Frequently Asked Questions

 

Permit FAQ
Building and Inspections FAQ
Plans and Zoning FAQ
Boards and Commissions FAQ
Redevelopment 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?
5.  When does my application expire?
6.  What methods of payment do you accept?

 


1.  When is a building permit required?

A building permit is required when a building or structure is erected, constructed, enlarged, altered, repaired, moved, improved, removed, converted or demolished.  This general requirement is further defined in the BMC Section 19.28.090 by work exempt from a permit.

 

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 all electrical work with the exceptions indicated in BMC Section 19.30.080.    

 

5.  When does my application expire?

Section A105.3.2 of the Berkeley Municipal Code (BMC) states, "An application for a permit for any proposed work shall expire 180 days after the date of filing, unless it can be demonstrated by the applicant that such application has been pursued in good faith or a permit has been issued; except that the Permit Services Coordinator is authorized to grant one (1) or more extensions of time for additional periods not exceeding a total of one (1) year.  The extension shall be requested in writing and justifiable cause demonstrated."

 

6.  What methods of payment do you accept?

We accept Visa, MasterCard (Credit Card Authorization Form), Checks and Cash.

 

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BUILDING AND INSPECTION FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1.  How do I schedule an inspection?
2.  What are the construction work hours and maximum noise levels?

 


 

1.  How do I schedule an inspection?

Telephone Inspections Scheduling Information can be found here.

 

2.  What are the construction work hours and maximum noise levels?

Paragraph B 7 of Section 13.40.070 of the BMC outlines the construction work hours and maximum noise levels, however in some cases a Use Permits or Administrative Use Permit for a specific project may have tighter restrictions.  

 

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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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REDEVELOPMENT  FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1.  What is Redevelopment and the Redevelopment Agency?
2.  Where in Berkeley are Redevelopment areas located and what Redevelopment activities are being undertaken?
3.  How is redevelopment financed and does it affect my taxes?
4.  Does redevelopment affect my property value?
5.  Who is in charge of administering Redevelopment activities?
6.  When are public meetings held?
7.  How do I find out more about Redevelopment?

 


 

1.  What is Redevelopment and the Redevelopment Agency?

Redevelopment is the activity carried out by the Agency and consists of actions taken to eliminate blight from a designated area. Blight is defined as an economic or physical condition that causes an area to suffer from negative environmental conditions, or negative impacts to the health, safety, or welfare of people in the area. Examples of blight include inadequate streets or sidewalks, lack of parking, excessive vacant or abandoned residential or commercial properties, and dilapidated properties.

A Redevelopment Agency is a legally recognized political subdivision of the State, such as a City or County. In Berkeley, the Redevelopment Agency is governed by the City Council, which acts as the Berkeley Redevelopment Agency Board. The Agency has its own source of funds, and its own spending criteria and spending limits. The responsibilities of a Redevelopment Agency frequently include re-planning, redesign, reconstruction, clearance, rehabilitation, construction of new public facilities, and provision of blight-reducing services.

2.  Where in Berkeley are Redevelopment areas located and what Redevelopment activities are being undertaken?

Berkeley has two redevelopment areas: Savo Island and West Berkeley Project Areas. The redevelopment activity at Savo Island is complete and resulted in construction financing for affordable housing along Adeline Street. The West Berkeley Project Area is in the final planning stages and includes approximately $5,000,000 in public improvement projects, such as partial funding of the I-80 pedestrian and bicycle overcrossing; streetscape improvements consisting of new lighting, sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, and street trees; a new multi-modal transit plaza to accommodate bike and pedestrian links between commercial and employment areas, a train station upgrade, and accommodations for busses and parking; a new pedestrian and bicycle link to Aquatic Park; parking improvements on public streets, and public art.

3.  How is redevelopment financed and does it affect my taxes?

Redevelopment does not affect individual property or other taxes. Pursuant to California law, redevelopment agencies obtain funding through a method called "tax increment financing." Redevelopment funds are derived from property taxes that would normally be paid to the County. Once the city council approves a redevelopment plan for a proposed project area, the area has a specific total property tax value. If the property tax value increases, most of the funds derived from the increase go to the redevelopment agency instead of the county.

Redevelopment agencies can issue bonds and pay back those bonds using the property tax it receives from the "tax increment financing". Therefore, an Agency can borrow money and pay it back the same way a homeowner would purchase a house using a mortgage and pay it back using future income. Agency bond sales allow projects to be funded and constructed earlier in the life of a redevelopment agency.

4.  Does redevelopment affect my property value?

Redevelopment does not directly affect property values. However, since the purpose of redevelopment is to provide adequate public facilities and to eliminate blight in an area, this activity can lead to increased property values as an area is improved. The construction of new sidewalks, remodeling of buildings, and abatement of nuisance and dilapidated properties by the Agency will not affect your tax bill. The value of property near these abatement activities generally goes up when undesirable blight conditions are eliminated, because people are willing to pay higher prices when dilapidated, vacant, and abandoned buildings are no longer present and when public improvements such as parks, safe bike ways and sidewalks are available.

5.  Who is in charge of administering Redevelopment activities?

Day to day administration of the Redevelopment Agency is the responsibility of the Redevelopment Coordinator, Amber Evans (510-981-7418).

The West Berkeley Redevelopment Area has a West Berkeley Project Area Committee (PAC) consisting of property and business owners in this general area. The PAC holds public meetings to discuss public improvements as well as proposals by private parties within the Project Area. It then makes recommendations to the hearing body charged with making a decision on the project. The PAC is instrumental in communicating local concerns, ideas, and project changes to the citywide authorities charged with approving projects.

The Berkeley Redevelopment Agency Board consists of the Berkeley City Council members and is the governing body for the Agency. It is responsible for making final decisions on which projects get funding, which programs the agency will sponsor, and all legal and financial operations of the Agency. The Redevelopment Agency Board sets policy, approves contracts and expenditures, and maintains overall budget authority.

6.  When are public meetings held?

The West Berkeley Project Area Committee (PAC) holds regular meetings the fourth Thursday of each month at 7:00 PM at the West Berkeley Senior Center located at 1900 Sixth Street. Occasionally a special meeting will be held or a regular meeting will be cancelled. Information on upcoming and past PAC meetings can be found at the West Berkeley Project Area Committee and Agency Board.

The Berkeley Redevelopment Agency Board also holds public meetings to consider recommendations from the PAC and other matters involving agency financing, plans, operations, and contracts. These meetings are held prior to City Council meetings on an as-needed basis. Information on upcoming Agency Board meetings can be found on the Community Calendar.

7.How do I find out more about Redevelopment?

You can obtain a free booklet called “citizens guide to redevelopment” by contacting Amber Evans at 510-981-7418. You can also review a copy of the redevelopment plan for the West Berkeley Project Area on the third floor of the Planning office located at 2120 Milvia Street, Berkeley, or at the main Berkeley public library.

 

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