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In California, opportunity comes knocking to a select few individuals where they boast of finding a plot of land (if there is anything left) or demolish an existing home to embark on building their own custom home. These homes are specifically tailored and built for the owner(s) needs or profit. This article will take us down the path of building a home in the Golden State. We will take a high-level view of new home permits and the process to build in California.

New House Permit in California

 

One of the most important things to consider is that every jurisdiction (i.e., local government) has its respective standards and requirements. There is no one size fits all for the permitting process; Design Everest professionals can assist you in understanding there may be even multiple jurisdictions that have a say in the process of your soon-to-be new home before drafting up a plan. Design Everest has served in counties, such as Alameda, Santa Clara, Marin, San Mateo, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Napa, San Diego, and Los Angeles.  Furthermore, land use designators indicate the different types of permits required for the land and determine if the property is designated for Single Family Residential or something else.

            Based on the scope of work for the new home - building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical permits may be required in the Los Angeles County area. Along with these permits, the physical structure and internal features, a grading permit may also be required. This grading permit will require an engineer to certify the building pad elevation the structure is to be built on and the post-development drainage. Even the drainage/stormwater management during construction is to be considered for erosion control and to ensure polluted stormwater is not flowing off of the site. Many counties within California have a planning department that Design Everest professionals can contact to assist in providing the building height and property line setbacks that are associated with the property. This is instrumental in determining how far into the front and rear yard you can build, so be sure to get this information before drafting a blueprint for the home.

 

New Home Permit Process

 

Processing the permits for your home will require the development service in your jurisdiction to review and plan check your engineer or architect’s design. There is a fee schedule associated with plan checking, and the development service team will provide an initial calculation of the fees that can be associated with your project. An important thing to keep in mind is that permit and design fees are susceptible to change based on the complexity of the review and the property’s design. The permit requires a building permit application and declaration of the responsible party; furthermore, this identifies the accountable parties who will process the permit. Building plan checks and construction permits have expiration dates in case of suspended or abandoned work on the building permit process. A very pivotal part of building is that the requirements and standards of local jurisdictions do change over time. Typically, becoming more stringent – this means that having ample time and money to process a building permit is important because if the work is suspended or abandoned for too long, it may result in having to redesign based on updated standards or having to pull new permits, thus resulting in additional cost(s).

 

What items are needed for building permits?

 

The requirements and items that are needed for plan submittal should be established with the local jurisdiction. However, to get a good grasp on what is potentially required, we’ll take a look at the requirements for a new single-family dwelling building permit in Los Angeles County. The following are required in the building permit application:

 

  1. Site Plan
  2. Drainage Plan
  3. General Notes to be added to plans
  4. Site Survey
  5. Any applicable Permits
    1. Electrical
    2. Mechanical
    3. Plumbing
    4. Fences
    5. Grading
    6. Demolition
    7. Driveway aprons and street use (i.e., Right-of-way Permits)
  6. Floor Plans
  7. Americans Disabilities Act (ADA) Compliance
  8. Structural Plans and Structural Calcs
  9. Exterior Elevation drawings
  10. Section drawings
  11. Landscape and Irrigation plans
  12. Certificate of Compliance
  13. Soils/Geotechnical Report
  14. Shoring plans and calculations
  15. Electric Service
  16. National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements acknowledged in construction documents.

 

This list gives an idea of what goes into the building plan application. Another aspect of the review will be the stakeholders and/or agency reviews that are required. In addition to the information provided, the following agency approvals are required in Los Angeles. The Drainage and Grading Section of the Building and Safety Division, Geotechnical and Materials Engineering Division, and Construction Division within the Department of Public Works will need to review the items applicable to their stake in the development. The Regional Planning Department or the City Planning Department will also review for the building use and zoning requirements.

 

The plan check process will also require the local fire authorities’ review. Fire Department’s reviews will ensure the adequacy of all access roads for the property and the fire department’s arrival time to the property in case of an emergency.

Depending on the use of private or public sewage systems, an intent-to-serve letter or a review from health services will be required. For a new home, you may intend to tie in the plumbing to the local main within the city or county sanitation district; this would require an intent-to-serve letter from that local jurisdiction sanitation district. If the project is on the outskirts of a community, it may be more cost-efficient to propose a private septic system for the home; this results in needing the environmental service or health service to review the proposed septic system. Similarly, a water certificate would be needed from the local water authority. New homeowners should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of a well and septic system over municipal connections to water and sewer prior to purchasing a property to build.

Other approval authorities such as the local school district, public library, or State authorities could be called upon for building plan reviews and assessing potential fees. State authorities that have a sphere of influence include: the Coastal Commission (for those amazing beach houses overlooking the Pacific Ocean), Cal-Trans (for homes near interstates or highways owned by the State) or the local energy/gas service. All of these entities could have easements on the property or geographical information system (GIS) layers and buffers that require them to review your building plans. Keep in mind a title report is often required for financing, to check the property for liens and any other encumbrances.

The California Regional Water Quality Board is also a stakeholder on any new building plans. They ensure best management practices (BMPs) and low impact development (LID) practices are implemented on properties to ensure stormwater pollution does not negatively impact major cities in California. This agency typically is a co-permittee with the local jurisdictions and their public works departments to implement the reviews and construction inspections on BMPs and LIDs.

 

The last thing to note for the process is any work that requires a permit will need to be reviewed by a construction inspector from the jurisdiction. The building inspection process is there to ensure the work that is actually being conducted and is in compliance with the approved building permit plans and any other applicable documents. This includes items such as mechanical, electrical, and plumbing components as well as structural framing and foundation elements that are no longer visible after construction is completed.  Once all the building permit conditions and other permits are completed, a Certificate of Occupancy is issued upon request. Your new house is built and ready to serve its use!

 

Conclusion

Building a new house in California is an expensive adventure, but it will be a home with features uniquely crafted by you. Investing in the permitting and the development of the land is valuable. This article explained many factors in the home permit process, including items that are needed and what stakeholders are involved for California land. The process has been laid out for you, and the next steps to building your new home are a phone call away.

Hire a Design Everest professional to assist in determining the design and development that will be most suitable for you. Our team can get you started today. For a consultation and free quote, call (877) 675-9828.

*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.

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