Project & Permit Review Process Workflows

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To assist clients in visualizing the review processes, select the process and follow along as each of the steps is described.

Building Permit Review

Building Permit Review Flow Chart [PDF, 29K]

Helpful Tips Before You Begin

Design Professionals and Contractors
If a design professional such as an architect or engineer prepares the plans, the plans need to be signed and wet stamped. If the contractor who is doing the work prepares the plans, the contractor needs to sign the plans as the preparer and include the contractor license number on each page of the plans.

Submittal Checklists & Plan/Drawing Contents

First download the general requirements for all permit applications and then the checklist that applies to your project. Detailed checklists are available to ensure the plans/drawings show all required information.

Residential Only: Provide one additional set of plans for City Arborist review if any trees may be impacted by the work.

TreeDripline_1Important Note about Trees
If the work includes exterior changes please provide a site plan showing the location of the trees, the tree type, trunk diameter when measured 54 inches above grade, and the dripline outline. Refer to the Tree Preservation Ordinance for more information.

Supporting Documentation & Reports
Unless otherwise noted, provide two sets of supporting 8-½ x 11 documents such as Title 24 Energy calculations, structural calculations, or a soils report.

The Application Form
The building permit application must be contain the following information: Contact information for the owner, applicant, and contractor including license number; scope and description of work; and, the project valuation. Leave the contractor line blank if you do not yet have a contractor.

Fees
Plan Check Fees [PDF] – The plan check fee is based on the valuation of the proposed work. "Valuation" is the total cost of the work from start to finish (time, materials, labor), and generally excludes surface treatments such as paint, staining, and flooring.  A plan check fee estimate may be obtained by calling (925) 943-5834, or emailing the Building Division with the required information. The plan check fee will be collected when submitting for a building permit. These include, as applicable, the fees for compliance review of plumbing, electrical, mechanical, & other building systems.  

The balance of fees is due at permit issuance. These fees typically include for the Strong Motion Instrumentation Program (SMIP), archiving of your plans, and the fees for inspections. Depending on the type, location, and components of the project, additional fees may be required prior to issuing the permit.

A school district fee is required when the work consists of new, or additions to, commercial and residential buildings. The fee is paid directly to the district in which the property is located.  We will provide you the required form which states the new floor area to present the school district office. The City requires a receipt from the school district showing the fee has been paid.

How Long Will It Take?
The plan check processing time is based on type and complexity of the project. Please refer to Policy Bulletin No. 031 [PDF] for plan check turn-around times. 

Plan Review
In addition to review for compliance with current building codes, the plans will be routed to various City Divisions including Engineering, Planning, Traffic Engineering, and the City Arborist. 

For example:

Planning - will check setbacks, lot coverage, and compliance with zoning standards. Any proposed exterior changes such as new windows and doors will also be reviewed for consistency with the neighborhood or other concerns.

New Development Engineering - will review the plans if the scope of work involves drainage resulting from new floor space, structural efficiencies related to retaining walls, potential encroachment into easements, and if any work is proposed or likely to occur in the public right-of-way. Depending on the magnitude of work, Engineering may also require the property owner to construct or enter into an agreement to construct new curb, gutter, and sidewalk where none exists.

Outside Agency Approvals
Approvals from outside agencies are required as follows: 

Typical: 

Commercial Tenant Improvement or
Multifamily Residential
- Contra Costa County Consolidated Fire Protection District
- County Health Department (for any work involving food distribution or preparation)
- Central Contra Costa Sanitary District (for residential or commercial additions or a new building)
Single Family Residential: Fire District, Water District, Sanitary District
Other agencies/ special districts may include: Bay Area Quality Management District 

Permit Issuance
When the plans are approved and ready for issue, one set of plans will remain in the building department for reference, one set will be sent to the County Tax Assessors Office, and one set, the “field” set, will be issued to the permit holder. The plans must be made readily available to any City Official or cognizant agency while under construction.

The approved building permit documents may be issued to the property owner, the licensed contractor (or company) with a letter of authorization from the property owner, or a designated person with a letter of authorization from the owner, contractor, or contracting company. Designated persons to whom the approved building permit documents are issued assume full responsibility for the project as described in the Owner/Building Declaration [PDF] which must be filed prior to permit issuance.

Building permits requiring a Site Development Permit (SDP) will not be issued until the SDP is issued.

Helpful Tips

  • All contractors performing work within the City Limit are required to have a valid City of Walnut Creek Business License.
  • To reduce potential delays, property owners and licensed contractors need to prepare a Letter of Authorization [PDF] which is names the person to whom the building permit will be issued.
  • Though not required, outside agency approvals should be obtained prior to building permit application submittal.  Outside agencies may require revisions and addressing those concerns up front can reduce delay.                 

Discretionary Development Review

Discretionary Development Review Flow Chart [PDF, 27K]

Do Your Homework
Even before putting pencil to paper, obtain as much information about the property from the City and formulate the concept after careful review of the General Plan, Zoning Ordinance, other applicable plans and policies, and various design requirements that may apply to your proposed project. Your proposal must be consistent with the City’s vision for the property. The city staff can provide basic information and typical conditions which may be imposed that may assist you in refining the concept.

In refining your concept, use high quality design professionals as this will be the single most important aspect of your project. Architects, engineers and other professional consultants are trained in the design and development field. The quality of the plans and project presentation will reflect on the quality of the entire application.

Lastly, be proactive with neighboring residents and property owners - especially those in residential areas. If possible, hold neighborhood meetings even before filing an application with the City. You will gain a valuable sense of concerns and an opportunity to address them up front rather than in front of a hearing body.

Preliminary Review Team (PRT) (Optional  but Highly Recommended)
The City offers preliminary project reviews prior to the submittal of a formal application. This allows staff from Planning, Engineering, Building, Housing, and Traffic Engineering to review your proposal and provide useful information that may save time and expensive revisions later in the process. The PRT meets weekly and is intended to provide feedback on preliminary requests. The PRT conducts cursory review, not a comprehensive analysis of the proposal. Review the PRT page and take advantage of the process.

Fees / Deposits
Most discretionary development review applications are charged on an hourly basis according to the current rate adopted by the City Council. The total required deposit depends on the types of entitlements requested. Review the Fees & Deposits web page for more information.

Filing of Application
Assemble a package consisting of completed application forms, initial fees /deposit, project plans, and other required information for submittal to the Planning Division. A staff project planner will be assigned to ensure that all the required information is included with the application, and will guide you through the remaining steps of the process. The late submittal of reports such as traffic/parking, acoustical analysis, arborist report, soils analysis, or photometric studies will likely cause unnecessary delay in processing your application.

Time Frames
The length of time required to process an application varies significantly and relies on a variety of factors. Review the Estimated Time Frames page for more detailed information

30-Day Review Period(s)
In accordance with the Permit Streamlining Act, City staff has 30 days from the date of acceptance of an application to determine whether the application package is complete. The application contents are routed to internal and external department and agencies for review. The general practice during a 30-day review period follows a “2-1-1” timeline – two weeks for review, one week for consolidation and follow-up, and one week for preparation of the project status letter.

Each department or agency to whom the project is routed will scrutinize the drawings, plans, and documents for consistency with adopted plans and standards specific to the type of review being conducted.  Here are some examples:

New Development Engineering – will analyze the plans for proper drainage flows, capacity, and structural efficiencies. The project engineer may require revisions that address the preliminary design and also comment on what is expected on future construction drawings. The plans must provide sufficient detail such that it demonstrates that the site improvements adequately anticipate what is proposed to be constructed.
Water District Review (CCWD or EBMUD) – will provide comment on the sizing, metering, capacity, and fees and/or charges that the project will require.
City Arborist – will visit the project site and evaluate the arborist report and trees in relation to the tree preservation ordinance. The City Arborist will provide recommendations and/or requirements for the removal or preservation of trees before, during, and after construction.

“Complete” vs “Incomplete” Status Notification
If the application is deemed complete, meaning the drawings, plans, studies, and/or reports contains sufficient and accurate information, the project planner will prepare for environmental review, staff decision, or schedule a tentative public hearing date.  If deemed “incomplete”, the letter will contain required revisions, requested information, and may also contain recommendations to make a better project. Planners not only serve as a project coordinator, but also serve to share their insight on improving the functionality, aesthetic quality, and other aspects of a proposed project.  It is incumbent upon you or your design team to resubmit the requested information / revised plans in a timely manner. Each re-submittal is subject to an additional 30-day review period.

Environmental Review
Very small projects are typically exempt from environmental review. More complex projects require an environmental assessment to determine if it will be necessary to prepare a Negative Declaration, or in more complex situations an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Projects for which a Negative Declaration must receive a minimum 20-day public review period to allow the public to comment on possible environmental impacts associated with the proposed project. Review the Environmental Review Procedures for details.

Public Hearings
At least 10 days prior to the meeting, owners of the property within 300 feet (at a minimum) of your site are notified by mail of the forthcoming hearing, and a notice of the public hearing is posted in prominent locations in the vicinity of the site.

At the public hearing, the staff project planner presents an oral report and recommendation. You then present your application, followed by any interested persons who may wish to comment on your proposal. The public hearing is then closed and a decision is made for a recommendation, an approval or conditional approval of your request, a denial your request, or postponement of a decision to a later date. Resist the temptation to bring new information to a public hearing. Without staff's prior analysis of such information, the reviewing body will be unable to act or render a decision pending review of that information in light of all other considerations.

The Decision Makers


Zoning Administrator (ZA) The Planning Manager may appoint any member of the planning staff to act as Zoning Administrator for different applications. The ZA holds public hearings and takes actions on variances, minor use permits, large family day care home permits; appeals of staff decisions regarding home occupations. The ZA may determine that, because of the probable controversial nature of any proposal, or because of the significance to the City, the Planning Commission should hear and decide an application.

Design Review Commission (DRC)
The Design Review Commission is comprised of four design professionals and one at-large member of the community. Their goal is to establish and enforce standards, policies and practices that will promote and enhance design of the City's built environment through review of individual buildings, structures, and their environs prior to construction - including site relationships and other aesthetic considerations.

Planning Commission (PC)
The seven-member Commission's function is to review and decide land use permit applications. The PC exercises judgment whether or how the project should be carried out or deliberate and decide to approve or disapprove a particular activity. The PC evaluates projects on established standards or adopted guidelines and makes recommendations to the City Council on General Plan amendments, rezoning of properties and tentative subdivision maps. Public hearing items are subject to a Notice of Hearing distributed to all property owners at least 300 feet of a project site.

City Council (CC)
In addition to making decisions on broad, City-wide issues, the City Council has final municipal authority on General Plan amendments, rezoning of properties, and tentative subdivision maps through a public hearing process. Appeals of Planning Commission actions are also reviewed in the context of a public hearing before the Council.

10-Day Appeal Period
All zoning administrator and commission decisions are subject to an appeal period. The 10-day appeal period starts on the day the decision is transmitted to the applicant. Appeals are filed through the City Clerks’ Office and the item is noticed for public hearing to appear before the next higher decision making authority. Appeal hearings are held "de novo", meaning the entire project is open for discussion and not simply on the reason(s) on which the appeal was filed.

If after expiration of the 10-day appeal period and no appeal was filed, the project is deemed officially approved. This means that it has been granted its "entitlements" through the discretionary review process and is allowed to be executed or constructed subject to the terms and conditions of the approval. The City can take ministerial action on its building and site development permits in relation to the physical and operational aspects of the approved plans.

Tips for Success

  • Communicate to your project planner your anticipated timeline and any time-critical dates such as the expiration of acquisition option or pending due diligence agreements. Your planner can then consider and respond to the feasibility of your timeline within the 30-day review period subsequent to application submittal.
  • Respect the character of the area. Give thoughtful consideration to the life of the project, the proposed use, and its contributions to the community. Remember, a project does not stop at the property lines.
  • Use quality materials for detail, interest, and durability.
  • Hold a neighborhood meeting with adjacent commercial or residential tenants and address those concerns prior to submitting an application.

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