General Information

Because of varying procedural requirements in state law and county ordinances, each type of permit may be subject to different processing requirements. We process each permit as quickly as possible while ensuring full compliance with the law. The Development Review Center (DRC) handles permit applications for all unincorporated areas of San Mateo County. If your property is within the boundaries of any incorporated city or town, contact that city rather than the DRC.

For more detailed information about how the DRC will assist you with your project, we suggest you review the publication “A User’s Guide to the San Mateo County Development Review Center”.

Once you are familiar with your project’s requirements, we recommend that you prepare some preliminary plans and bring them to the DRC counter so that we can review them before you submit your application. An informal meeting at this stage may save you considerable time and money later on. The goal of every staff member at the DRC is to help you get your project approved. After seeing very preliminary plans, the counter staff can help you by identifying potential problems and pointing out what kinds of changes, if any, you might have to make. Then you can create your formal plans and submit your application.

Steps in the Planning Permit Process

If a planning or zoning permit is required, it generally needs to be processed prior to application of a building or construction permit. The Planning Section of the Planning and Building Department processes these permits.

Most planning and zoning permits require some type of notification to surrounding owners or residents and often a public hearing before the county Zoning Hearing Officer, Planning Commission, or Board of Supervisors. In In reviewing and processing your permit application, the assigned planner will generally complete the following steps:

Initial Application Review

The planner reviews your project to determine whether your application is complete. During this stage, the planner discusses your project with a development review committee of senior staff members. The County generally has 30 days after receiving your application to notify you if you must provide any additional materials or information before your application can be processed.

Preliminary Research

The planner determines whether your project conforms with the County's General Plan, Zoning Ordinance, and other regulations and identifies what issues, if any, must be resolved before the application can proceed to a decision.

Referral to Other Agencies

The planner lets other agencies and applicable homeowners associations or community groups know about your project and solicits their comments and recommendations regarding compliance with their requirements.

Field Inspection

The planner verifies conditions on your project site, observes the surrounding land uses, and evaluates the potential impacts of your project.

Environmental Review

This review ensures that your project complies with requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act and evaluates its potential impact on the environment.

Preparation of a Staff Report

The report informs Department management, the Zoning Hearing Officer or Planning Commission, the applicant, and others of the staff's findings, recommendations, and conditions of approval.

Public Notification

State and local ordinances require that we notify surrounding owners or residents and the general public of most proposed projects and any required hearings.

Public Hearing

If required, a public hearing allows the public to provide information, comments and suggestions on your project before the County makes a decision. Once a decision is made, usually at the conclusion of the public hearing, both you and the public can appeal most planning and zoning permit decisions to a higher authority within a specified period of time. Staff or Zoning Hearing Officer decisions generally can be appealed to the Planning Commission. Planning Commission decisions, except for those concerning a request for a Home Improvement Exception or a variance, can be appealed to the County Board of Supervisors.


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