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Department of Planning & Development
Department of Planning & Development

Frequently Asked Questions  

Building and Inspections FAQ
Plans and Zoning FAQ
Boards and Commissions FAQ


PERMIT SERVICE CENTER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. What permits do I need?
2. What's the difference between a building permit and a zoning permit?
3. Learn more about the permitting process
4. When are additional construction requirements triggered?  

 5.  When is a building permit required?

Any owner or authorized agent who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish, or change the occupancy of a building or structure, or to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system, the installation of which is regulated by this code, or to cause any such work to be done, shall first make application to the building official and obtain the required permit. Building permit exceptions:

 6.  When is a plumbing permit required?

A plumbing permit is required for the installation, alteration, repair, replacement or remodel of any plumbing system with the following exceptions:

 7.  When is a mechanical permit required?

A mechanical permit is required when a mechanical system (heating and air conditioning, etc.) is installed, altered, repaired, replaced or remodeled with the following exceptions:

 8.  When is an electrical permit required?

An electrical permit is required for all electrical work with the the following exceptions:

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BUILDING AND INSPECTION FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  1. What time is my inspection?
  2. When can I speak with an inspector?
  3. Does my neighbor have a permit for construction work they are performing?
  4. Can I file an anonymous complaint against my neighbor for doing illegal construction/work without permit?
  5. How early in the day am I allowed to begin construction? Are there noise restrictions?
  6. Do I need a permit to build a fence?
  7. How can I review copies of permits and/or plans?
  8. Does my building have a Certificate of Occupancy?
  9. How do I get an Address Assignment?
  10. Is my property in compliance with RECO?
  11. When will I receive my Seismic Transfer Tax Rebate?
  12. Can I apply for an extension of Seismic Transfer Tax rebate?
  13. How long will my building permit remain valid? Can I file for an extension?
  14. What are the current Building Codes used by the City of Berkeley?
  15. My property is a soft story building. What do I need to know?
  16. Will a seismic retrofit project increase my property taxes?

 1.  What time is my inspection?

To find out the two hour time frame for your inspection, check Today's Scheduled Inspections online. If you do not see your property address listed and you have scheduled an inspection, call (510) 981-7440 option 0 between 8:00 and 8:30 on the morning of your scheduled inspection. For more information on scheduling inspections using Permits Online, follow this link.           

 2.  When can I speak with an inspector?

Building Inspectors are available by phone or in person Monday through Friday between 4:00-4:25pm or by appointment. Building Inspectors can be reached by dialing (510) 981-7440, option 2. After 8:30 am and throughout the day a phone messages may be left for an inspector and your message will be returned by the end of the business day or by the end of the next business day in the event the inspector is out of the office. You may also dial option 0 to speak with an operator.    

 3.  Does my neighbor have a permit for construction work they are performing?

Callers may check up-to-date permit history on any address by using the City of Berkeley Parcel Search Application. It will allow you to search parcel conditions and permit history by searching the address.

 4.  Can I file an anonymous complaint against my neighbor for doing illegal construction/work without permit?

Complaints against neighbors under suspicion of illegal construction can be made in the form of a REQUEST FOR SERVICE. Once a request for service is submitted, an inspector will be assigned to the case and an investigation will begin. We will not accept anonymous complaints. Completed forms may be dropped off, mailed, or faxed to the Building & Safety Division, 1947 Center Street, 3rd Floor, Berkeley, CA. Fax (510) 981-7505.

 5.  How early am I allowed to begin work on my construction project? Are there any noise restrictions?

Construction work may begin at 7:00AM. However, construction noise is only allowed between 7:00AM-7:00PM on weekdays, and 9:00AM and 8:00PM on weekends and legal holidays.

 6.  Do I need a permit to build a fence?

A permit is not required if the fence is under six feet in height, including the above ground footing. Any fence six feet and above will require a permit from Land Use Planning and a Building Permit.

 7.  How can I review copies of plans and/or permits? Can I have copies?

You can review recent permits using the City of Berkeley Permits Online. The Online Building Permits Guide provides step by step instructions. Recent permits/plans may be available in the Building & Safety Division during normal business hours. Older permits/plans may be in storage and will need to be located by Building & Safety staff. In order to search for permits/plans, a Records Retrieval Request form must be completed and submitted to Building & Safety. Duplicates of plans cannot be made without written permission from the architect and the property owner.

 8.  Does my building have a Certificate of Occupancy?

A Certificate of Occupancy represents the completion of a construction project, and that the building is ready for occupancy. Prior to January 1, 2011 single-family residential dwellings did not require Certificates of Occupancy. Currently Certificates of Occupancy are required for all new residential and commercial properties. In addition, new Certificates of Occupancy are required whenever there is a change of use, or change of occupancy for a building. (I.e. Change from residential to commercial.)

 9.  How do I get an Address Assignment?

Potential new addresses must be checked against the City’s database to confirm the address doesn’t already exist. This can be done by searching on the City of Berkeley website’s Planning Department page for parcel information. See link below.

http://www.cityofberkeley.info/ppop

If the potential address is not in the database, an Address Assignment Application may be completed and submitted to the Building & Safety Division. There is $180.00 processing fee for all address assignment applications. Please allow 6-8 weeks turn-around time for completion.

 10.  Is my property in compliance with the Berkeley Energy Saving Ordinance (BESO)?

For your information, including the BESO Property Status List, visit the BESO webpage. Emails containing a property address may be sent to BESO@cityofberkeley.info for information regarding that property's status.

 11.  When will I receive my Seismic Transfer Tax Rebate?

After Seismic Transfer Tax Rebate Applications are submitted and signed off by a Building Inspector, the application is routed to the Finance Department. You may contact the Finance Department at (510) 981-7210 for more information.          

 12.  Can I apply for an extension of Seismic Transfer Tax Rebate?

To request an Extension for a Seismic Transfer Tax Rebate, a letter must be submitted to the Finance Department, at 1947 Center Street, Berkeley, CA explaining why the extension is needed, and the length of time. Extensions must be for good cause.

 13.  How long will my building permit remain valid? Can I file for an extension?

Building and all supplemental construction permits are valid for one year from the date that the permit application is approved. However, the first inspection must be performed within 180 days from the date of issuance. If a customer needs more than one year to complete all work, a One-Time Permit Extension can be issued over the counter at the Permit Service Center extending the permit an additional year. If a customer needs a second or subsequent permit extension, a 2nd or Subsequent Permit Extension Request form will need to be completed and submitted to Building & Safety. Second/subsequent permit extension applications will need to go through an approval process that includes a final sign-off by the Supervising Building Inspector.

 14.  What are the current Building Codes that are used by the City of Berkeley?

The City of Berkeley Building & Safety Division is currently using the 2016 California Codes for Building, Plumbing, Electrical, and Mechanical permits.

 15.  My property is a soft story building. What do I need to know?

Soft story buildings are defined in Berkeley as multi-story wood-framed buildings that contain soft, weak, or open front conditions. Read more about the City of Berkeley’s Soft Story Program.

16.  Will a seismic retrofit project increase my property taxes?

Seismic retrofitting of an existing building may be excluded from reassessment. The property owner must notify the Alameda County Assessor prior to, or within 30 days of, completion of the project using Alameda County form BOE-64. Additional documentation to support the exclusion must be filed with the County not later than 6 months after project completion.

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LAND USE AND ZONING FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS  (link)

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BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1.  Which Boards and Commissions are associated with the Planning and Development Department and how do I get information about their meetings and agendas?

2.  What's the difference between the Planning Commission and the Zoning Adjustments Board?

3.  How do I send something to the Planning Commission or Zoning Adjustments Board?


1.  Which Boards and Commissions are associated with the Planning and Development Department and how do I get information about their meetings and agendas?

Visit the Boards and Commissions page.

2.  What's the difference between the Planning Commission and the Zoning Adjustments Board?

The Planning Commission reviews most general planning issues, including amendments to zoning ordinances and subdivision applications.  The Zoning Adjustments Board interprets zoning ordinances and reviews variance and use permit proposals.

3.  How do I send something to the Planning Commission or Zoning Adjustments Board?

Materials can be submitted to the Boards and Commissions through the secretaries.  Mail, fax, deliver, or e-mail communication to:

Planning Commission Secretary: Information must be received at least ten business days prior to the meeting date.

Zoning Adjustments Board Secretary: See the Citizen's Guide to the Zoning Adjustments Board for details.

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Department of Planning & Development, 1947 Center Street, 3rd Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704
Questions or comments? Email: planning@cityofberkeley.info Phone: (510) 981-7400
(510) 981-CITY/2489 or 311 from any landline in Berkeley
TTY: (510) 981-6903
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