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San Rafael expands zoning for animal care business

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Pet hospitals, groomers and other animal care centers will operate in areas reserved for business offices in San Rafael to meet the growing demand for such services and to fill office space as vacancy rates rise. will soon be allowed.

The city council unanimously backed the move on Monday. Modifications to the zoning text to make it happen were suggested by San Rafael attorneys Peter Spall and Riley Hurd.

“I think it really fits,” Hurd told the council.

Animal care centers, excluding outdoor kennels and dog runs, have already been cleared for use in other commercial areas of the city, said contract urban planner Jayni Allsep.

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

Companies are subject to a series of performance standards, including providing an on-site employee handbook, conducting sound attenuation studies, and providing adequate disposal facilities. Operation of a conditional use permit requires the approval of the city’s zoning administrator.

Allsep said the planning commission had approved the proposed ordinance at its meeting in June.

Cindy Machado, director of animal services at Marine Human, said while she can’t count the number of pets Marin has, more households have had pets since the pandemic hit more than two years ago. He said that the national trend shows that

“Marin definitely has higher numbers than many other counties,” Machado said, noting that the county records an average of about 17,000 licensed dogs per year.

Although the county has about 40 veterinary clinics, Machado said, “There is a significant shortage of veterinarians and staff nationwide, creating a backlog of service capacity at many hospitals both inside and outside Marin.” I’m here.

“This seems like a great move for the city,” Machado said. “This reflects our view that the pets that are part of our lives are more than just animals, they are part of the family.”

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

San Rafael followed suit, with office vacancy rates at 11.6% in 2015 and 17.3% today.

In contrast, Sonoma County’s office vacancy rate has remained stable, declining from 12.8% in 2015 to 11.9% today.

“Property owners across Marin need to rethink how they utilize existing office space,” Hurd said after the meeting. “Housing looks like a major evolution for these sites, but thankfully there are other uses that are in high demand, like veterinary services.”

Deputy Mayor Rachel Kertz said the ordinance provides additional opportunities to expand business use.

“We need to keep updating the ordinance to meet the needs of the business community,” Kurtz said.