What is an RCFE?

What is an RCFE?
RCFE stands for Residential Care Facility for the Elderly. Sometimes called “assisted
living” or “board and care” facilities, they are non-medical facilities that provide a level of
care that includes assistance with activities of daily living. RCFEs serve persons 60 and
older, providing room, board, housekeeping, supervision and personal care assistance
with basic activities like personal hygiene, dressing, eating and walking. Facilities
usually store and distribute medications for residents to self-administer. The care and
supervision found in these facilities are for people unable to live alone, but who do not
need 24-hour nursing care. These facilities and are not required to have nurses,
certified nursing assistants or doctors on staff.
Who licenses RCFEs?
The State of California Department of Social Services licenses and inspects RCFEs to
ensure they meet care and safety standards.
What types of City Permits are required for an RCFE?
The City’s ability to regulate and restrict RCFEs is limited and pre-empted by state and
federal law. These laws specifically prohibit a city from exercising zoning authority that
treats RCFEs with six or fewer persons any differently than typical single family homes.
“No conditional use permit, zoning variance or other zoning clearance shall be required
of a residential care facility for the elderly which serves six or fewer persons which is not
required of a family dwelling of the same type in the same zone,” Health and Safety
Code section 1569.85. In other words, the City Planning Division cannot require special
permits for RCFEs with six or fewer residents.
The City does review RCFEs for safety issues through a fire permit process. This permit
ensures that proper access and fire safety concerns are met. The State of California
requires City fire department review and approval for any plans for an RCFE.

Source: sunnyvale.ca.gov