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Building Height
Application and Inspection Requirements

(applicable for all building permit applications submitted on or after December 1st, 2004)

All building permit applications for a structure, an addition to a structure, or modification to the exterior of a structure are required to include information to confirm that the structure will not exceed the allowed height in the zone district. The definition of Height, found in Section 13.10.700-H of the County Code, is as follows:

The height of a structure is the vertical distance between the existing or finish grade, whichever is lower, to the uppermost point of the structure.

In addition, General Plan Policy 8.6.2 states that all unnecessary grading for the purpose of meeting height restrictions is prohibited.

  • Two sets of measurements are needed to determine a structure's height (please refer to the attached figures):
    1. Within the footprint of the structure, inside of the perimeter of the foundation, measurements are taken from the original (natural) grade to the highest points of the structure above;
    2. At the perimeter of the foundation and beyond, measurements are taken from the original (natural) grade or finished grade, whichever is lower, to the highest points of the structure directly above;
    3. The measurements from a) and b) must both not exceed the maximum height for the zone district.

Certain architectural features may exceed the height limit, such as chimneys, spires and the like, as provided in Section 13.10.510(d)2 of the County Code. Copies of this Section are available on the County's website www.co.santa-cruz.ca.us or at the Zoning Counter.

APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS

  • The following information will be required to document the structure's height as a part of the building permit review:
  1. Elevations, cross sections, and topography: Required for all building permit applications. May be adequate to determine height for those structures where the proposed height can be clearly shown using only these plans. This would apply to most one-story structures, one-story additions, and multi-story structures on flat sites (less than 2-foot elevation differential). Additional documentation [see (b) below] will be required if the height of the structure is within 2-feet of the height limit for the zone district and the site is sloping (2-foot or greater elevation differential). Additional documentation may be required for any building site, at the discretion of Planning staff.
  2. Roof plan with surveyed contour mapping: Required for all structures where the height of the structure will be within 2-feet of the height limit for the zone district and the site is sloping (2-foot or greater elevation differential); or where the slope(s) of the property could make determining the height of the structure difficult. This plan consists of a roof plan, prepared by the designer, and surveyed contour mapping of the ground surface, prepared by a Licensed Surveyor, superimposed and extended, as needed, to allow height measurement of all features. Spot elevations must be provided at points on the structure that have the greatest differences between the ground surface and the highest portion of the structure above. The ground surface is based on the pre-development survey of the area within the structure's footprint (original or natural grade) for the height measurement outlined in Section 1a) above, and is the lower of either the post-development ground surface (finished grade) or the original (or natural) grade at the exterior of the foundation for the height measurement outlined in Section 1b) above. Pre-application grading may affect these determinations. Building or planning officials may require additional spot elevations and additional surveying on submitted plans for complex sites. This drawing must be signed and stamped by an Architect, Land Surveyor or Civil Engineer licensed in the State of California.

INSPECTION REQUIREMENTS

  • After the foundation forms have been constructed, but before foundation inspection, the building official may require that a surveyor or civil engineer licensed by the State of California verify, in writing, that the spot elevation(s) of the foundation forms are generally consistent with the approved plans. At the framing stage, but prior to final frame inspection, the building official may require that a surveyor or civil engineer licensed by the State of California verify in writing that the structure complies with the County of Santa Cruz height ordinance. The Building Inspector may require additional verification by a licensed professional at other stages of the project, if necessary.
  • On sites where surveyed contour mapping has been prepared, the surveyor or civil engineer shall establish a benchmark in a convenient location for the use of field personnel.

HEIGHT EXHIBITS

H-1.  Height exhibit: Sample Elevation  

H-2.  Height exhibit: Sample Section  

H-3.  Height exhibit: Sample Survey  

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