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The Planning Permit Review Process

What happens after I apply? Learn about how we process Planning Permit applications.

What You Need to Know

In general, most Planning Permit review can take anywhere between 3 and 6 months

The review process varies depending on the permit type, location of the property and the nature of the project. Complex projects and projects that require additional environmental review can take much longer. Learn more about our different permit types, including ministerial and discretionary permits.

Processing also depends on how complete your application package is. Learn more about what you need to provide for a successful submittal.

The steps below apply to most applications. Learn more about the process for specific permits in our Planning Application Guide.

Overview of the Planning Permitting Process

  1. Initial Submittal

    We review your submittal package for intake. If it’s acceptable, we collect your fees and take in the application. We then assign your application to a Planner who will reach out to you for next steps. Learn in detail how to apply for a Planning Application.

  2. Completeness Review (30 Days)

    You will receive a project status letter within 30 days from intake with a request if we need more information.

    First, we check to make sure you've submitted everything we need to assess your project. This is a deeper dive than what we do at intake. So, it's important to use the Planning Application Submittal Checklist to make sure your application is complete.

    During this stage, we may also:

    • Conduct a site visit
    • Post a site notice if your permit type is discretionary
    • Route your projects to applicable reviewing agencies. If needed, they will provide comments that might affect your project.

    The project status letter may also identify issues your project has with any of our policies.

  3. Applicant Revises Plans, If Needed (30 Days or More)

    If we deem your application incomplete, you typically have 30 days to resubmit revised materials. Applications expire if materials are not submitted as requested by staff. You can request an extension, which will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

  4. Completeness Review (30 Days)

    After you resubmit, we conduct another completeness review. Once we deem your application is complete, we will also let you know the project’s compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

    Most projects are exempt from CEQA. Though, some projects may need to go through Environmental Review to assess if they impact the environment. Learn more about the Environmental Review process.

    If your project is exempt from CEQA, we move onto the decision-making phase. This is also known as “merits review”. 

  5. Merits Review (60 Days)

    This is the decision-making phase where we assess your project. We assess if your project meets our policies, guidelines, and regulations. This is the phase where we also collect public comment for discretionary projects.

    Discretionary permits: During this phase, we may send a public notice for discretionary permits. Some types of permits need a public notice, like a new house on a vacant lot. Permits that need a public hearing also need a public notice. If your project needs a public hearing, your Planner will give you guidance before it happens.

    State law requires us to issue decisions on most permits within 60 days of it being deemed complete.

    Ministerial permits: Ministerial permits have a much simpler to process. They:
    •    Do not need public notices
    •    Are not subject to state-mandated timelines for review
    •    Are exempt from CEQA review
    •    Are not appealable.

  6. Decision Issued.

    State law requires us to issue decisions on most discretionary permits within 60 days of when it's deemed complete. We will send you your decision via hardcopy mail and email. Decisions can include a denial, approval, or approval with conditions.

    If your application needs a public hearing, we'll schedule it within 60 days of when its deemed complete.

  7. Appeals (8 or 10 Day Appeal Period)

    Discretionary permits are open to appeal. Anyone can appeal these permits, including the applicant and any member of the public. These appeals can be directly to the Planning Commission and then the Board of Supervisors. Planning permit decisions are not final until all appeals are resolved. 

    Permits for projects outside of the Coastal Zone have an 8-day appeal period.

    Permits for projects within the Coastal Zone have a 10-day appeal period. Some projects in the Coastal Zone are also appealable to the California Coastal Commission. Learn more about Coastal Permits in our Coastal Zoning Code.

  8. After Receiving Planning Permit Approval

    Even if you receive Planning Permit approval, you may also need other permits to complete your project. Your project will need to follow any Planning Permit conditions of approval. For example, your project may need a Building Permit for the actual construction. You also need to contact the review authority responsible for any other permits.


Page updated May 16, 2024