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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the basic process for getting a planning permit?
Planning permits follow these basic steps.

1) Application Assistance - An applicant meets with planning staff to review the project proposal. Applicants receive an overview of the permit process and are provided with a list of application submittal requirements, estimates of permit fees and processing time.

2) Application Submittal - An applicant submits a completed application form along with copies of project plans and supplemental documents. Fees are collected at this time.

3) File Opening & Referral - Planning Division staff generate maps and other documents and send copies of the application to referral agencies for comment.

4) Staff Report - After the referrals are returned by the reviewing agencies, Planning Division Staff compiles a staff report for the decision-maker. Projects that involve environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act have additional reports documenting environmental impacts.

5) Public Notification - If required, notice of pending decisions are sent directly to surrounding property owners and published in the newspaper.

6) Decision - Depending on project type, the decision-maker can be the Director, Zoning Administrator, Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors. Other than decisions made by the Director, public hearings are conducted where public testimony is received.

7) Appeals - After a decision is made, affected parties may appeal the decision within a certain time period. Appeal periods vary depending on the project type. The permit becomes effective upon completion of the appeal period. Any unpaid fees are invoiced at this time.

8) Post Approval Conditions - Most permits are approved with specific conditions. Conformance with permit conditions is coordinated between the applicant and Planning Division staff. The project is not complete until all required conditions are met.

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1. What is an assessor’s parcel number?
2. How do I find out if my parcel is the city or in the county?
3. What is a zoning classification?
4. What development does zoning allow?
5. What is a land use designation?
6. What is a combining zone?
7. What are building setbacks?
8. What is the minimum parcel size?
9. What permits are required to build, rebuild or remodel a house?
10. What’s the difference between building in the coastal zone and the inland areas?
11. How do I research if a property is in the coastal zone?
12. Can I place a manufactured home on my property?
13. Are accessory dwelling units allowed on a property?
14. How tall can a fence be built?
15. Are horses, chickens, goats or other domesticated animals allowed in residential zones?
16. Can I remove trees from a property?
17. Can a person live in a travel trailer on a property?
18. How do I determine if a lot was legally created?
19. Are there any easements that affect a property?
20. Is my property subject to flooding?
21. What is a nonconforming structure or use?
22. If an old structure burns down, can it be rebuilt?
23. Can a house be remodeled if it does not meet the required setbacks?
24. Can a parcel be subdivided?
25. What is the basic process for getting a building permit?
26. What is the basic process for getting a planning permit?
27. What are typical fees for a planning permit?
28. How do I get help applying for a planning permit?
29. I’m thinking about buying a property. How can I research more about it?
30. How do I research which zones allow a particular use?
31. What is the difference between a principally permitted use and a conditionally permitted use?
32. What is the process for annexing a parcel into a city?
33. Does the county enforce covenants, conditions, or restrictions in subdivisions?
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