Bookmark and Share
Planning Department Banner, This link takes you back to home page
Building & Safety
Plan-Check Accessibility Requirements

The purpose of the Accessibility Requirements section of the Building Plan Check process is to ensure that barrier-free design is incorporated into all buildings, facilities, site work and other developments to which the code applies and to ensure that they are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.

Those Building Permit Applicants who have any type of building project, other than a privately owned single-family dwelling, are required to submit building plans which graphically represent all of the accessible code requirements into the design.

The accessibility code sections for the state of California are found in Chapters 11A and 11B of the California Building Code , Part 1.

Note: The Division of the State Architect also has reference documents. These references are excellent resources to further understand and apply access requirements.

Chapter 11A - Housing Accessibility; applicable to all Covered Multifamily Dwellings including but not limited to the following:

  • Apartment Buildings w/3 or more dwelling units
  • Condominiums with 4 or more dwelling units
  • Lodging Houses with more than 3 guest rooms
  • Congregate Residences
  • Dwellings with 3 or more efficiency units
  • Shelters for the homeless
  • Dormitories
  • Time Share dwellings with 3 or more units
  • Other Group R occupancies in Covered Multifamily Dwellings as per Fire Marshal
  • Publicly funded housing

Chapter 11B - Accessibility to Public Buildings, Public Accommodations, Commercial Buildings and Public Housing; applicable to all other buildings, including but not limited to the following occupancies:

A   Assembly rooms, stadiums, amusement parks
B   Business offices, services, eating/drinking establishments
E   Education facilities, day-care
F   Factory and Industrial
H   Hazardous facilities, repair garages, aircraft repair hangars
I   Nurseries, health care centers, nursing homes, mental hospitals, jails
M   Merchandise sales, stores
R   Hotels, congregate residences, residential care facilities for the elderly and one or more publicly funded housing unit(s)
S   Storage buildings, gas stations, parking garages, aircraft hangars



The submitted drawings must provide complete, project-specific information so that the builder can construct the project to code without having to design in the field. The design must include comprehensive and systematic plans, enlarged plans, details, sections, elevations, specifications, and notations, which fully explain and provide design solutions for all of the accessible requirements of the building code. For the most part, reproducing general details from a code manual is not acceptable, since the figures are basic guidelines provided to assist the architect or engineer with design development. All notations referencing code sections must precisely call out the required information as it applies to the project. Notes that just list code sections by number will be returned to the applicant for clarification. For example, a note stating, "Build accessible ramp per CBC 11B-405" is not acceptable. The ramp must be fully designed and detailed on the plans.



The following sequence is recommended to Building Permit Applicants so that the submitted plans contain the proper amount of correct information. This will allow for a more timely and efficient plan check. Determine the occupancy of the building (A, B, E, F, H, I, M, R or S) using CBC Chapter 3. Place the building occupancy on the Title sheet of the plans. The Building Official ultimately determines the occupancy of any building. Applicants should initially consult with this department to determine occupancy for their project.

Refer to the related occupancy code requirements found in Sections 1104B through 1113B. These sections will inform the designer of specific accessibility criteria for the building's occupancy.

  1. Apply any and all code items from 11A or 11B to the building design. Every applicable code section regarding accessibility is required to be fully addressed on the plans.

  2. If the building is new construction apply the code from each section to the building design. Provide manufacturer's specification sheets for all of the door hardware, plumbing fixtures and trim, signage, flooring, and any other items which have been designed to meet the accessibility code requirements for this project. These specification sheets are to be submitted with the building plans so that they can be included in the plan check process. Firmly attach 8.5X11 copies to the plans, or copy on standard size sheets.

  3. Provide a complete site plan for the project showing existing conditions and proposed improvements. Include all topographical contours as they relate to the improved areas. Show all existing driveways, pedestrian ways, adjacent streets, public transportation stops, and parking spaces. The proposed accessible exterior routes of travel must be completely detailed and specified including spot elevations and slope percentages. These grades must be fully engineered so that code limitations on slope are not exceeded.

  4. Provide complete and detailed floor plans to show manuevering clearances within the building, fixed counters and equipment.

  5. If the work being performed is an alteration or an addition to an existing building, refer to CBC 11B-Existing Buildings and Facilities. If the work is extensive enough, then the designer is required to implement the codes found in previous divisions into the building design. All new construction in existing structures must meet all current accessibility codes. All existing accessibility components of the building must be shown as Existing (E), noted with actual specifications that show how they meet the current code, and noted accordingly with any New (N) modifications that are required to bring the existing condition up to the current code requirements. If the work is not extensive, based on an established valuation threshold , an unreasonable hardship may be established (CBC 11B-202.4, exception 8).  A Cost Documentation Form will be required and must be accompanied by required documentation of construction costs so that it can be compared to the current valuation threshold.


Many plan submittals seem to generate similar plan check comments and are returned to the designer to be corrected. The following items should be considered during the production phase of the applicant's construction documents:

  • Coordinate all phases of the design through standard cross-referencing, symbols and notations.
  • Completely dimension all site plans, floor plans, details, sections, and elevations.
  • Provide a signage schedule that indicates location and mounting height of each sign.
  • Clearly indicate with code compliance in mind all accessible parking, dimensions, slopes, transitions, signage, and parking ratio.
  • For modernization projects, indicate an accessible entrance and path of travel to the new work and rest rooms.
  • Number all plan sheets and provide a coordinated index on the cover sheet.
  • Provide dimensions for all doors and maneuvering clearances on plans to determine accessibility.
  • Incorporate dimensioned details for ramps, curb cuts, transitions, elevators, stairs, lifts, thresholds and cross slopes.
  • Draw restroom plans to an enlarged (1/4 minimum) scale and provide interior elevations with fixture locations and accessory mounting heights for each specific restroom.
  • Provide a complete door schedule with door sizes, hardware groups, threshold details and signage coordination. Provide manufacturer's cut sheets for each product.
  • Provide absolute dimensions and grade elevations, not a range of tolerance.
  • Delete the word Handicap or HC. Recommend using ACC or Accessible.
  • Utilize specific designs and notations, not general information from the code. Specific information may be repeated from the code, if applicable. Do not submit graphic guidelines copied from the code manual.


Many times, the designer will specify the absolute limit of tolerance on dimensions, clearances, slopes, and cross slopes. Unfortunately, this leaves no margin for error during the construction phase of the project. It is highly recommended that the designer specify dimensions that are well within the tolerances of the code. For example, ramps should be designed with the least amount of slope possible for a particular range of travel.

It is not the intent of the Building Official to impose or enforce a certain design or style. Instead, the purpose of the design guidelines in the code manual is to serve as the source for accessibility criteria to be used during the selection of the site, the scope of the project, the design programming, and the preliminary design phase.


Laura Brinson
Building Plans Examiner
Planning Department