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When is a Building Permit Required?

A building permit is required unless the work is specifically exempted by the California Building Code and Chapter 12 of the County Code. HOWEVER, other laws, codes and ordinances may override these exemptions. (Examples of overriding considerations include, but are not limited to: required setbacks from property lines and right-of-ways; land use restrictions determined by zoning designations; Coastal Zone Review; or special environmental characteristics, such as: riparian corridors, habitats for endangered plants or animals, fault zones, etc.)

Please therefore check with Zoning Counter (County Building, Fourth Floor, Planning Department) before you ERECT, CONSTRUCT, ENLARGE ALTER, REPAIR, MOVE, IMPROVE, REMOVE, CONVERT, or DEMOLISH any building or structure. Work exempted from building permit requirements may require another type of permit or technical review and the Zoning Counter can provide you with this information.

If after checking with Zoning, you find that no other permit or technical review is required, you may perform the following work without a building permit:

1. ACCESSORY STRUCTURES:

One-story, detached accessory buildings used as tool sheds, playhouses and similar uses, when located on a parcel which contains an existing single-family dwelling and/or garage, provided that the FLOOR AREA DOES NOT EXCEED 120 SQ. FT. and that the HEIGHT ABOVE GRADE AS DEFINED IN THE ZONING ORDINANCE DOES NOT EXCEED 10 FEET.

Additional Considerations:

  1. If more than one such structure exists on a single parcel, they both need permits unless the distance between them is greater than 10 feet.
  2. When electrical, plumbing, or mechanical work in connection with such structures is done, the appropriate electrical, plumbing, or mechanical permit must be obtained, but a building permit is not required for the structure itself.
  3. Such exempt structures must meet all other applicable requirements of this jurisdiction, including required minimum distances from property lines.
2. FENCES:

Fences (wood and metal) NOT OVER 8 FEET HIGH, and masonry fences NOT OVER 6 FEET HIGH. Please contact the Zoning Information line or consult the Zoning Counter during walk-in hours, as other permits or technical reviews may be required.

3. INTERIOR WALL TREATMENTS:

Painting, papering and similar finish work

4. RETAINING WALLS:

Retaining walls which retain not more than 3 feet of material unless supporting a surcharge or impounding Class I, II, or III-A liquids. Be sure to check with a Zoning Counter planner before building a retaining wall in any yard abutting a street.

Note: For the purpose of this section, a retaining wall is considered to be supporting a surcharge if:

  1. The wall retains more than one foot of material and the retained material slopes more than two units horizontal to one vertical within a distance equal to twice the height of the wall above the lowest grade.
  2. The wall retains more than one foot of material and any road or structure is located on the retaining material within a distance equal to twice the height of the wall above the lowest grade.
5. REPLACEMENT IN-KIND:
  • Roofing: Reroofing of one-story, detached accessory buildings used as a carport, tool and storage sheds, playhouses, and similar uses with less than 120 square foot of floor area.

Note: A building permit is required for reroofing other structures not in the referenced category.

6. OTHER FEATURES:

Detached residential platforms, walks, decks, and driveways not more than 30 inches above grade and not over any basement or story below. Be sure to check with a Zoning Counter planner to see if the structure must meet setbacks.

7. MOVABLE/TEMPORARY ITEMS:

Movable cases and partitions with no intermal electrical wiring, not over 5 feet 9 inches high; and temporary motion picture, television and theater stage sets and scenery.

8. SHADING DEVICES:

  • Window Awnings: Supported by an exterior wall of a residence or residential garage which does not project more than 36 inches.
  • Agricultural Shading Structures: Less than 12 feet high and constructed of light frame materials and covered with shade cloth or clear, flexible plastic with no associated electrical, plumbing or mechanical equipment.

Note: Please check with Zoning for required setbacks from property lines or right-of-ways.

9. PREFABRICATED SWIMMING POOLS:

Accessory to a residence in which the pool is less than 18 inches in depth and the capacity of the pool does not exceed 5,000 gallons.

10. PREFABRICATED STRUCTURES:

Constructed of light frame materials and covered with cloth or flexible plastic, used to shelter vehicles or boats, with no associated electrical, plumbing or mechanical equipment, where the height above grade as defined in the zoning ordinance does not exceed 12 feet, and where the size does not exceed 300 square feet. Be sure to check with a Zoning Counter planner to see if the structure must meet setbacks.

11. WATER TANKS:

Support directed upon grade if the capacity does not exceed 5,000 gallons and the ratio of height to diameter or width does not exceed 2 to 1.

Note: Please check with your local fire jurisdiction for appropriate location of the tank and check with Zoning for required setbacks from property lines, or right-of-ways.

12. PLAY STRUCTURES:

Play structures when constructed on a parcel which contains a single family dwelling and which are not used for commercial purposes, unless the Building Official finds that the structure poses a hazard to health or safety.

Note: Please check with Zoning to determine if a development permit is required.

If your project does not appear on this list of exempt work, then a building permit is required. Contact the Building Department for additional information.

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