Approx. Time: 2-4 Months* Approx. Fee: $2,400-$4,400**
Variance Application - Companion Page
Planning Permit Application Form
Variances and Home Improvement Exceptions
A variance may be granted to allow development that varies from zoning regulation requirements for parcels in which the location, size, shape, topography and/or other physical conditions vary substantially from those of other parcels in the same zoning district or vicinity. You may request a variance when strict enforcement of the regulations would make it difficult for you to develop your parcel, cause you unnecessary hardship, or result in inconsistencies with the intent of zoning regulations. If your project does not qualify for a variance, it may qualify for some relief from regulations via a Home Improvement Exception or Non-Conforming Use Permit.
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. When multiple permits are required (e.g., Coastal Development Permit and Design Review Permit), the longer permit processing time and higher level decision-making body would apply to the concurrent processing of associated permits. In reviewing and processing your permit application, the assigned planner will generally complete the following steps:
1. Initial Application Review
The planner reviews your project to determine whether your application is complete. During this stage, the planner:
- Determines whether your project conforms with the County's General Plan, Zoning Ordinance, and other regulations.
- Solicits comments and recommendations from review agencies (relative to their regulations) and applicable homeowners associations or community groups.
- Discusses your project with a development review committee of senior staff members.
The County 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.
2. 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. If the project does not qualify for an exemption, an Initial Study/Negative Declaration must be prepared, additional fees are required, and an additional 2-3 months should be added to estimated permit processing times. For projects with complex or unmitigated environmental impacts, an Environmental Impact Report may be required, additional fees are required, and an additional 6 -12 months should be added to estimated permit processing times.
3. Public Notification
A public notice is mailed to owners of property within a 300-ft. radius of the subject property.
4. Permit Decision
A staff-level decision is required, unless a hearing has been requested by a member of the public. If the optional hearing has been requested, additional fees apply and 1-2 months should be added to estimated processing times. A public hearing allows the public to provide information, comments and suggestions on your project before the County makes a decision.
5. Appeal Period
Once a decision is made, both you and the public can appeal most permit decisions to a higher authority within 10 business days of the decision date. Staff-level and Zone Hearing Officer decisions can be appealed to the Planning Commission. Planning Commission decisions can be appealed to the County Board of Supervisors. A decision by the Board of Supervisors is not appealable.
Approximated Time provides an estimated duration for processing of the specified permit only and does not include processing of any appeals. It is not intended to represent an exact timeframe for a specific project, which may be more or less than the time provided. Required permits and processing times vary depending on project complexity and location. For projects requiring multiple permits (e.g., Design Review Permit and Coastal Development Permit), please use the highest of the estimated times for each required permit. These times do not include processing times for non-Planning permits which may be required for the project, such as permits from the Building Inspection Section, Department of Public Works, Environmental Health Division, sewer or water districts, or state or federal agency. To obtain an estimated processing timeframe for a specific project, please call or visit the Current Planning Section and speak with a Planner to identify the required permits and reviews for your project.
Approximated Fees provide an estimated rounded fee total based on the permit fee and other anticipated review costs of the adopted Planning Service Fee Schedule and does not represent an exact fee amount for a specific project, which may be higher or lower than the fee provided. Required permits and fees vary depending on project complexity and location. For projects requiring multiple permits (e.g., Design Review Permit and Coastal Development Permit), please use the highest of the estimated permit fees and add on the established fees of other required permits from the Planning Service Fee Schedule, to obtain an estimated fee total. Other department review fees, including those of the Geotechnical Section, Department of Public Works, Environmental Health Division, and the applicable fire department, may also apply. To obtain an estimated fee total for a specific project, please call or visit the Current Planning Section and speak with a Planner to identify the required permits and reviews for your project.