Obtaining a Building Permit

When is a building permit required?

A building permit is required whenever you are constructing, moving, altering, converting, improving, repairing or demolishing a structure in any area of the City. It applies to work on the interior as well as exterior of the structure. Work covered by the building permit must have City inspections before the project can be considered complete.

How do I apply for a building permit?

Applications must be submitted on forms provided by the Department of Community Development, Building Division. You may also need to apply for a Design Review permit and/or variance. City staff will be able to advise you of how to proceed.

What is required on plans and specifications?

When plans and specifications are required, they must be drawn to scale and must be of sufficient clarity to indicate the nature and extent of the work proposed. Plans must show in detail that such work will conform to all relevant laws, ordinances and regulations, including energy and structural calculations and soils reports when required. They may need to be signed by a licensed architect or registered civil engineer. The first sheet of each set must have the address of the site, the name and address of the owner and the name of the person who prepared the plans. Submittals must include a drawing showing the location of property lines, the building and/or the work to be done.

What happens once I submit plans?

A building permit will be necessary should the building envelope be increased and/or structural plans be required; geology and soils reports may also be necessary. These projects must be reviewed by several City staff members to ensure that they meet all the City's requirements, and also that the construction is structurally sound.

The design of the building (and the structural calculations) are reviewed by the Plan Checker. The Zoning Administrator also reviews the plans to ensure that the zoning regulations are being met. The City's Environmental Engineer checks the project for conformance to environmental quality laws and also makes sure that driveway drainage and grading meet requirements.

The City maintains a "Plan Check Log" which shows who has the plan every day it is being reviewed by the City. When the City review is completed, a post card, notifying you that the plans have been checked, is sent. You must then pick up the plans. Once approved, residential plans are retained by the City for a period of not less than 180 days. Plans for completed commercial and industrial construction are retained permanently.

What about workers compensation?

After building plans are approved and signed by City staff, the permit is ready to "issue".  Either an owner/builder or a State licensed contractor may be issued a permit, but each must comply with the Workers Compensation Insurance laws. The State of California mandates that cities ensure that these laws are followed.

There is only one circumstance in which Workers Compensation Insurance is not needed, and that is if the owner/builder or contractor does all the work completely by him or herself. In all other circumstances you must have Workers Compensation Insurance.

If a State licensed contractor is being issued the permit, he/she will need a City business license, which will require that a contractor's license {pocket card) be produced.

How long is my building permit valid?

A Building Permit is valid for 180 days from the date of issuance. It may continue to be renewed every 180 days thereafter by calling for a required City inspection, which will demonstrate progress is being made in completing the work. If work authorized under a permit is suspended for 180 days or more, the permit will lapse. A permit may be extended for 180 days by requesting an extension in writing, provided no changes have been made to the original plans and the work has not been suspended or abandoned for a year or more. The permit may be "renewed" after expiration by payment of a reissuance fee. It is possible that plans may need to be rechecked for conformance with current codes.

For a PDF Version of this Document click here. 
For a Building Permit Application click   Application for Building, Electrical, Plumbing, and Mechanical Permits

For more information contact:

Department of Community Development
Building Division
505 Forest Avenue
Laguna Beach, California 92651
(949) 497-0715