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Swimming Pool & Spa Requirements

The San José Municipal Code regulates the location and size of swimming pools and spas; these criteria are summarized below, along with safety requirements for pools and spas.

Setback Requirements

For single-family properties, this bulletin focuses on setbacks for pools and spas in the R Zoning District. For other zones, contact the Permit Center and ask to speak with a planner. The best way to determine size limitations and setback requirements for pools and spas is through a no-cost preliminary review. For this review, bring a Site Plan to the Permit Center that shows:

  • The location, shape, and dimensions of the lot
  • All buildings on the lot with building dimensions
  • Building setbacks, measured from the face of the building to the property line
  • Distance between the main dwelling and accessory structures

Staff will review the Site Plan and check for easements and applicable zoning regulations. Generally, it is not permissible to build on an easement, but swimming pools may be installed under a Wire Clearance Easement (WCE) if allowed by the terms of the easement and if clearances from overhead wires are maintained per the National Electric Code.

Setbacks are measured from the waterline of the pool or spa and are required as follows:

  • All lots: Minimum setback from front property line to the pool/spa: 30 feet
  • Interior lots: Minimum setback to rear and side yard property lines: 5 feet
  • Corner lots: Minimum setback to rear yard and non-street side yard property lines: 5 feet
  • Minimum setback on the side yard adjacent to street: 9 feet
  • Multifamily lots: Minimum setback to pool/spa fence enclosure: 4 feet

Size Restrictions

Built-in pools, spas and accessory structures altogether may have a maximum rear yard lot coverage of 60 percent of lot size. Accessory structures include detached garages, gazebos, sheds, playhouses, freestanding patio covers, and similar structures. Accessory structures have a cumulative maximum rear yard lot coverage of 30 percent and a maximum cumulative area of 650 square feet. See the Accessory Buildings and Structures Bulletin for more information.

Safety Requirements

As of January 1, 2007, state law requires that every residence for which a building permit is issued for a new or remodeled in-ground or above-ground swimming pool; non-portable wading pool; or portable or non-portable spa or hot tub must comply with these requirements if the depth is greater than 18 inches.

Single-Family Dwelling Requirements

Locking Covers

Hot tubs, and spas must have locking covers that meet the requirements of ASTM F1346-9.

Pools must be enclosed with a mesh barrier that meets ASTM F 2286:

  1. The barrier needs to provide continuous and constant protection of the pool, hot tub, or spa, and provide 360 degree protection or be attached to another building or barrier that prevents unsupervised access to the pool.
  2. Minimum enclosure height: 60 inches.
  3. Maximum vertical clearance from the ground to the bottom of the enclosure: 2 inches.
  4. Keep outside enclosure surface free of protrusions, cavities, or other attributes that could serve as handholds or footholds enabling a child below the age of five to climb over.
  5. The mesh barrier must be constructed without any gaps or voids so as to prohibit the free passage of a 4-inch diameter rigid sphere.
  6. Any gate through the barrier must open away from the pool, be self-closing, self-latching, and lockable. Self latching and lockable devices must be placed no lower than 54 inches above the ground and be mounted on outside of gates.
  7. The barrier shall have at least 40% open space to allow visibility from outside to inside of the pool area.
  8. Vertical posts of the mesh barrier must extend a minimum of 3 inches below grade level and be spaced no greater than 40 inches apart.
  9. Patio deck sleeves (vertical post receptacles) placed inside the patio surface must be of a non-conductive material.
  10. A latching device must attach each barrier section at a height no lower than 45 inches above grade. Common latching devices include, but are not limited to, devices that provide the security equal to or greater than that of a hook-and-eyelet type latch incorporating a spring actuated retaining lever (commonly referred to as a safety gate hook).

Doors of house walls that are part of an enclosure. If the house walls are used as part of the enclosure, any door providing direct access to the pool must must be equipped with:

  1. A self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism placed no lower than 54 inches above the floor, OR
  2. An exit alarm listed and labeled as a “Residential Water Hazard Entrance Alarm” per UL 2017. This alarm must be mounted at least 54 inches above threshold, may be battery powered, and must detect either the door or the screen door. The alarm must make audible, continuous alarm sounds when any door that permits access from the residence to the pool area? that lacks an intervening enclosure? is opened or is left ajar. Exit alarms may be either battery-operated or connected to the electrical wiring of the building.

Multifamily and Public Pool Requirements

Multifamily and public pool and spa enclosure requirements must comply with California state codes CBC 1141A and CBC 318 as follows, EXCEPT enclosure and gate requirements are to apply only to pool enclosures constructed on or after July 1, 1994.

Notwithstanding the foregoing effective date, no fence enclosure shall be less than 4 feet in height.

  1. Deck Area. A continuous, unobstructed, minimum 4-foot wide slip-resistant, cleanable, nonabrasive deck area of concrete or like material must be installed flush with the top of the pool coping, extending completely around the pool. The deck area must further extend 4 feet on both sides and rear of any slide, diving board, or fixed accessibility assistance device and their appurtenances. The 4-foot is measured from the poolside edge of the coping lip.
  2. Enclosure. Pool enclosure must meet these standards:
    1. Minimum enclosure height: 60 inches
    2. The enclosure is to be built over material as hard as concrete, and constructed so that it cannot be readily climbed by small children. Horizontal and diagonal designs are not allowed. Horizontal members are to be spaced minimum 48 inches apart. A 5-foot area outside the enclosure shall be common area open to the public without any planters or other structures that can be climbed. 1¾ -inch maximum opening chain link fence may be used.
    3. Openings, holes, and or gaps in enclosure doors and or gates, if any, are not to allow passage of a 4-inch diameter
      sphere.
    4. Doors, windows, or gates of living units or associated private premises shall not be permitted to be part of the pool enclosure.
  3. Gates and Emergency Exit. All persons must pass through common pool enclosure gates or doors in order to gain access to the pool area. All gates and doors exiting the pool area must open into a public area or a walkway accessible by all patrons of the pool.
    1. Gates are to be equipped with self-closing, self-latching devices, and open outwardly away from the pool. Hand activated door or gate hardware is to be located between 42 to 44 inches above the deck or walkway. Doors are to be capable of being locked during times when pool is closed.
    2. The enclosure is to have at least one means of egress without a key for emergency purposes. Unless all doors are so equipped, those gates or doors which will allow egress without a key shall have a sign in letters at least 4 inches high stating emergency exit.

Subject: Inspection guidelines for swimming pool safety requirements for 1-2 family residential swimming pools.

Reference: 2016 California Residential Code, 2016 California Building Code, CSJ Municipal Ordinance 17.28

Purpose: To provide inspection and installation guidelines of swimming pool safety requirements for 1 & 2 family residential projects.

  1. Scope
    • 1.1 Swimming Pool or Pool means any structure intended for swimming or recreational bathing that contains water over 18 inches (457 mm) deep. Swimming pool includes in-ground and above-ground structures and includes, but is not limited to, hot tubs, spas, portable spas and non-portable wading pools. Authority: Health and Safety Code Section 18942(b) Reference: Health and Safety Code Section 115921 Ab 3305, Statutes 1996, c.925.
  2. Anti-Entrapment: Reference: CBC 3109.4.4.8
    • 2.1 3’ Separation of Suction Outlets
    • 2.2 Anti-Entrapment on Suction Outlets
  3. All Pools Shall Have a Barrier:
    • 3.1 Residential swimming pools shall be completely enclosed by a barrier complying with CBC Section 3109.4.4.3 & CSJ Municipal Ordinance 17.28
    • 3.2 Enclosure; Required Characteristics: CBC 3109.4.4.3, CRC AV100.3 Authority: Health and Safety Code Section 18942(b) Reference: Health and Safety Code Section 115923 AB 3305, Statutes 1996, c.925;
      • 3.2.1 An enclosure shall have all of the following characteristics:
        1. Any access gates through the enclosure open away from the swimming pool and are self-closing with a self-latching device placed no lower than 60 inches (1524 mm) above the ground. (Vehicle gates do not comply with this section and cannot be used as part of the barrier)
        2. A minimum height of 60 inches (1524 mm).
        3. A maximum vertical clearance from the ground to the bottom of the enclosure of 2 inches (51 mm).
        4. Gaps or voids, if any, do not allow passage of a sphere equal to or greater than 4 inches (102 mm) in diameter.
        5. An outside surface free of protrusions, cavities or other physical characteristics that would serve as handholds or footholds that could enable a child below the age of five years to climb over.
  4. Dwelling Wall as a Barrier: CBC 3109.4.4.2 #3-6, CRC AV100.3
    Where a wall of a dwelling serves as part of the barrier, one of the following shall apply:
    • 4.1. Doors with direct access to the pool through that wall shall be equipped with an alarm that produces an audible warning when the door or its screen, if present, are opened. The alarm shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL 2017.
    • 4.2. The pool shall be equipped with a power safety cover that complies with ASTM F1346.
    • 4.3. Other means of protection, such as self-closing doors with self-latching device with a release mechanism placed no lower than 54 inches (1372 mm) above the floor
    • 4.4 ASTM F2208 water alarm
  5. Pre-Plaster Barrier
    • 5.1 Same as handout online
  6. Remodel and Alterations of a Pool
    • 6.1 Verify swimming pool barrier
    • 6.2 One of seven features from swimming pool safety act and
    • 6.3 Anti-entrapment grate on existing suction outlets

A PDF handout version of this information is available on our Building Handouts and Forms page.