Frequently Asked Questions

Permit FAQ
Building and Inspections FAQ
Plans and Zoning FAQ
Boards and Commissions FAQ

What permits do I need?
What's the difference between a building permit and a zoning permit?
Learn more about the building permit Process
When are addtional construction requirements triggered?

PERMIT SERVICE CENTER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1.  When is a building permit required?
2.  When is a plumbing permit required?
3.  When is a mechanical permit required?
4.  When is an electrical permit required?

 


 

1.  When is a building permit required?

105.1 Required. Any owner or authorized agent who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish, or change the occupancy of a building or structure, or to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system, the installation of which is regulated by this code, or to cause any such work to be done, shall first make application to the building official and obtain the required permit. Building permit exceptions:

 

2.  When is a plumbing permit required?

A plumbing permit is required for the installation, alteration, repair, replacement or remodel of any plumbing system with the following exceptions:

 

3.  When is a mechanical permit required?

A mechanical permit is required when a mechanical system (heating and air conditioning, etc.) is installed, altered, repaired, replaced or remodeled with the following exceptions:

 

4.  When is an electrical permit required?

An electrical permit is required for all electrical work with the the following exceptions:

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BUILDING AND INSPECTION FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  1. What time is my inspection?
  2. When can I speak with an inspector?
  3. Does my neighbor have a permit for construction work they are performing?
  4. Can I file an anonymous complaint against my neighbor for doing illegal construction/work without permit?
  5. How early in the day am I allowed to begin construction? Are there noise restrictions?
  6. Do I need a permit to build a fence?
  7. How can I review copies of permits and/or plans?
  8. Does my building have a Certificate of Occupancy?
  9. How do I get an Address Assignment?
  10. Is my property in compliance with RECO?
  11. When will I receive my Seismic Transfer Tax Rebate?
  12. Can I apply for an extension of Seismic Transfer Tax rebate?
  13. How long will my building permit remain valid? Can I file for an extension?
  14. What are the current Building Codes used by the City of Berkeley?
  15. My property is a soft story building. What do I need to know?

 1.  What time is my inspection?

Customers should call between 8:00-9:00AM on the day of the scheduled inspection. Callers should dial (510)981-7440, follow the voice prompt, and dial option 0 to speak with an operator who will confirm the inspection time. This is also the number used to reach an inspector. For more information on scheduling inspections follow the link below.

http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Planning_and_Development/Building_and_Safety/24_Hour_Inspection_Self-Scheduling.aspx

             

 2.  When can I speak with an inspector?

Inspectors are available by phone daily between 8:00-9:00AM, and in the afternoon between 4:00-4:25PM. Building Inspectors can be reached by dialing (510)981-7440, then follow the prompt to reach the inspector you wish to speak with. You may also dial option 0 to speak with an operator.

            

 3.  Does my neighbor have a permit for construction work they are performing?

Callers my check up-to-date permit history on any address by using the City of Berkeley website’s Planning Department page. It will allow you to search parcel conditions and permit history by searching the address. The link is below:

http://www.cityofberkeley.info/ppop

 

 4.  Can I file an anonymous complaint against my neighbor for doing illegal construction/work without permit?

Complaints against neighbors under suspicion of illegal construction can be made in the form of a REQUEST FOR SERVICE. Once a request for service is submitted, an inspector will be assigned to the case and an investigation will begin. We will not accept anonymous complaints. The form may be found on the City of Berkeley website’s Planning Department page in Frequently Requested Forms. Completed forms may be dropped off, mailed, or faxed to the Building & Safety Division, 2120 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA. Fax (510)981-7450.

 

 5.  How early am I allowed to begin work on my construction project? Are there any noise restrictions?

Construction work may begin at 7:00AM. However, construction noise is only allowed between 7:00AM-7:00PM on weekdays, and 9:00AM and 8:00PM on weekends and legal holidays. See the link below for more information.

http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Online_Service_Center/Planning/Construction%20Noise%20Standards.pdf

 

 6.  Do I need a permit to build a fence?

A permit is not required if the fence is under six feet in height, including the above ground footing. Any fence six feet and above will require a permit from Land Use Planning and a Building Permit.

 

 7.  How can I review copies of plans and/or permits? Can I have copies?

Recent permits/plans may be available in the Building & Safety Division during normal business hours. Older permits/plans may be in storage and will need to be located by Building & Safety staff. In order to search for permits/plans, a RECORDS RETRIEVAL REQUEST form must be completed and submitted to Building & Safety. The form may be located on the City of Berkeley website’s Planning Department page in Frequently Requested Forms. Duplicates of plans cannot be made without written permission from the architect and the property owner.

 

 8.  Does my building have a Certificate of Occupancy?

A Certificate of Occupancy represents the completion of a construction project, and that the building is ready for occupancy. Prior to January 1, 2011 single-family residential dwellings did not require Certificates of Occupancy. Currently Certificates of Occupancy are required for all new residential and commercial properties. In addition, new Certificates of Occupancy are required whenever there is a change of use, or change of occupancy for a building. (I.e. Change from residential to commercial.)

 

 9.  How do I get an Address Assignment?

Potential new addresses must be checked against the City’s database to confirm the address doesn’t already exist. This can be done by searching on the City of Berkeley website’s Planning Department page for parcel information. See link below.

http://www.cityofberkeley.info/ppop

If the potential address is not in the database, an ADDRESS ASSIGNMENT APPLICATION may be completed and submitted to the Building & Safety Division. There is $340.00 processing fee for all address assignment applications. Please allow 6-8 weeks turn-around time for completion. See link below for application.

http://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Online_Service_Center/Planning/Address_Assignment.pdf

 

 10.  Is my property in compliance with RECO?

All RECO inquiries are handled through email correspondence. Emails containing a property address may be sent to RECO@CityofBerkeley.info for information regarding that property’s status. Emails received before 4:00pm will usually get a response the same day.

 

 11.  When will I receive my Seismic Transfer Tax Rebate?

After Seismic Transfer Tax Rebate Applications are submitted and signed off by a Building Inspector, the application is routed to the Finance Department. You may contact the Finance Department at (510)981-7210 for more information.

            

 12.  Can I apply for an extension of Seismic Transfer Tax Rebate?

To request an extension for a Seismic Transfer Tax Rebate, a letter must be submitted to the Finance Department(attn: Ray Westphal), at 1947 Center Street, Berkeley, CA explaining why the extension is needed, and the length of time.

 

 13.  How long will my building permit remain valid? Can I file for an extension?

Building and all supplemental construction permits are valid for one year from the date that the permit application is approved. However, the first inspection must be performed within 180 days from the date of issuance. If a customer needs more than one year to complete all work, a one-time permit extension can be issued over the counter at the Permit Service Center extending the permit an additional year. If a customer needs a second or subsequent permit extension, a 2ND/SUBSEQUENT PERMIT EXTENSION REQUEST form will need to be completed and submitted to Building & Safety. Second/subsequent permit extension applications will need to go through an approval process that includes a final sign-off by the Supervising Building Inspector. Permit extension application forms can found on the City of Berkeley website’s Planning Department page in Frequently Request Forms.

 

 14.  What are the current Building Codes that are used by the City of Berkeley?

The City of Berkeley Building & Safety Division is currently using the 2010 California Codes for Building, Plumbing, Electrical, and Mechanical permits. The City of Berkeley will update to the 2013 California Codes beginning on January 1, 2014.

 

 15.  My property is a soft story building. What do I need to know?

Soft story buildings are properties that contain soft, weak, or open front conditions. For information on the City of Berkeley’s Soft Story Building Program please see the link below for frequently asked questions.

 http://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Planning_and_Development/Level_3_-_Building_and_Safety/Soft%20Story%20FAQ.ver%204.pdf

 

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PLANS AND ZONING FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1.  What's the difference between the General Plan and the Zoning Ordinance? 
2.  How can I find the zoning and permitted uses for a property?
3.  How can I find out about the status of a Use Permit or Administrative Use Permit application, pending and issued Notices of Decision and City Council appeals?
4.  Is there a plan for my neighborhood? 
5.  What can the City do to slow traffic on my street? 
6. How do I get a copy of a Plan?

 


1.  What's the difference between the General Plan and the Zoning Ordinance?

The General Plan is the city's long-term plan for the physical development of the city.  It guides all decisions about city regulations, ordinances, public improvements, and budgets. The Zoning Ordinance establishes the development standards for land within the city limits. If you want to know what the long term plan for your neighborhood is, check the General Plan. If you want to know what you can do with your property, check the Zoning Ordinance.   

2.  How can I find the zoning and permitted uses for a property?

You can determine the zoning for your property by checking the city’s Parcel Conditions and Permit History Report or the Zoning Map and referencing the related section in the Zoning Ordinance to identify use restrictions, special requirements and development standards. 

3.  How can I find out about the status of a Use Permit or Administrative Use Permit application, pending and issued Notices of Decision and City Council appeals?

Check the Current Project page for up to date information.

4.  Is there a plan for my neighborhood?

There is a plan for the whole city.  It is called the General Plan or the Master Plan.  Some areas of the City also have their own plans called "Area Plans".  There are Area Plans for West Berkeley, South Berkeley, South Shattuck, University Avenue, and the Waterfront.  The Southside Plan is underway for the area south of campus.

5.  What can the City do to slow traffic on my street?

Contact the Office of Transportation for more information on traffic calming in the City of Berkeley.

6.  How do I get a copy of a Plan?

Check the Adopted Plans to see if the Plan you want is available online.  If it isn't, stop by the Land Use Planning office at 2120 Milvia, 3rd floor, to buy a hard copy. Office hours are 8 AM-5 PM daily. 

 

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BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1.  Which Boards and Commissions are associated with the Planning and Development Department and how do I get information about their meetings and agendas?

2.  What's the difference between the Planning Commission and the Zoning Adjustments Board?

3.  How do I send something to the Planning Commission or Zoning Adjustments Board?

 


1.  Which Boards and Commissions are associated with the Planning and Development Department and how do I get information about their meetings and agendas?

Visit the Boards and Commissions page.

2.  What's the difference between the Planning Commission and the Zoning Adjustments Board?

The Planning Commission reviews most general planning issues, including amendments to zoning ordinances and subdivision applications.  The Zoning Adjustments Board interprets zoning ordinances and reviews variance and use permit proposals.

3.  How do I send something to the Planning Commission or Zoning Adjustments Board?

Materials can be submitted to the Boards and Commissions through the secretaries.  Mail, fax, deliver, or e-mail communication to:

Planning Commission Secretary: Information must be received at least ten business days prior to the meeting date.

Zoning Adjustments Board Secretary: See the Citizen's Guide to the Zoning Adjustments Board for details.

 

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