Steps in the Planning Permit Process
If a planning or zoning permit is required, it generally needs to be processed prior to application of a building or construction permit. The Planning Section of the Planning and Building Department processes these permits. When multiple permits are required (e.g., Coastal Development Permit and Design Review Permit), the longer permit processing time and higher level decision-making body would apply to the concurrent processing of associated permits. In reviewing and processing your permit application, the assigned planner will generally complete the following steps:
1. Initial Application Review
The planner reviews your project to determine whether your application is complete. During this stage, the planner:
- Determines whether your project conforms with the County's General Plan, Zoning Ordinance, and other regulations.
- Solicits comments and recommendations from review agencies (relative to their regulations) and applicable homeowners associations or community groups.
- Discusses your project with a development review committee of senior staff members.
The County has 30 days after receiving your application to notify you if you must provide any additional materials or information before your application can be processed.
2. Environmental Review
This review ensures that your project complies with requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act and evaluates its potential impact on the environment. If the project does not qualify for an exemption, an Initial Study/Negative Declaration must be prepared, additional fees are required, and an additional 2-3 months should be added to estimated permit processing times. For projects with complex or unmitigated environmental impacts, an Environmental Impact Report may be required, additional fees are required, and an additional 6 -12 months should be added to estimated permit processing times. Environmental Review includes, but is not limited to, review of potential vehicle and pedestrian traffic impacts to the surrounding community as analyzed by a professional traffic engineer (as required and at the owner's expense), noise impacts to nearby residents, and impacts to natural or cultural resources (if applicable).
3. Public Notification
A public notice is mailed to owners of property within a 300-ft. radius of the subject property.
4. Permit Decision
A permit decision is made at a public hearing by the County Zoning Hearing Officer or Planning Commission. A public hearing allows the public to provide information, comments and suggestions on your project before the County makes a decision.
5. Appeal Period
Once a decision is made, both you and the public can appeal most permit decisions to a higher authority within 10 business days of the decision date. Zoning Hearing Officer decisions generally can be appealed to the Planning Commission. Planning Commission decisions can be appealed to the County Board of Supervisors. A decision by the Board of Supervisors is not appealable, with the exception of a decision to approve a hearing-level Coastal Development Permit which is appealable to the California Coastal Commission.