FAQs

Building Permits, Codes, & Requirements

Residential    

Zoning and Commercial Signs, Parking, New Development & Land Uses

Traffic, On-street Parking, Speed Control    

Drainage, Paving, Flatwork, Sewer/Water Line Replacement    

Required Parking

Parking need is based on the proposed land use classification. The number of required parking stalls depends on the type of activity to be conducted on the property where the required ratio may be expressed as stalls per rentable floor area, per site area, or in combination for all activities on the site. The Off-Street Parking & Loading Ordinance provides the required ratios. More information on the parking lot design and vehicle circulation including landscaped fingers, islands, and ADA parking stalls and paths of travel can be found in the Design Review Guidelines.

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Front Yard Fences & Fences More Than 6 Feet Tall

Residential front yards are intended to be transition spaces between the purely public realm of the street and private homes. Homes with exceedingly tall front yard fences appear fortress-like and disconnected from the neighborhood community and may also create a public safety hazard when erected on corner lots. Tall side and rear yard fences are generally proposed to address privacy concerns but may block access to light and air and are sometimes erected by one property owner to “spite” another.

Any fence whose overall height is more than 6 feet tall and fences more than 36 inches tall within a required front yard setback requires the filing of a Minor Use Fence Permit application with the Planning Division.

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Residential Opportunities

In addition to local realtors and real estate agents, persons interested in residing in Walnut Creek should check the New Development Projects page or review the Pipeline [PDF] for projects under review, approved, or under construction.

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Affordable-Rate Housing

The City's Housing Division can assist you in finding affordable-rate housing opportunities. Visit the Housing Programs page for home buyer assistance programs, rental opportunities, and other resources.

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Setbacks

Property setbacks are rules that define how close to a property line a structure may be built. Property setbacks often exist to improve the visual appeal of a community. For example, while all the other buildings may be set back 20 feet or more, design professionals would tell you that a structure built at the street line would detract from a visually pleasing streetscape scene. Side yard setbacks are there to keep some light and space between homes and are generally greater as the lot size increases. Rear yard setbacks are intended to keep larger green spaces for people to enjoy their backyards.

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Goats, Chickens, and Animal Keeping

Up to three animals, including poultry (except roosters), domestic, or exotic animals, may be kept as household pets and are permitted in all land use districts where residential uses are allowed. However, there are certain limitations: Livestock and poultry are not considered household pets unless an Animal Permit is obtained; No animals, except cats, are permitted to run at large, but are to be kept under the control of the owner of the property, or kept within a suitable enclosure within the main building; Animal enclosures, pens, or runs are not to be placed in the front yard.

More information is available on the Animal Regulations page.

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Undersized Lots

A lot that is smaller than the minimum required by the applicable zoning district must comply with the zoning regulations unless a Variance is granted. Generally, substandard lot sizes do not affect the property and variances are not granted to simply accommodate a proposed expansion as a matter of convenience or cost. The hardship must be substantiated and directly related to the land or its physical characteristics rather than an existing or proposed structure.

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Sheds, Gazebos, and Other Accessory Structures

An accessory structure is a detached structure that is subordinate and incidental to the main building on the site. These may include storage sheds, detached garages, gazebos, pool houses, and animal enclosures. A structure that is functionally part of the main building, like a patio cover or sunroom, and enclosed by a roof or wall, and is not substantially open to the environment is considered a part of the main building. More>>

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Design Review

Design Review, a discretionary review process, is intended to promote quality architectural design, site planning, and landscape development in the city. The process is aimed at improving and augmenting other development controls included in the City's planning and building ordinances. Furthermore, the process specifically seeks to preserve property values throughout the community.

Design Review is required for new buildings or modifications to commercial and multifamily properties; single-family dwellings in new subdivisions; and, in most cases, any significant alterations to any such buildings or sites. Design Review includes the site, building, and landscaping plans of all new commercial and multifamily residential buildings. The City also reviews signs, sign programs, and community facilities like churches, utility buildings, and corporation yards. More>>

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Home-Based Business & Home Occupations

Home-based businesses make up a substantial portion of self employment in California’s economy. Home-based businesses are allowed in the City to the extent that the operation of the business preserves the residential character of the home, property, and its environs. A Home Occupation Permit and Business License is required to conduct such a business.

More information can be obtained from the Planning Division  and Business License Division.

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Massage Therapy

The land use classification “Massage Therapy” is defined as a Personal Service and allowed in all zoning districts where Personal Services are allowed. Due to recent illicit activities related to massage and related therapies, any operator and masseuses employed as masseurs must obtain a Massage Permit through the Walnut Creek Police Department.

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Signs and Sign Area

Signs have a strong visual impact on the character and quality of the community. As a prominent part of the scenery, they attract or repel the viewing public, affect the safety of vehicular traffic, and their suitability helps to set the tone of the neighborhood. The regulation of signs is intended to protect and enhance the City's character and its economic base through the provision of appropriate and aesthetic signing.

Sign design plays an important role in the community’s perception and economic vitality. Signs may be dictated by sign programs or individually regulated by the type, location, or land use classification of the business through the Sign Ordinance. More>>

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Tree Removal

All trees, dead or alive!, which measure 9 inches or more at a height of 54 inches above the ground are protected by the tree preservation ordinance. The City Arborist may approve certain trees to be removed through a “ministerial” Tree Removal Permit subject to the authority delegated by the Public Services Manager. Trees that cannot be approved require filing of a discretionary review application for review by the Zoning Administrator at a public hearing. Tree removal requests associated with a new construction or site modifications are reviewed by the highest reviewing authority.

Visit the Tree Removal Permit page for more information.

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Travel Trailers & Motor Coaches Parked on the Street

The Walnut Creek Police Department can issue temporary permits to allow short-term parking on public streets. More>>

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Storage of Boats, Trailers, Motor Homes, Buses, and Camper Shells

The parking of these types of vehicles in broad public view generally detracts from the visual appeal of the neighborhood. The long-term storage of boats, trailers, motor homes, buses, and campers is permitted in all residential lots except within a required front or street side yard setback. In most cases, the vehicle or shell must be stored behind the front wall plane of the home. More>>

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Nuisance Abatement & Code Enforcement

Report a nuisance violation or request an investigation. If you leave a message, please provide your name and phone number so we can clarify the issue as well as report back to you concerning what action(s) will be taken. We maintain strict confidentiality of reporting persons.

Contact the Building Division if you see what you believe is illegal building construction and want to express your concern about possible building code violations.

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Property General Plan & Zoning Designations

The City plans to make General Plan and Zoning Information available online via a Geographic Information System (GIS). The GIS is currently under development and will go live sometime in late 2012. Meanwhile, visit the City's Maps page if you know where in the City the property is located. Otherwise, contact the Duty Planner via email or call (925) 256-3558.

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In-law & Second Family Units

One in-law unit, attached or detached, up to 700 square feet that comply with the Second Family Unit Ordinance is permitted by right on all single-family properties. In-law units are a form of affordable house and can be approved without a public hearing. More>>

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Measure A Building Height Freeze - 1985 Voter Initiative

Measure A was approved by the electorate in March 1985 and established the maximum height, expressed in feet, stories, or combination thereof, at which a building may be constructed. The full text of Measure A is available for review. Due to zoning changes, the height normally allowed by the current zoning district may be higher than height established by Measure A. Please contact the Duty Planner via email or call (925) 256-3558 to determine if a property is encumbered by Measure A.

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Work that Does Not Require a Building Permit

True, certain types of work are exempt from a building permit. However, certain types of work, such as new decks, accessory structures, fences, and retaining walls may still require a planning and/or engineering permits. If your plans include any items contained on the list, you should check with the Duty Planner and/or Duty Engineer and obtain their clearance to ensure that your work requires no permits or other type of review.

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Work that Requires a Building Permit

A building permit is required for new structures and for activities that physically change a property. If any proposed work involves removing a tree or construction within the dripline of the tree, City approval will be required. The list is not meant to be a complete list, but only representative of the work which requires a permit. If you have questions regarding specific work, please call the Community Development Department at (925) 943-5834 or e-mail the building division. A plan check engineer will assist you in determining whether your proposed work requires a permit or not.

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Building Permit Review Timelines

Depending on the level of complexity and workload, building permits may take as long as 21 days or be as quick as an over-the-counter approval. The Development Center strives for quick turnaround of plans but all applicants should review the time table contained in Policy Bulletin 031.

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Currently Adopted Codes (Building, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Energy, etc.)

Due to ever-changing updates for life safety and energy requirements, design professionals should periodically check the Current Building Codes for the latest news and updates.

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Permit Submittal Requirements

Visit the Forms, Guides, & Checklists page for the type of project that is proposed.

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"Over the Counter" Permits

Typical "over-the-counter" permits include re-roofing, electrical service upgrades, water heater and replacement, and the installation of skylights. Check the list to see whether the proposed work can generally be issued over the counter.

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Permit Assignee & Issuance

Permit issuance requires the signature of the legal property owner or a California licensed contractor. An agent for either party may sign for a permit provided the agent submits written authorization from the owner or contractor with the permit application. A Letter of Authorization must be submitted to the Permit Clerk prior to permit issuance.

Unlicensed Designers and Drafting Services

Non-licensed designers may be used whenever the scope of work does not require an architect or engineer due to the regulations contained in the Business & Professions Code, or structural, fire, or other life-safety considerations. Contact the Building Division via email or call (925) 943-5834 for more detail.

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Reporting Potential Roadway Hazards

Call 911 if the hazard is an immediate threat to health and safety. For all other potential hazards, contact Traffic Engineering at 925-256-3529 to report the issue.

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Parking on Public Streets

California Vehicle Code Section 22500 allows any legal vehicle to park on the street for up to 72 hours. However, the City Municipal Code Sec. 3-5.1106 prohibits commercial vehicles that weigh in excess of 10,000 pounds from parking on City streets. If you see a vehicle that is left on the street in excess of 72 hours, or if you think the vehicle is in excess of 10,000 pounds, call the City and request parking enforcement.

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Stop Signs and Traffic Studies

Caltrans requires that intersections must meet minimum "warrants" or standards for the installation of all-way stops. If you feel that an intersection needs to have all-way stops, call 925-256-3529 and file a request. The Traffic Engineering Division will analyze the intersection and respond to you.

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Speed Enforcement & Speed Trailers

If you see a vehicle speeding, do not confront the driver. Report it to the Walnut Creek Police Department at (925) 943-5844. Speed trailers to discourage speeding may also be requested through WCPD.

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Speed Bumps

The City does not install “speed bumps” on our streets. Traffic studies have shown that speed bumps can actually raise the average speed on the street as motorists speed between the bumps to make up for the perceived loss of time.

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Sidewalk / Driveway Replacement

Concrete flatwork on private property does not require a permit. You can create a patio, replace a driveway, or form a path without a permit. However, if you are replacing the driveway approach or the sidewalk in front of your property, an Encroachment Permit is required.

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Replacing a Sewer Line

There are two public agencies that require permits for work on sewer lines: 1) Central Contra Costa Sanitary District maintains the sewer lines and a permit is required from them prior to any repair work on a sewer line; and, 2) An Encroachment Permit is required from the City if the work performed will require access in the public right-of-way.

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Dumpsters or "PODs" in the Street

The City of Walnut Creek does not allow stationary objects such as "PODs" or dumpsters in the public right-of-way. These objects are to be located in a driveway or other areas on private property.

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Drainage Issues on Your Property

Minor drainage solutions such as a French drain or minor grading do not require a permit. Drainage that is collected and conveyed should be taken to an approved drainage course such as a drainage swale or concrete v-ditch. Any concentration of flow should not be directed onto neighboring properties. If drainage is to be conveyed to the street, an Encroachment Permit will be required to install a sidewalk cross drain. Contact Engineering at 925-943-5839.

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Emptying a Pool or Spa

No. Pools and spas are to be drained into a sanitary sewer cleanout. You must contact the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District to obtain a no-fee permit to drain to the cleanout. Contact CCCSD at 925-933-0955 for more information.

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Retaining Walls

Retaining walls taller than 3 feet in height require a Site Development Permit. Any site work that involves cut or fill over 3 feet in height or over 50 cubic yards of dirt also requires a Site Development Permit.

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