WHEN IS A BUILDING PERMIT REQUIRED?
A building permit must be obtained before you construct, enlarge, alter, move, replace, repair, improve, convert, demolish or change the occupancy of a building or structure. Building permit is not required for certain work such as one-story detached accessory structure (Sheds, Playhouse, etc.) not exceeding 120 square feet, fences not over 7 ft. high, retaining walls not over 4 ft. in height (measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall), etc. For complete list of work exempt from permit see California Residential Code Section R105 and California Building Code Section 105.
All retaining walls, regardless of height, supporting a surcharge (i.e. road, structure or hillside, etc.) require a building permit.
Some work may be eligible for Express Plan Check permitting process. Please see our Express Plan Check page in order to see if your project qualifies for this process, as well as to set an appointment if applicable.
HOW DO I APPLY FOR A PERMIT – Requirements:
NOTE: A Planning Screening may be required prior to initiating the building permit review. If additional information is required or the project does not pass the Planning Screening, you will be notified within 48 hours of submittal.
- Complete a Development Services Intake Form. Fees will be calculated upon submittal. Plan Check and Planning fees are required at the time of application, the other fees can be paid when the permit is issued.
- Submit plans, to scale, with a sheet size of 18" X 24" to 24" X 36" and any other required documents digitally. Review the Digital Submittal Requirements and Naming Conventions for file formatting requirements. Files are not to exceed 100 MB, and files can be separated by disciplines - e.g. architectural, structural, civil, and landscape. Plans must include:
- A description of the project scope of work.
- Area (square feet) of existing structures, new construction, conversion, remodel etc.
- Santa Clara County REBUILD Determination and Points Allocation table. Review Rebuild Ordinance for more information. If the project is determined to be a Rebuild, the project will be classified as a new residence and not a remodel. In that case, building site approval, annexation to adjacent city or other requirements may result.
- Site plan:
Show the outline of the Assessor's Tax Parcel and the location and use of all existing and proposed buildings. Plan details must include parcel dimensions, public streets, easements, required setbacks, building distance from all property lines, distance between buildings, off-street parking, driveways, sewer lines or septic tank and leach field locations, location of nearest fire hydrant, type of fire water system, percentage of the lot covered by buildings, scale of the drawings, and a north arrow. Also, specify the owner's name, the site address, the Assessor's Parcel Number, the occupancy category, and type of construction. If the street right-of-way to the parcel is not shown on the Assessor's Parcel Map, then a copy of the deed describing the access to the property must be included.
- Floor Plan:
Show complete dimensions. Include location of smoke detectors, all appliances, heating system, electrical outlets, fixtures, attic and underfloor access, door and window types and sizes (tempered or thermal glass as required), other important structural elements, fire protection in attached garages, and any other information necessary to show that the building will meet all applicable codes. Also indicate the gross floor area of all floors/levels and those to be heated.
- Exterior Elevation:
Submit elevations of all sides of the building. Show building height in feet and indicate the difference in elevation between the highest point of the structure (not including antennas, etc.) and the highest and lowest ground elevation at the exterior foundation of the structure.
- Foundation Plan:
Show dimensions and depths into bearing soil of all foundation components. Indicate foundation anchoring details, reinforcements, crawl-space clearances, concrete encased electrode ground, vents and access. Any foundation system that deviates from the standard foundation system described in the California Residential Code shall bear the seal and signature of a registered civil or structural engineer or licensed architect and have supporting calculations to substantiate the design. Foundation design criteria shall be in accordance with data provided in an accompanying soil report.
- Architectural Cross Section:
Show cross sections for as many areas as necessary to completely describe the structure layout. Include details for connections, insulation placement, ceiling heights, and/or other necessary or unusual details.
- Framing Plans:
Submit framing plans for floor, ceiling, wall and roof framing indicating dimensions, materials, sizes, spacing, and connection details of all structural framing members.
- Roof Plan:
Indicate roof layout, pitches, slope directions, roof covering, sheathing and underlayment.
- Construction Details:
Detailed cross-sections of foundation components, walls, anchoring, structural member connections, seismic connections, and other pertinent construction details.
- Geotechnical Report:
Geotechnical (soil) report is required for new structures; or additions larger than 1,200 square feet. A soil report may not be required for some structures depending on the nature and extent of work. Review Development Services Office Policy B-001 Geotechnical Report for further information on works that do not require Geotechnical report. A geotechnical report shall be compiled by a registered geotechnical or civil engineer and include, as a minimum, the following:
- A plot showing the location of all test borings and/or excavations.
- Descriptions and classifications of materials encountered.
- Elevation of the water table, if encountered.
- Recommendations for foundation type and design criteria including bearing capacity, provisions to minimize the effects of expansive soils and effects of adjacent loads.
- Recommendation for retaining wall design including soil active pressure, at-rest pressure, seismic earth pressure, passive pressure capacity, wall drainage, stepped wall design criteria, and any other applicable information.
- Expected total and differential settlement.
- Manufacturers' Engineering Reports:
These are required for ALL prefabricated structures and include structural calculations and drawings.
- Title 24, State Energy Calculations:
A Certificate of Compliance (CF-1R) for residential and (ENV-1) for non-residential, with all applicable signatures, shall appear on plans. Provide heat loss calculations or specify the Alternative Component Package used. Show all Mandatory Measures on the plan. For computer method compliance, submit 2 copies of calculations.
- CALGREEN Checklist:
CALGreen Checklist shall be included on plans. The checklists can be found at Green Building Requirements.
- Mandatory and Tier 1 measures: All new single family residential and duplex not smaller than 3000 square feet.
- Mandatory measures: Additions to existing single family.
- CALGreen compliance forms and worksheets such as Construction waste Management Plan can be found at CALGreen compliance forms and worksheets. The applicable forms including CW-1 form shall be filled out and shall appear on plans.
- Erosion Control Plan:
For projects creating less than 500 square feet of new impervious surface, please read, fill out, and sign the Erosion Control Checklist form.
For projects exceeding 500 square feet of new impervious surface, provide a complete Erosion Control Plan showing Best Management Practices (BMPs) that will be used to minimize erosion and prevent sediment and hazardous material from leaving the site (sample plan). Additional information and details of BMPs are on sheets BMP1 and BMP2.
- Storm Water Quality Requirements:
All projects are subject to State’s Regional Water Boards and the County’s Clean Water Program for storm water quality requirements.
- Design Professional (Engineers and Architects) must sign and stamp plans and calculations.
- Electrical, plumbing and mechanical permits may also be required, when applicable. Additional plans to be included with the building plans may be required for these permits.
- Forms for Development Impact Fee Compliance will be provided for:
- Local school district(s) clearance(s) on additions or conversions of non-habitable area which exceed 500 square feet
- Fire District clearance, if located within South Santa Clara County Fire District jurisdiction for new structures or additions which exceed 500 square feet.
- Habitat Plan (if applicable): If located in Habitat Plan Area, submit the Habitat Plan Screening form or full Habitat Plan Application.
- Water and/or Sanitary Sewage Clearance (clearances are required prior to permit issuance):
- Public Water – For new construction, obtain “Will Serve Letter” from local water provider.
- Public Sanitary Sewer – If the subject property is connected to a public sanitary sewer, provide a permit or clearance letter from the sanitary sewer company indicating clearance of the proposed scope of work.
- Onsite Well – The Department of Environmental Health (DEH) requires a clearance letter if the subject property is either developing or has an existing onsite well. Please contact DEH for clearance requirements. Once the Water Clearance Letter is obtained, submit a Water Clearance Letter with your building permit application.
- Onsite Wastewater Treatment System (OWTS)/Septic System – The Department of Environmental Health (DEH) requires a clearance if the subject property requires a new or has an existing OWTS. Please contact DEH for clearance requirements. Once OWTS clearance is obtained, submit 3 original stamped and signed copies of OWTS plans or clearance with your building permit application.
- If your project exceeds 2,000 square feet of net new impervious area (roof top, driveway, patios, and concrete walkways) a drainage permit is required.
- A grading permit is required if the quantities of earth excavation outside the footprint of the proposed building exceeds 150 cubic yards of cut or fill or 5’ vertical cut.
- Landscape permits are required for all new landscape areas of 500 sf or more. See our Sustainable Landscape page for requirements. Landscape plans must identify proposed plants, water usage requirements, hydrozones, irrigation details, and water budget calculations. If the new proposed landscape area exceeds 2500sf, the plans must be designed, stamped, and signed by a licensed landscape architect. (Digital copy of landscape plan is preferred.)
- The Roads and Airports Department (RAD) requires an Encroachment Permit when the proposed scope of work involves improvements in the right-of-way near a county-maintained road (utility trenching, new driveway, etc.). The Encroachment Permit must be obtained prior to the issuance of the Building Permit. Please contact RAD for Encroachment Permit submittal requirements. If there are no improvements in the right-of-way, please note this in the project description.
Fees are calculated based on the size, type and valuation of construction. Plan check and PO review fees are required at the time of plan submission. Building permit inspection, SMIP, encroachment, geologic review and septic system fees are paid at the time the permit is issued. Fees for plumbing, mechanical and electrical permits are paid at the time those permits are issued.
- Guidance for Construction Valuation for Building Permits
When may I pick up my Building Permit?
Processing of your application varies with the seasonal workload and complexity of your project. The plans will be checked for compliance with the California Code of Regulations Title 24, Zoning Ordinance, Health Code, etc. Normal processing takes four to six weeks. Any remaining fees, including the building permit fee, are payable prior to issuance of the building permit, as well as school fees, if applicable. If needed, plumbing, electrical and mechanical permits can be issued with the building permit.
What if I need an extension on my Building Permit or my Plan Check?
If you require an extension to your Building Permit or Plan check, deliver a completed Plan Check Extension Form to the front desk of the permit center or you can email the completed form to [email protected]. If you require an extension to building permit that has been issued, you can deliver a completed Building Permit Extension Request form to the front desk of the permit center or you can email the completed form to [email protected].
Building permits are valid for one calendar year from the date of issuance. Every permit issued shall become invalid unless the work authorized by such permit is commenced and an inspection is approved within one calendar year after its issuance or after commencement of work (does not apply to revisions, deferred submittal, or grading permits), if more than 180 days pass between approved inspections. Refer to County ordinance code § C3-3. - Chapter 1 Division II (f)105.5 for information on expiration and extensions. Each extension request fee is $80.43 for a 180-day extension. There is no fee due for the first building permit extension request.
Building Permit Application (Plan Check) extension requests must be submitted prior to expiration date. Each extension request fee is $80.43 for a 90-day extension, and due at the time of request submittal.
Building Codes Enforced include:
- 2022 California Building Code (2018 IBC)
- 2022 California Residential Code (2018 IRC)
- 2022 California Electrical Code (2017 NEC)
- 2022 California Mechanical Code (2018 IMC)
- 2022 California Plumbing Code (2018 IPC)
- 2022 California Fire Code
- 2022 California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen)
- 2022 California Energy Code
- 2021 International Property Maintenance Code
- County amendment to the California Building Standards Codes can be found in the County Municipal Code Division C3.
- Current California Codes are available at ICCSafe.org
- also check your public library