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General Information
General Information

Creeks Ordinance Administration (2004)


Open CreekThe City recently adopted new regulations related to development on or near creeks in Berkeley. The regulations were adopted by the City Council after the Creeks Task Force studied the issues for nearly two years, received public input, and made recommendations regarding open and culverted creeks. In particular, the proximity of development to creeks is regulated.

The revised regulations provide property owners adjacent to creeks with greater flexibility than the previous ordinance. One of the goals of the amended ordinance is to protect open creeks and nearby habitat, while providing more options for expansion of existing nearby homes. For culverted creeks, which are below ground and within a pipe or box-shaped conduit in a creek bed, the ordinance protects structures built over creek culverts, protects the culvert itself, and preserves access to the culvert to allow the responsible party to maintain it.

The regulations are briefly summarized below and links to more detailed information follow. Links to the maps of creeks in Berkeley are also provided. The City maps show the approximate location of the creek and therefore the area mapped exceeds the setbacks described in the Ordinance.


Open Creeks

Construction within 30 feet of the centerline of an open creek is regulated to protect water quality and riparian habitat.  An open creek may carry water either intermittently or continuously.  See the definition for more information.

  • An existing structure can be expanded vertically (up or down) within the existing footprint of the building within the 30 foot setback with an administrative Creek Permit from the City Engineer.

  • Existing buildings can be expanded within 25 to 30 feet of an open creek with authorization of an Administrative Use Permit from the Zoning Office.

  • Construction of new buildings within 30 feet of a creek continues to be prohibited without the issuance of a Variance.

  • Property owners must use permeable paving (meaning water can penetrate through the material) within 30 feet of an open creek, and only for footpaths within 10 feet of an open creek.

  • Other new restrictions apply to the location, expansion and replacement of decks and bridges.

  • Construction within 15 feet of the centerline of a culverted creek is regulated to ensure that the project and the culvert will not have a negative impact on each other and to ensure appropriate setbacks that promote safety and allow access for maintenance and repair.

Obstruction of open creeks continues to be prohibited.  Culverts, riprap, debris, walls and drains in the creek channel or on the banks, are banned without the issuance of a Creek Permit by the Department of Public Works.

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Culverted Creeks

For building expansions and proposed new buildings within 25 feet of the centerline of a culverted creek, the applicant/property owner must provide verification of the culverted creek location.

If proposed development is within 15 feet of a culverted creek, an administrative Culverted Creek Permit, issued by the Department of Public Works, is required. 

As part of the permit review, the applicant must submit a report from a structural engineer identifying:

  • the distance of the culvert to the structure, any physical defects in the culvert,
  • analysis of the stability of the culvert,
  • the proposed design of the foundation and bearing strength of the soil, and
  • any other information deemed necessary by the City Engineer.

County Recycling Hotline (www.stopwaste.org) - (1-800-STOPWASTE)  Household Hazardous Waste Hotline - 1-800-606-6606State and National Organizations California Department of Fish and Game (bank stabilization permits) - (707) 944-5500Regional Water Quality Control Board (Bay Area water quality regulator) - (510) 622-2346 U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service - (916) 414-6600 U. S. Army Corps of Engineers - (415) 977-8464

Regional Agencies

  • East Bay Municipal Utility District (www.ebmud.com) - 1-866-40-EBMUD

Nonprofit and Community Organizations

Creeks Ordinance: Berkeley Municipal Code 17.08, Preservation and Restoration of Natural Watercourses

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Creek List:

Creek Maps:

      • Parcel Conditions interactive map – search by address, then click “Creek Status”
      • Citywide Creeks Map (Accessible through the Maproom) 

 Explanation of Ordinance:

Information on Permits

The following document provides more information about the Creeks Ordinance, as well as guidelines and submittal requirements for Creek Permits and Administrative Use Permits.

Council Approved Ordinances

The staff report to the City Council related to the approved Creeks Ordinance revisions can be viewed through the November 14, 2006 Council agenda - click here.  Accompanying Zoning Ordinance changes can be viewed through the November 28, 2006 Council agenda - click here.

Creeks Task Force

The Creeks Task Force concluded its work in December 2006.  The CTF web page and all related reports, agendas and minutes are available.

Staff Contacts:

  • Land Use Planning Division - (510) 981-7410
  • Public Works, Vincent Chen - (510) 981-7449
  • Public Works, Kenneth Emeziem - (510) 981-6444

Other Resources:

  • Public Works Department Watershed Resources Page
  • Report Dumping or Spills To a Berkeley Creek
  • City of Berkeley Toxics Management Division - (510) 981-7460
  • City of Berkeley Police Dispatcher (in-progress) 
  • County Agencies (www.acgov.org) - (510) 237-3233
  • Alameda Countywide Cleanwater Program - (510) 670-5543

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