San Antonio, TX

2010 Population: 1,327,407

2010 Population Density: 2,879.83/square mile