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Construction Permit Tips for Small Business

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Expanding or relocating your business? Click on the questions below for permit tips for small business.

Expanding or Relocating Your Business? Give Us A Call First!

Is your business growing or moving to a new location in the City of San Diego?

Congratulations! We're happy that your company is helping to boost our economy and provide jobs for the citizens of San Diego.

But, as you expand, there are a few questions you may want to ask the City or other agencies. For example:

  • If I expand my business, are there any new planning permit or zoning requirements?
  • Will I have to add more parking?
  • Do I need a building permit for my remodel?
  • Are there any low-interest loans or other assistance available?
  • Will the fire code require more exits, sprinklers or safety equipment?
  • What about disabled access?
  • How much will the Development Impact Fees be?

The City of San Diego wants your business to succeed -- it benefits all of us.

So, before you expand, talk to a contractor, engineer, architect or other design professional, along with City staff members ... they're there to help you find out what's needed.

And, after you've learned about the requirements, you may need to hire an architect, engineer, contractor, consultant or other design professional to help you in drawing up plans or other necessary documents.

These requirements help your business be a safer, better neighbor, and preserve the beauty and character of San Diego.

What are construction permits and why do I need one?

Permits are the way the City of San Diego regulates construction. This is designed to ensure that all construction in the city is safe. The safety of the occupants of buildings is the primary reason for having construction codes. The City of San Diego has adopted several codes, among them the Uniform Building, Mechanical and Plumbing, and National Electrical codes. In addition, there are federal, state and local laws that govern construction, such as those covering energy conservation and disabled access.

There are several different types of permits, based on the type of construction -- structural, plumbing, mechanical and combination (used for single-family home construction). In addition, the complete demolition and relocation of buildings also requires permits.

The City has handouts to help you through this process. Once plans are approved, you're required to build the project to those plans. If any changes are made to the plans, they must be made with the City's approval.

The second half of the process is the inspection of the work. More about that later.

When do I need a construction permit?

A construction permit is needed for all new construction. In many cases, a permit is needed for repair or replacement of existing fixtures, such as replacing windows. A plumbing, electrical or mechanical permit is needed for any addition or changes to a building's existing system; for example, moving or adding an electrical outlet requires a permit.

To find out if your project needs a permit, call (619) 446-5000.

When don't I need a permit?

A construction permit is not needed for items such as wallpapering, painting or similar finish work; fences six feet high or lower; platforms, decks and walks 30 inches high or less over grade or not over basement; and in several other cases. However, development permits may be needed for zoning, development and environmental planning, or other requirements; be sure to check before building.

For plumbing, mechanical and electrical work, replacement or repair of fixtures (such as changing water faucets or replacing switches) does not normally require a permit. Replacing a water heater or adding a permanently wired light fixture does, however, require a permit.

Remember, just because your project doesn't need a construction permit doesn't mean it may not need some other kind of City review. We suggest you call us at (619) 446-5000 any time you expand your business.

How long does it take to get a permit?

Permit issuance periods vary. Some projects can be fully permitted over-the-counter, meaning a return trip won't be needed. Some projects, however, require that plans be left for additional review.

What if I have a permit but never called for inspections?

Generally, permits expire after 180 days if no inspections have been made. In order for the project to be complete, it must pass final inspection. If a permit expires before final inspection, the project is in violation of City codes. If this is your case, call (858) 492-5070. We'll help you to reactivate the permit or apply for another with as little inconvenience as possible. Our interest is in seeing your project complete... including the final inspection.

Who do I call for typical projects?

  • Remodeling, additions, new or moved plumbing, kitchen fixtures:
    (619) 446-5000.
  • Parking requirements, landscaping, Conditional Use Permits:
    (619) 446-5000.
  • Is your expanded business allowed in the neighborhood? (619) 446-5000
  • New or replacement signs, including electrical requirements:
    (619) 446-5000.
  • Hazardous materials inspections, exiting and sign-notice requirements
    (619) 236-6880.
  • Additions of fixtures, larger service: (619) 446-5000.
  • Help for small business activities, technical and financial assistance for businesses and related business retention incentives: Office of Small Business (619) 236-6505.
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