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Welcome to the Planning Department website; we encourage you to explore the content, tools and links on our pages, much of which is new with this "remodel and addition"! Our goal for the site is to provide applicants and members of the public with access to an extensive level of information related to land use and development within the unincorporated area of Santa Cruz County. We know that land use, environmental and building regulations and the permit process can get complicated, and we hope that the information provided through this page gives you a good start toward understanding what requirements and application review process might apply to your property or project, or to those of others. Please contact department staff by phone, email or at the public counter should you require additional information or assistance – we are committed to helping you meet your objectives in a feasible manner consistent with applicable standards.

We also hope that the information provides a meaningful perspective about WHY the State of California and County of Santa Cruz have adopted the broad array of policies and regulations related to land use. This essentially relates to protecting the public health, safety and welfare; as well as supporting a community character and quality of life that reflects the public's vision and goals for Santa Cruz. Ongoing public awareness and participation is essential. We encourage you to become informed and to participate in planning and decision-making processes. Only through your involvement will our special community values continue to be refined, supported and exercised, within a context of respect for each other, the environment, and the overall health of our community.

Highlights of what you will be able to find and do under the various sections of the website include:

BUILDING & SAFETY: Check whether a building permit is or is not required, and how to apply. Find out about our Over the Counter (OTC) permit process, schedule an inspection for your project, and find out about plan check comments from agencies reviewing your building permit application. Access the adopted Building Code, Fire Code, and fire prevention regulations applicable in Wildland-Urban Interface areas. Learn about regulations and requirements for projects such as commercial tenant improvements, photovoltaic (PV) solar systems, grading, retaining walls, swimming pools, green building and accessibility. Email questions to building staff. Get an estimate for the fees that would apply to a project you plan to pursue. Obtain forms, such as for extension requests.

ZONING & DEVELOPMENT: View plans, meeting agendas and staff reports for proposed projects, such as when you receive a Notice for a proposed project in your neighborhood that will be acted upon either by staff (administrative approval), or by the Zoning Administrator or Planning Commission. Look up parcel history information. Access the Geographic Information System (GIS), an interactive tool that provides mapped information about a wide variety of factors, either by address or Assessor's Parcel Number (APN). Find out the zoning of a parcel and what land uses are allowed and what development standards (such as setback requirements) apply. Learn about rules related to vacation rental units, and how to apply for a vacation rental permit. Find out what rules would apply if you wanted to build a second/accessory unit on a single family residential property. Learn about how high you can build a fence without a permit, and how to apply for an Over-Height Fence Certification if you want to exceed the usual limit. Access the County Code, Zoning Ordinance, Administrative Practice Guidelines, Policy/Ordinance Interpretations and Brochures that provide information about Code requirements and administration of the Code. Learn about new and amended land use regulations resulting from our Regulatory Reform efforts.

LONG-RANGE PLANNING & SPECIAL PROJECTS: Santa Cruz County voters approved "Measure J" in June 1978, which established fundamental policies for growth management, community and neighborhood quality of life, environmental and agricultural lands protection, and affordable housing. These values continue to be strongly held and respected in Santa Cruz, and these policies remain at the core of the Santa Cruz County General Plan (GP). The GP reflects the community's vision and overall goals and policies related to land use, community design, housing, transportation, safety, recreation, and conservation and open space; and you can link to it here. Also find the special area plans that address Aptos Village, Seacliff, Soquel Village, Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, Felton and Pleasure Point. Learn about and participate in the process of developing a Transit Corridors Plan for a Sustainable Community, an effort that started in 2012 and is focusing on the Soquel Drive/Avenue corridor and the Live Oak area; with respect to identifying strategies to support use of all modes of transportation, as well as to identify and plan for opportunity sites for economic development and workforce housing. Access documents and provide input regarding a Climate Action Strategy that is being prepared. Find out about how to be involved in shaping the future of your community by participating in upcoming community forums and public meetings on a variety of topics as they occur.

ENVIRONMENTAL & RESOURCE PROTECTION: Find out whether your parcel is located within a floodway or floodplain, and about regulations that apply to those areas. Learn about watershed protection, how to manage storm water runoff and control erosion on your property, and how to take care of stream and riparian resources. Find out whether a permit is required to remove a tree, carry out grading, or do work in a riparian corridor (including how a riparian corridor is defined). Access regulations and information related to floodplains, soils reports, hazardous materials, geologic hazards, riparian corridors, and sensitive habitats, including information about the Zayante Sandhills Conservation Bank. Access information related to agricultural resources, air quality, climate change, noise, and the many quarries that are located in and regulated by Santa Cruz County. Access documents related to environmental analysis of and opportunities for public comments about environmental review for currently proposed projects; as well as archived documents including Initial Studies, Mitigated Negative Declarations, and Environmental Impact Reports.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Learn about rules related to home occupation businesses, and whether you do or don't need a home occupation permit. Access a variety of tools and information that may assist business success. Find out about available commercial property for sale or lease. Contact the county's Economic Development Coordinator for assistance with business retention or expansion, questions related to property availability or how to obtain development permits for your business, or for other information or connections to resources. Learn about the variety of economic development efforts that are being pursued by the County of Santa Cruz and partner agencies.

CODE COMPLIANCE: Learn about what types of services are provided, including code compliance related to illegal or unpermitted uses or construction, neglected and hazardous properties, environmental degradation and clean-up. Get answers to frequently asked questions, learn about what types of situations are NOT handled by the Planning Department Code Compliance section, and learn how to file a complaint (including on-line filing) for those addressed by the Department.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING & COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT (CDBG): Information about the "Measure J" affordable housing program is available, as well as information about a variety of other affordable housing units for which the County of Santa Cruz has provided funding assistance in order to ensure that units remain affordable to households of low and moderate income. You may also find out about other programs that assist qualifying households with housing rehabilitation and repairs, with down payment assistance, and with county-wide homeless programs. Periodically, the County solicits ideas for activities to include in a County application to the State for CDBG funding, which would be of benefit to low-income households through public facilities, public services, and affordable housing.