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Development Services

Affordable Housing Permit Now Program

This information bulletin describes the program for processing priority housing projects according to an enhanced approach called Affordable Housing Permit Now. The approach streamlines the ministerial permit process for all eligible projects (100% affordable housing and emergency shelters) by utilizing early involvement and open communication with the applicant, design team and Development Services Department (DSD) staff. It is designed to meet the objectives and timelines established by Executive Order 2023-1.  


Project Types. The program is for 100% affordable multiple dwelling unit projects and emergency shelters that propose to create new units and shelter opportunity. Projects eligible are those that don’t require or have already obtained any relevant discretionary permits and now seek ministerial permit(s) for projects consisting of 100% affordable housing units. The entire housing project must be residential with every dwelling unit covenant-restricted by deed for a period of at least 55 years as affordable to very-low, low-, or moderate income households 100% of the dwelling, as those terms are defined in the San Diego Municipal Code (SDMC). Projects subject to specific review deadlines established by statute or ordinance, such as accessory dwelling units, or projects utilizing provisions related to post entitlement phase permitting, are not eligible. However, inclusion of nominal manager’s unit(s) will not exclude a project. Other eligible projects are homeless shelters - emergency shelters and navigation centers that provide shelter, as described further in the Land Development Code portion of the SDMC.

Permit Types. Permits eligible for processing under this program include building permits and any engineering permit(s) required for issuance of those building permits (e.g., for ministerial grading, public right-of-way work or dedications).

Readiness Criteria. The program is designed to produce optimal outcomes when the project is ready for DSD staff review. To be accepted, applications must be complete and provide the documents and details required to give staff enough information to perform a meaningful review; it is especially important that applications contain complete plans (construction documents at 100%) and, when applicable, technical studies. The DSD website contains detailed information about how to prepare a complete submittal; see, for example, the resources and requirements for submitting building permits.

Applicants not yet ready for review but who seek general information or who have fundamental design questions have the option to and should seek advice through a Virtual Appointment and obtain a Preliminary Review (see IB-513 for more information) before requesting participation in the program.

Note, however, that applicants with projects that are not yet ready for submittal, but likely to be eligible, may and should request a preliminary Eligibility Meeting while their projects are still in the planning phase. This step will put projects in the best possible position for fast review once the application is ready to submit and is especially important for those with strict funding deadlines.

Process for Obtaining Permits

Streamlining the permit process in the program is achieved through the following steps:

Eligibility Clearance

As mutually determined by Applicant and City staff

Application Completeness Review; Project Setup

City not to exceed five business days for housing and two business days for shelters

Project Review City not to exceed  30 business days
Collaborative Review Meeting(s) Determined by applicant (to occur upon City receipt of applicant’s resubmittal; City requests this occur within 10 business days)
(If Needed) Additional Project Review and Collaborative Review Meetings City (and, at its election, applicant) to adhere to same timelines for any additional review needed
Final Version Signoffs and Issuance City not to exceed five business days

Eligibility Clearance

For access to the program, an applicant must request that staff confirm eligibility. Applicants with  projects ready to submit may request a meeting for this purpose, which the applicant’s point of contact must request by emailing

The Development Services Department will assign a Development Project Manager (DPM) who will monitor project status, coordinate with review staff to help ensure compliance with applicable timelines, lead efforts to resolve questions or subject matter conflicts that may arise, and otherwise serve as the City lead and applicant’s point of contact for all project issues and questions.

As one of its first tasks, the DPM will promptly schedule an eligibility meeting at a time convenient for the applicant’s team to attend (applicant or owner’s representative and the architect and project consultants) as well as the assigned DPM and appropriate DSD staff. At the meeting, the parties will discuss the process, expectations and aspects such as project scope, timeline and funding deadlines. The applicant will be expected to demonstrate readiness to submit and share relevant project information that could help DSD prepare for expeditious processing, including whether the project will have any factors that may affect the complexity of the project and thus the effort, expertise, or time required for the review, such as whether the site contains existing buildings, what type of construction is being proposed, and whether the project intends to rely on phased occupancy or achieve compliance through the use of alternate methods or materials. The DPM may supply an informal questionnaire via email ahead of the meeting to help the applicant team prepare for this discussion. If the parties require one or more additional meetings to address any issues before submittal, the assigned DPM will schedule those.

In the case where the applicant is not ready to submit but wants to conduct a preliminary Eligibility Meeting for a likely eligible project, the applicant should share as many details as available as well as the status of project design, expected date for submittal, and any applicable funding deadlines.

Application Completeness Review and Project Setup

Once the DPM provides eligibility confirmation, applicant may use the City’s digital permitting system to upload an application and complete submittal package so that the DPM may conduct a completeness review. The package must include all plans and documents identified in the Project Submittal Manual  (See Sections 2 and 2A) and during the eligibility meeting. The applicant must alert the DPM upon submittal and provide the DPM with the “PRJ” number the digital permitting system has applied, so that the DPM may begin tracking the project.

Upon upload,  the DPM may take as many as five business days to perform a detailed review of the package for housing projects (two business days for shelters), reviewing the plans and documents to verify readiness for full submittal and ensuring that the correct approvals (permit types) are properly set up for review and inspection. The DPM may reach out to the applicant during this time to help them supply any missing information or correct any errors encountered.

Project Review

Once the application is complete, the DPM will approve the project to be invoiced so that it can move into its review phase. Coordinating with workload mangers, the DPM will have the project assigned to staff proficient in housing project processing within each applicable review “discipline” (subject matter area of specialization: e.g., electrical, zoning, etc.).

They will conduct reviews and either provide their approvals or, in the case plan or package amendments are required (if there are errors or pieces of information missing, for example), staff will provide detailed comments regarding what issues need to be addressed to achieve compliance with the regulations.

Review staff will do this work in time to meet or outperform the Executive Order’s 30 business day deadline. The system provides comments on a rolling basis as each discipline completes its review, so that they are immediately available to the applicant to work on and make any necessary revisions.

Note that the review comments will be sent through the digital permitting system to the applicant’s designated recipient, which is a single point of contact; for that reason, it is important the applicant provides accurate contact information to ensure receipt of this critical and time-sensitive information and that the point of contact quickly transfers the information received to any other member of the applicant team who needs to view it.

Upon receipt of each discipline’s comments, it is up to the applicant to promptly review the comments to determine if there are any questions. In that case, the applicant should promptly contact the DPM. The DPM will have the appropriate staff member work with the appropriate member of the applicant team to resolve the question and allow the applicant to work on resolving the comment

Collaborative Review Meeting(s)

  • Timing. Upon receiving the last discipline’s comments, the applicant should finalize corrections and upload its first resubmittal. It is at the applicant’s discretion how long this will take, but the City will expect that to occur 10 working days after staff completes the review and, as such, the DPM will schedule the first Collaborative Review Meeting(s) just after that expected resubmittal date. The applicant may request more time, but DSD asks for the courtesy of making that request early, before meetings are set.  
  • Attendees. To ensure a productive meeting, the applicant must assure the attendance of the entire team - applicant/owner, their design professional, their relevant consultant(s). The DPM and the DSD reviewers for each discipline will attend.
  • Purpose. The meeting is to review the resubmittal package and clear issues in real time. At the meeting, the applicant will share the revised plans and corrections that addressed the reviewers’ comments. The goal is for the DSD reviewers to have the information they need to confirm that the responses meet the requirements. Note that, as designed under this program, clarifying questions will have already been resolved by this time: if the applicant team uses this time for that purpose, it will impact the project timeline and this program’s efficiencies will not be fully achieved. At this meeting, the reviewer will be able to provide real-time feedback to the applicant about what remains to be resolved. If there are complex matters of interpretation or application, however, this is the forum to discuss and resolve those collaboratively. If such issues exist, the applicant should request ahead of time and the DPM will assure that senior staff is available at the meeting to provide a second opinion and help resolve outstanding conflicts.
  • Outcome. The result of the meeting will be one of two outcomes. If the project materials meet the regulations, the reviewer will mark its review as complete. Or, if there are outstanding issues for the applicant to resolve, the reviewer will return the project to the applicant so that it may complete the work. As such, the applicant may need to provide additional corrections in a second submittal. In that case, DSD will follow the same process and schedule to resolve those remaining issues, until none remain and each discipline is signed off.

Pre-Issuance & Issuance

After the reviews phase is complete, the DPM will facilitate an internal pre-issuance meeting. Pre-Issuance activities typically take five business days, during which time reviewing staff will sign off on the final version of the plans, and the DPM will work with the applicant to obtain any missing required documents or information. Once all requirements are met, the system will generate the final invoice and, upon payment, the permit will be formally issued.

Additional Information Regarding Engineering Permits

The best way to help ensure fast processing of a building permit is for the applicant to obtain any required engineering permits prior to beginning the building permit process. This is in part because review during the engineering permit phase may reveal issues that affect the plans for the building permit: completing the engineering permit first helps to avoid the need for redesign and mitigates risk. For various reasons, applicants cannot or may choose not to process in that order. In that case, for projects eligible for this program, DSD will allow for the engineering and building permits to be processed concurrently, provided the applicant is willing to assume the associated risk. Although the building permit typically cannot be issued prior to the engineering permit, the department will review the applications concurrently. 

Engineering permits require review of a different nature, and the review disciplines needed for the building and engineering permits will not necessarily be the same as those for the building permit. As such, the process for obtaining the associated engineering permit(s), if any are necessary for the project, will be substantially as described above but may not occur along the exact same schedule: the processes may run along parallel tracks. Also note that applications that propose non-standard design (requests for deviations) may require longer than the stated timeline for review – these requests require input from one or more other departments and a higher level of review and, therefore, time.

It is important for the applicant to inform the DPM early if there are associated engineering permits. The applicant’s DPM can coordinate with a designated senior-level liaison within the engineering section in order to facilitate rapid setup for these permits. The DPM will ensure that both the DPM and the engineering contact is each aware of the other permit’s status and any major issues that may affect the other permit.

Post-Issuance Activities

Inspections. Once the permit(s) are issued, the applicant may schedule, and the DPM can help facilitate a pre-construction meeting with the field inspection DPM. The purpose is to assist the applicant, their construction team and DSD inspectors by providing an opportunity to discuss the potential construction issues and key project milestones and to aid in establishing strong communication that will facilitate project success through the inspection process.

Associated Projects. Future ministerial permits directly associated with the project will be processed using the typical review process facilitated by the Field Inspection DPM. These permits may include those such as construction changes and deferred submittals.


Eligible projects receiving the special services provided through this program will be processed as express projects and charged accordingly using the DSD fee schedules, except that the deadlines and special project management features specified in this bulletin will be provided to the project. Refer to webpage and Information Bulletins (e.g., IB-501 and IB-502) for applicable fees. If an affordable housing project applicant elects not to process under express, it will not be eligible to access the special features of this program, but the project may be eligible for some other version of expedited permit processing or project management in some circumstances. Please see FAQ section, below, for more information. Express processing will be crucial to review timeliness.

Additional hourly fees for DSD staff time will be charged for meetings scheduled throughout the review and approval process. Each meeting will be charged at an hourly rate based on the number of review disciplines in attendance. The number and duration of meetings will depend on the complexity and number of outstanding review comments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are projects proposing Partial Permits eligible to participate in the program?

The purpose of providing priority processing to applicants developing 100% affordable unit projects is to help ensure the units get built as quickly as possible. A partial permit (e.g., a foundation and frame permit only) does not accomplish this goal. Further, there are time and effort inefficiencies in splitting up a project’s review. For those reasons, the City will not accept partial permits for processing under this program. An exception may be made for a project that has previously received a partial permit and now seeks only its final permit, the one that will allow it to proceed to construction. For more information on partial permits, see IB-189.

Are Engineering projects eligible to participate in the Permit Now Program?

Yes. The program is available for engineering permits, provided they are required for the building permit and being processed ahead of or concurrently with the building permit.

Are items such as fire sprinklers, fire alarms, and solar photovoltaic systems required to be submitted at first submittal or can they be deferred?

Fire sprinkler plans are required to be included in your Construction Document plan set at submittal. Fire alarm and solar photovoltaic systems can be deferred. Please see DSD’s website for more information on what can be deferred.

Will construction changes associated with the building permit be processed through the Permit Now Program?

Construction changes and deferred submittals will not be processed using the program’s intensive review and collaborative review approach because they are typically less complicated and would not require this service. But upon request to the project’s assigned DPM, the DPM will retain authority and responsibility over these elements of the project and assist the applicant in processing them. Construction changes and deferred submittals will be processed using the appropriate turnaround times, which are already normally faster-than-standard timelines.

My project contains some affordable units but is not 100% affordable. May I participate in this program?

At this time, participation is limited to 100% affordable multifamily projects and shelters. There are other quicker processing opportunities for certain projects, such as those eligible for rapid review processing, the expedite program, or other projects eligible for express processing. But the special features of this program, such as the extensive opportunities for collaborative review and intensive project management services, are limited to this subset of projects because they are a top priority for the City in addressing the housing crisis.

On a case-by-case basis, upon request by an applicant seeking a ministerial building permit and who has elected Express processing to construct a significant (and more than the legally-required minimum) number of affordable units, DSD may be able to assign a project manager to help facilitate processing of its project. Whether the request can be granted will depend on staff bandwidth. For these projects, DSD is not at this time able to provide the same guaranteed review turnaround times or recheck meeting approach for such projects, due to the focus on the 100% affordable projects. But an assigned project manager can nevertheless be a valuable resource for an applicant, as that DPM would be able to assist in numerous ways, helping on an as-needed basis (to answer questions, track review status, and resolve issues that may arise). To request this accommodation, please email

Fees for this service will be charged hourly. It is DSD’s goal to increase access to this program over time, by increasing the number of project managers and reviewers to more fully staff the program and allow an expansion – to other affordable or other critical housing projects, for example. This bulletin will be updated accordingly when that occurs.

How long will it take to obtain my permits?

The City and DSD are committed to meeting the turnaround times, with the goal of cutting the time the project is with the City and helping shorten the overall project timeline. The overall project timeline will, however, depend on numerous factors. These include the complexity of the project and the completeness and accuracy of the plans and other materials submitted by the applicant. Multi-family housing projects like those that will likely be eligible for this program are typically of a size and complexity that some aspects of the review take many hours of staff time (e.g., it is not uncommon for such projects to demand 100+ hours of a structural engineer’s time over the course of several weeks). Other reviews are simpler and take less time, and staff can provide them more quickly.

Projects of this type typically require corrections or additional information. The local, State, and Federal regulations that apply are numerous and complex; achieving compliance ordinarily requires input from both the subject matter experts on the applicant and City teams. Applicants should therefore expect that they will likely require more than one round (or “cycle”) of reviews. The City will meet the response times for each cycle.

In order to make projections for overall permitting duration, applicants should rely on their experience as to how many cycles their project may need and should factor in how long it will take their applicant team to respond to comments and provide resubmittals for staff review. The DPM will be able to assist by creating an overall project timeline to provide transparency, set mutual expectations and provide accountability. The Development Services Department encourages applicants to request preliminary eligibility meetings early in their planning so the parties can share information and put the project on a path for success.