Department Services
Common Improvements
  • How Do I Find Out If My New Business Needs a Use Permit?
  • How Do I Start a Home Occupation?
  • When is a Use Permit Required for Businesses in Unincorporated San Mateo County?
    Anyone looking to open a business in Unincorporated San Mateo County should visit the Planning & Building Department and find out if their proposed business will require a Use Permit. Some business uses are restricted by the Zoning designations for a particular land or building site. Businesses can be cited for a Use Violation if the appropriate Use Permit has not been obtained. Go to the Planning & Building Division site for contact information and office hours.
Coastal/Rural Zone


How do I apply online for a Building Permit?

To apply online for a Building Permit, please login or register for a free account at our online Permit Center.

What happens after I apply?

The staff reviews your plans and routes them to several other departments for their review, including:

  • Current Planning
  • Health
  • Building Inspection Section
  • Fire
  • Public Works
  • Public Utilities

Once you have made any required changes and all departments have given their approvals, we will send you a card telling you that you may pay your permit fees and receive your permit.

What fees must I pay?

The fees for a permit, plan check, and other services vary depending upon a number of factors. You may get a current fee schedule and pay your fees at the permit counter.

What do I need to submit to get a building permit?

Different building projects have different requirements (for instance, a permit to build a single-family home requires far more extensive plans, fees, and inspections than a permit to re-roof a single-family home). The County has informational pamphlets detailing the requirements for virtually every kind of building project. The best way for you to answer this question is to review the pamphlet for the particular project you have in mind. If that doesn't do it, call or ask the Building Inspection staff.

What are the requirements for plans? Must I have an architect prepare my plans?

When plans are required for a permit, they must be drawn to minimum scale on substantial paper. Please refer to our document Plan Requirements for further information. Your drawings must be legible and must be complete enough to describe accurately how you will accomplish the proposed work.

For minor projects such as most decks, kitchen remodeling, bathroom remodeling, and even some small additions, you do not need an architect. However, if you are unfamiliar with drawing techniques, construction codes, symbols, or terminology, you should consider obtaining the services of a qualified draftsperson. For major projects, we encourage you to consider hiring a licensed architect or engineer.

How much does a building permit cost?

Permit fees vary depending on the type of permit. A permit technician can provide you with an explanation of the fee schedule and, in many cases, an estimate of the fees for your project.

Why does it take so long to issue my permit?

The length of time it takes to process a permit depends on the type of permit you are applying for and your property's location. If your property is within an area that is subject to certain discretionary planning permits, such as Design Review, Coastal Development, or similar planning permits, your processing time will increase. The volume of permits in process and the complexity of your project can also affect processing time. We review permits on a first-come, first-served basis, but we speed up the process for minor projects, such as those mentioned in Question 2, by reviewing them separately from the more complicated ones.

Why does my project require geotechnical review?

San Mateo County has a variety of geologic conditions ranging from expansive soils to seismic fault conditions. A geotechnical review can identify potential problems and ensure that you have incorporated proper engineering measures into your project design. In many cases, the State of California has mandated that you make specific measures a part of your design. The purpose of this process is to help you to protect your property, your neighbors, and yourself from the physical and economic injury that some geologic conditions can cause.

How long is my building permit valid for?

Permits do have term limitations. Large projects such as new residences and additions are valid for one year and can be renewed for a second year without additional fees. Projects such as deck, water heaters, electrical services and similar permits are valid for one year to start construction. In addition to the term limits associated with a permit, you must also obtain a progress inspection at least every 180 calendar days once a project has started. This inspection must be able to demonstrate substantial progress in one or more of the major trades. If for any reason you are unable to have a valid progress inspection, you must request an extension "prior" to the expiration of your permit. All requests for extension must be submitted in written form and state the reason why you are requesting the extension. Failure to obtain an inspection or an extension will result in the expiration of your permit.

For further information regarding permit term limits or expirations, please request copies of the appropriate San Mateo County Ordinance Code Sections.

How do I get copies of building records for my property?

The County Assessor's office is the primary source of information about your property. Ask for a copy of the parcel history for your parcel. This history is typically one or two pages with dates of all building permits and general data about construction. The Assessor's office can be reached at (650) 363-4500.

For more detailed records - particularly for construction since 1982 - you may request a research of Building Inspection files from the Building Inspection Section. Please download and complete the Application for Building Permit Research form. Note that there is a fee associated with this work. Also, from the Development Review Center (DRC), you can obtain information about any Planning permit files on your property. Often these files are lengthy and you may not want to pay to have the whole file reproduced. We recommend that you call the Current Planning Section desk,(650) 363-1825, to find out if there are any records on your property; if so, then arrange a time to come to the office and view the files.

Where can I find a list of approved hauling vendors that can meet the requirements for the CalGreen Building Code requirements of recycling demolition debris?

See the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability's Guide for Contractors & Home Ownerspages 5-7.

How do I add a second unit to my home?

Second units, also known as “accessory dwelling units,” (or “granny units,” “in-law units,” and various other names) are smaller units built on the same property as, or attached to, an existing primary residence. . . . View More

What is the County’s Construction Noise Ordinance?

Noise sources associated with demolition, construction, repair, remodeling or grading of real property can take place between the hours of 7:00 am and 6:00 pm. on weekdays, 9:00 am and 5:00 pm on Saturdays, never on Sundays, Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day.

What are your office hours?

Counter Service Appointments
The Planning and Building Counter on the 2nd Floor is open to the public from 8:00 am - 4:00 pm, Monday - Thursday (closed 12:00 - 1:00 pm for lunch) and closed Friday - Sunday. We strongly encourage you to make an appointment for a virtual or in-person meeting with a Planner or Building Technician through our appointment system. (See instructions for using virtual appointments.) We make every effort to accommodate drop-ins as availability allows, but suggest scheduling an appointment to ensure we can serve you effectively.

Environmental Health
Thursday, 7:00 am - 10:30 am
Call Edgardo Diaz at:
(650) 363-1820, Planning Office
(650) 372-6200, EH Office

How Do I Make an In-person or Online Appointment?

View our detailed instructions on how to create an in-person or online appointment.

Code Compliance

Who is responsible for monitoring violations of the County Zoning Regulations and Nuisance Ordinances?

The Code Enforcement Unit investigates suspected violations. After each investigation in which a code enforcement officer determines that a violation exists, the officer issues a Notice of Code Violation or a Notice and Order to Abate to the person responsible.

What happens after they issue a notice?

What happens depends upon the type of violation.

If an officer finds that someone is violating a zoning regulation, for example, operating a prohibited business at home, the officer may refer the matter to the County Counsels Office, which could file suit against the violator.

If the officer finds that the matter involves a public nuisance, such as an abandoned car or a large amount of refuse collecting in a yard, he will issue an abatement order. The person receiving that order has 10 days in which to correct the situation. If it is not corrected, the County may step in, "for example, by having the car towed or the refuse removed." The property owner is then billed for actual costs plus a 15% administrative fee.

Can I appeal a notice or an abatement order?

You cannot appeal a notice that you are violating zoning regulations. You can appeal an abatement order by filing a written request for a hearing with the County Officer who ordered the abatement.

Who considers the appeals?

The Abandoned Vehicle Hearing Officer hears appeals involving abandoned vehicles.

The Board of Supervisors hears appeals involving nuisances.

Can I report a violation to the Code Enforcement Unit?

Anyone can report what he or she believes to be a code violation. You can report a violation by coming to the DRC and completing a complaint form, by writing a letter to the Code Enforcement Section, or by phoning Code Enforcement, (650) 363-4825, and requesting that a Code Enforcement Officer return your call. The line has an answering machine 24 hours a day.

Can I report a violation anonymously?

It's best to provide your contact information when submitting a complaint. This ensures that County staff has the ability to contact you with any questions or updates. Someone may request the complainant's information but must submit, in writing, a valid reason for wanting it. This request must then be approved by San Mateo County Counsel prior to release. When necessary, the County will accept an anonymous complaint.

What happens after I make my report?

If the Code Enforcement Unit verifies that there is a violation, the staff will take enforcement action. If they believe the problem to be a disagreement between neighbors, they may refer you to the Community Services Mediation Program, (650) 363-4841.

Whom do I call if I have questions?

Call the Code Enforcement staff at (650) 363-4825.