Narrow Lot Study

Single-family residential properties in Golden Valley come in a variety of shapes and sizes. A vast majority of residential lots were created under regulations that require at least 80 feet of width and at least 10,000 square feet of area per lot. However, pockets of the city were planned (platted) before those rules were in place, resulting in blocks of properties that are only 60, 50, or even 40 feet wide and that may be as small as 5,000 square feet.

Recent development pressures on these narrower lots concerned some neighbors and prompted the City Council to take action.The City is studying potential issues regarding narrow lots so the Council can consider whether to make zoning code changes in early summer 2020.

Narrow Lot Information Session

To submit public testimony to the Golden Valley City Council, in lieu of participating in the public hearing July 21, please complete this form. Similar to participating in a public hearing, the City is asking residents to include their full name and address to be included in the public record. Comments received before July 16 will be included in the July 21 City Council Meeting agenda.

To learn more about the Planning Commission's discussions on narrow lots in Golden Valley, reference the links below.


For general questions about narrow lots in Golden Valley, please email


Community Input

The City held a public forum Jan 16, at City Hall for residents to learn, ask questions, and voice concerns about narrow lot regulation. A replay of the forum can be found here.

City staff compiled all public feedback into a Community Input Report containing resident emails, survey responses, social media analytics, and more.

Narrow Lot Forum Small Group Questions

At the Narrow Lot Forum Jan 16, attendees were given the opportunities to pose questions to presenters after reconvening from their small group discussions. City staff recorded the questions and later added answers.


The Planning Commission looked at the City’s current regulations in a number of areas, heard from local realtors about the market for narrow lots, and talked with architects and builders about the challenges of designing for and building on these properties.

+ Jan 16, 2020: Public Forum

This event is intended to address questions and concerns regarding the potential development of narrow residential lots in Golden Valley. City staff will provide background and context before participants move to small groups to discuss key questions. Following the small group conversations, participants will reassemble, and each group will be asked to summarize its discussion. Staff and subject experts will be on hand to help address questions. Reference the forum agenda and Narrow Lots handout for more information.

Watch the recorded broadcast.

+ Dec 9, 2019: Designer/Builder Perspective (Planning Commission Meeting)

Three representatives of local design/build firms offered thoughts on the challenge of designing homes to fit on narrow lots and potential strategies to lessen impacts on adjacent properties. Staff also discussed impervious area, garage placement, and solar access requirements.

Key takeaways:

  • Golden Valley has done a number of things right with respect to balancing competing interests around building on narrow lots.
  • Prohibiting tall gable faces along side property lines is key to limiting shading and visual impacts.
  • A well designed home can reduce the overall size while maintaining functionality, and therefore reduce future costs in maintenance, heating and cooling, taxes, etc.
  • Offering incentives to lower building height at the side setback line in exchange for additional dormer space could result in reduced impacts on adjacent properties and improved home designs.
  • Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) could be a potential incentive to keep tax parcel lots combined.
  • Golden Valley has limits on impervious surfaces that are generally similar to those of peer cities.
  • Constructing a desirable one-story home on a 40 foot wide lot that stays under the impervious limits is very challenging.
  • The single-family zoning district requires two garage spaces; this can lead to garage-dominated front façades when implemented on narrow lots.
  • Access to direct sunlight is best protected indirectly by regulations around setbacks, height, and massing.

The full video of the discussion is linked below, but some key points from the discussion have been listed along with their timestamp from the video.
Agenda                Minutes               Video

  • Start of the designer/builder discussion – 01:52:16
  • Context for designing for narrow lots – 1:55:52
  • 40 foot wide lot alternative designs – 2:02:38, 2:12:10
  • Conversation around incentives to reduce height – 2:16:15
  • Accessory Dwelling Units – 2:33:10
  • Value of a second story on narrow lots – 2:37:18

+ Nov 12, 2019: Realtor Perspective (Planning Commission Meeting)

Real estate agents presented and answered questions regarding the narrow lot niche in the current housing market. Staff also discussed tree and stormwater requirements.

Key takeaways:

  • Golden Valley’s favorable location in the metro area means single-family homes are always in demand and generally sell quickly.
  • Investors and developers more typically buy narrow lots for development due to the high costs; it is harder for individuals or families to do so.
  • Construction costs for one-story homes are greater than for two-story homes on a per square foot basis.
  • 1,200 square feet, not including a garage, is around the minimum area needed in a new home to make it practical for builders.
  • Interior renovations of existing structures are more common than tear downs or additions.
  • Narrow lots have less pervious area where water can infiltrate and reduced setbacks through which to direct runoff.

The full video of the discussion is linked below, but some key points from the discussion have been listed along with their timestamp from the video.

Agenda                Minutes               Video

  • Start of the real estate discussion – 00:18:00
  • Discussion on tax parcel divisions and the resale value of combined lots – 00:32:50
  • What is the cost to build on narrow lots in the city? – 00:52:00
  • Feasibility/marketability of single-story homes – 00:55:40, 1:15:25
  • How common are teardowns or renovations on narrow lots? – 1:07:50

+ Oct 28, 2019: City Regulations (Planning Commission Meeting)

The Planning Commission reviewed current zoning regulations for narrow lots and how they compare to regulations from peer cities. Discussion focused on setbacks, height, and massing.

Key takeaways:

  • Generally, the City’s side setbacks are already more restrictive than those of peer cities, with the exception of one key setback on 40 foot wide lots.
  • Peer cities have an accommodation for residential construction on corner lots that does not require a variance; Golden Valley does not.
  • Height regulations in Golden Valley are similar, or more restrictive, than those of most peer cities.
  • While not all peer cities regulate coverage on small lots, many that do have more restrictive caps compared to Golden Valley.

The full video of the discussion is linked below, but some key points from the discussion have been listed along with their timestamp from the video.
Agenda                Minutes               Video

  • Start of the regulation discussion – 01:19:20
  • Disposition of narrow lots across the city – 1:23:28
  • Discussion of height limits and how height is measured – 1:34:15
  • Examination of setback regulations – 1:38:24
  • Regulations around massing – 1:39:00

+ Oct 14, 2019: Topic Introduction (Planning Commission Meeting)

Staff presented a request from the City Council to look at regulations around the development of narrow lots. Staff provided background information on subdivisions, tax parcel divisions, and variances.

Key takeaways:

  • Subdivision regulations are not currently under consideration for any changes.
  • Tax parcel divisions allow nonconforming lots to be developed with new homes, even though they are narrow compared to existing standards.
  • Many other narrow lots in the city have already been developed; tear downs may be more common on these lots in the future.
  • Existing zoning regulations dictate the size and placement of new homes on narrow lots.
  • Variances are occasionally granted for homes on narrow corner lots.

The full video of the discussion is linked below, but some key points from the discussion have been listed along with their timestamp from the video.
                Minutes               Video

  • Narrow lot conversation starts – 00:01:32
  • Subdivision definition – 00:04:00
  • Tax parcel division description and history – 00:06:26
  • Glenwood plat in North Tyrol (40 foot lots) – 00:12:04
  • Recap of narrow lot concerns – 00:22:31
  • Potential side yard setback regulation changes – 00:27:05
  • Timeline for project – 00:32:45
  • Map of areas with narrow lots – 00:46:42

+ Oct 10, 2019: Council/Manager Meeting

The Council directed City staff and the Planning Commission to investigate the potential issues regarding narrow lots and to advise the Council on any recommendations for zoning code changes by spring 2020.
Agenda                Minutes               Audio

+ May 14, 2019: Council/Manager Meeting

Staff provided additional context for the number of narrow lots that exist across the city and outlined various regulations that could potentially be adjusted to reduce impacts on adjacent properties when they are developed.

Agenda                Minutes               Audio

+ Nov 14, 2017: Council/Manager Meeting

Staff introduced the concept of a tax parcel division and described what parts of the city might be impacted. The Council asked that neighbors be notified when a tax parcel division is approved.

Agenda                Minutes               Audio