Overview of Permitting Process

City of Berkeley Permit Service Center (PSC)

The PSC is where applicants start the development review and permitting process. The PSC is a consolidated permit counter offering services from four separate agencies in one centralized location to issue permits for Building, Zoning, Fire Prevention and Public Works/Engineering. The Permit Specialists at the PSC coordinate review of building permit applications with other City agencies as needed and issue permits when approved by all responsible agencies. There are four primary steps to this process:


Step 1: Zoning Approval
The first step for most construction projects is to check zoning regulations. Applicants for development projects should begin with review by zoning staff to determine what type of zoning permit is needed and to ensure that a use is allowed in the location proposed. 

There are three types of Zoning Approval:

1. Zoning Certificate (ZC) – for projects that are specifically listed in the Zoning Ordinance as allowed as matter of right.  

Additions that conform with all zoning ordinance requirements, including those that do not exceed 600 square feet in area or more than 15% of the lot area, whichever is less, provided that the average height of the proposed addition does not exceed 14 – 16 feet, depending on the Zoning District (link to Development Standards Related to Residential Additions on existing web site).

2. Administrative Use Permit (AUP) – discretionary permit requires administrative review and determination and public notification

Additions that exceed 600 square feet in area or 15% of the lot area, whichever is less, or that have an average height that exceeds 14 – 16 feet, depending on the Zoning District (link to Development Standards Related to Residential Additions on existing web site).

3. Use Permit (UP) – discretionary permit issued by Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) after a public hearing

Timeline for Zoning Review:

Typical time to release:

Zoning Research Letters: Typical timeline to release is 2 weeks for simple zoning verification to 6 weeks for more involved questions.

45-60 days

AUP Tier 1 - Most complex projects, in or adjacent to a Residential district

  • Major Residential Additions over 14 feet in height,
  • Residential Additions (any size) over 14 feet in height in the H District
  • Accessory Structure (new or alterations) over 12 feet in average height
  • Wireless telecommunications projects

5-8 months 

AUP Tier 2 & 4 

  • Intermediately complex projects in or adjacent to a Residential district. Includes those not listed in Tier 1 or 3; &
  • Includes other activities (residential or commercial) NOT in or adjacent to a Residential district.

5-6 months 

AUP Tier 3 - least complex projects in or adjacent to a Residential district.

  • Vertical or horizontal extension of or alteration in non-conforming yards that create less than 200 sf gross floor area
  • Fences less than 8 feet in maximum height in setback or at property line
  • Vertical extension in non-conforming yard through excavation when no major residential addition is created
  • Uncovered parking in rear or side yard
  • Hot tubs
  •  Decks over 14 feet in average height

2-4 months 

UPPH Tier 1

  • All projects not listed in Tier 2

6-12 months 

UPPH Tier 2  

  • Non-residential projects in a Residential district
  • New construction or ”major” renovation of a Landmarked building or site or Structure of Merit
  • Any new main building
  • Master Use Permit or Development Permit required by a Specific Plan

9-15 months 

UPPH Mixed Use Projects

12-24 months 

UP Modification – No public hearing required

2-4 months 

UP Modification – Public hearing required

4-6 months 

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Step 2: Building Permit
A building permit is required when a building or structure is erected, constructed, enlarged, altered, repaired, moved, improved, removed, converted or demolished.  Exemptions to this requirement are further defined in the BMC Section 19.28.090. Electric, mechanical, and plumbing permits may also be needed, depending on the proposed work. 

Applications for building permits are filed at the Permit Service Center.  Submittal requirements and guidelines are available on the Planning Department’s website. 

Please note that all financial transactions need to be concluded by 4 p.m., which means a person needs to be signed in by no later than 3:30 p.m.

The following services are available at the Permit Service Center to assist you with submittal of building permit and other applications:


Faxed Permit Applications:

Faxed permit applications are accepted for roofing, electrical, mechanical and plumbing permits. Applications submitted via fax will be processed within 48 hours of receipt and mailed to the applicant. The PSC fax number is (510) 981-7505.

Over the Counter Plan Review:
The PSC offers over-the-counter plan review services daily from 9-3 p.m. Over-the-counter plan review is for projects that can be completed within 30 minutes or less. While you wait, your project plans are reviewed by all applicable agencies. Projects that typically can be reviewed over-the-counter review include kitchen and bath remodels and new or replacement deck and stairs. Please note that all financial transactions need to be concluded by 4 p.m., which means a person needs to be signed in by no later than 3:30 p.m.

Step 3: Construction / Inspection
To schedule a permitted construction inspection online go to:  http://www.CityofBerkeley.info/BuildingInspections. Building and Safety also has an automated telephone inspection request line at 510.981.7444 which requires the use of 4-digit "inspection type codes".  Please refer to the "Self Scheduling Brochure" that you receive with your permit in order to schedule via the automated phone system.  In either case, whether you schedule online or via automated phone, you will automatically be offered the next available day as well as dates up to 10 days out.  Once you have scheduled your inspection(s) if you would like to find out the estimated timeframe for when the inspector will visit the construction site, you will need to call on the morning of your scheduled inspection between 8:00AM and 9:00AM (must be before 9:00AM).  The number to call for an estimated time frame for your already scheduled inspection is: 510.981.7440 and press 0 (call before 9:00AM for this information). 

Step 4: Modifications to Approved Plans
Any changes that occur to the approved building plans will restart the process including requiring zoning approval. Any of the three zoning approval processes (ZC, AUP or UP) may apply.

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