Types of Permits
All new structures and modifications to structures in the City of Berkeley are required to be in conformance with the Zoning Ordinance. In addition, all businesses in the City of Berkeley are required to be in conformance with the uses permitted in the Zoning Ordinance. Applicants for development projects and new businesses should begin with review by zoning staff to determine what type of zoning permit is needed and to ensure that a use is allowed in the location proposed. Some types of development and uses are allowed “as-of-right,” meaning that no public review is required so long as the proposed project or use conforms to the requirements of the zoning ordinance. An as-of-right project or use is issued a Zoning Certificate and the applicant can proceed to submit an application and plans for a building permit or proceed with application for a business license. However, many proposed development projects or new businesses require some level of “discretionary review,” meaning they are subject to public notice to neighbors and a public hearing. In this instance, prior to submitting an application for a building permit, an applicant is required to proceed through the public review process to receive a Use Permit or other entitlement. Each permit type is described below.
A Zoning Certificate (ZC) serves as a record of the initial establishment of a use, or the construction of a structure, which is allowed as a matter of right. A ZC is generally issued at the Permit Services Center counter by Land Use Planning staff. For more information about ZCs, and Zoning Conformance review, please see Zoning Ordinance Chapter 23B.20.
Administrative Use Permit
An Administrative Use Permit (AUP) is a discretionary permit for the use of land or land development that is issued by the Zoning Officer. An AUP sometimes requires environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). An AUP may be appealed to the Zoning Adjustments Board and its decision may be appealed to the City Council by any "aggrieved person or entity." For more details about AUP please see the Zoning Ordinance Chapter 23B.28. Please review the application submittal requirements (.pdf) for more information.
Use Permit (Public Hearing)
A Use Permit (UPPH) is a discretionary permit for the use of land or land development that is issued by the Zoning Adjustments Board after a public hearing. A UPPH often requires environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A UPPH may be appealed to the City Council by any aggrieved body. For more details about UPPH please see the Zoning Ordinance Chapter 23B.32. Please review the application submittal requirements (.pdf) for more information.
Design Review is required for exterior changes to non-residential buildings. There are two levels of Design Review pursuant to the Zoning Ordinance. The first is Staff Level Design Review (SDR). SDR is conducted by staff for less complex projects that do not require ZAB review and approval. They are subject to appeal to the Design Review Committee, then the Zoning Adjustments Board, and finally the City Council. For more complex projects that require approval by the ZAB, the Design Review Committee (DRC) conducts design review. The DRC makes a recommendation to the ZAB that is then considered as part of the overall project. For more information about Use Permits, please see Zoning Ordinance Chapter 23E.12.
Projects that involve landmarks go to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) rather than the Design Review staff or committee. Application submittal requirements:
Landmarks Designation and Design Review / Structural Alteration Permit
The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) oversees the review of Landmark Applications for properties worthy of preservation for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to architectural merit and historical significance. The LPC conducts Design Review for landmarked properties through the Structural Alteration Permit process. Actions by the LPC are subject to appeal to the City Council. For more details about landmark designation and alteration please see the Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 3.24.
Maps and Condominium Conversions
BMC Title 21 governs the manner in which land or air space is divided for the purposes of condominiums, parcels and subdivisions, lot line adjustments and other land boundary processes. Please see BMC Title 21, “Subdivisions” for more information.