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Frequent Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions

What information should be included on the plans?
  • The Scope of Work – front page
  • Address of the work and the owner’s name and address
  • Use and Type of Construction, floor areas
  • Site/plot plan
  • Foundation plan
  • Roof & floor framing plans
  • Construction sections and details
  • Floor plans
  • Mechanical, electrical and plumbing plans
  • If adding floor area, include energy compliance documentation
  • Green building schedules and checklists
What types of permits may be issued over the counter?
  • Re-roofing permits (Class A)
  • Water heater replacement or similar plumbing work
  • Minor electrical or mechanical work
How can I restore damaged structures?
CHAPTER 38 Article 28, Section 216 - Nonconforming Uses and Structures of the Zoning Ordinance indicates the following about damaged structures:

All legal nonconforming uses and nonconforming structures that have been destroyed by fire or other calamity or by the public enemy to any extent may be reconstructed, restored, or rebuilt to their pre-damaged size and location, provided that they are not extended beyond the original footprint and restoration is started within 18 months and diligently pursued to completion. Any such reconstruction, restoration, or rebuilding shall conform to adopted California Codes in effect at that time unless otherwise excused from compliance as a historical structure. The Community Development Director or his/her designee will review reconstruction plans for conformity, and if there is any significant deviation noted, plans will be referred to the Architectural Review Committee for review.

Whenever a structure that does not comply with the standards for front yards, side yards, rear yards, height of structures, distances between structures, driveways, courts, or usable open space prescribed in the regulations for the district in which it is located, or the use of which does not conform with the regulations for the zone in which it is located, is voluntarily razed, or is required by law to be razed, the structure shall not be restored and the nonconforming use shall not be resumed.
I want to remodel my home. Where do I start?
If there will be any exterior changes (windows, siding, an addition, etc), then the best place to start is consulting with a planner at the Planning Division. A planner can look at your property and tell you how your property is zoned, how large your remodel or addition can be, and if you need any special permits or variances for what you have in mind. Once you have addressed Planning requirements, you may submit a building permit application.

If there are no exterior changes or if you have already consulted with the Planning Division, you may contact the Building Division with your specific questions at 646-3890 or by emailing us at Building plans will need to be submitted and reviewed for compliance with the applicable codes. This can take a minimum of 15 business days for smaller projects and 20 business days for larger ones. Depending upon the nature of the work, there may be multiple outside agency approvals required (i.e., water permit). We can direct you to the appropriate contacts as needed. Please see “How to apply for a building permit” for more details on submittal requirements for your project.
How can I obtain information on a contractor?

The Contractors State License Board operates a toll-free telephone number and an Internet website for you to check a contractor’s license before you hire one. The website is and the phone number is (800) 321-CSLB.

How can I get approval for renovations made to my business or home performed without benefit of a building permit?

Renovations made to a business or home performed without benefit of a building permit are treated as new projects. Applicants must start at the Planning Division by submitting a project application and plans detailing the renovations. If the renovations are not areas that require architectural review, the applicant may be referred directly to the Building and Safety Division to apply for the necessary building permits for the renovations. The applicant must pay all associated fees for applications and permits and in some instances additional illegal construction fees may be assessed.

How do I submit my plans for plan check?

Plans and calculations must be submitted in digital format as a pdf file emailed to We are no longer able to accept paper plans and documents. See Plan Submittal Requirements document.

When is a building permit required?
No building or structure regulated by the Building Codes shall be erected, constructed, enlarged, altered, repaired, moved, improved, converted or demolished unless a separate permit for each building or structure has first been obtained.
Permits are also required for:
  • Re-roofs and skylights
  • Electrical (new service/wiring)
  • Plumbing (water heaters/new piping, gas or water)
  • Mechanical (heating & cooling systems)
  • Tent structures/awnings (over 120 square feet)
  • Patio covers
Permits MAY be required for:
  • Windows
  • Siding
  • Platforms
  • Retaining walls
  • Fences
  • Awnings/tent structures, any size
  • Accessory structures under 120 square feet
Building Permits are NOT required for:
  • One story detached structures less than 120 square feet
  • Fences constructed 6 feet in height or less
  • Movable cases and partitions not to exceed 5'9" in height
  • Retaining walls less than 3 feet high measured from grade unless supporting a surcharge
  • Platforms and walks not over 30 inches
  • Pre-fab pools (5,000 gallons or less)
Special Note: Check with the Building and Safety Division before starting any project as prior approval or permits may be necessary. Exemption from the permit requirements of the code does not grant authority for any of the work to be done in any manner in violation of the provisions of the Municipal Code, ordinances or state or federal laws. Please check with the Building and Safety Division for any potential code violations prior to starting any work not requiring a building permit, as prior approval or permit from the Building and Safety Division may be necessary.
What are the currently adopted codes?
Effective January 1, 2023
City of Monterey Municipal Code
How long does a plan review take from the date of application?

Plans are typically returned within approximately 20 working days. Please contact our division regarding larger projects.

Who can take out a permit?

Only a building owner or licensed contractor. Building owners should be careful and understand the risks involved with taking out the permit as an owner/builder.

Do I need to hire an architect or engineer to prepare my plans?
When is a licensed professional required to prepare plans? Plans that can be prepared by an unlicensed person: Per California Business & Professions Code Sections 5537 & 6737, these four groups of structures may be designed by any person provided the wood frame structures substantially comply with current California Building Code conventional framing requirements Single-family dwellings of wood frame construction not more than two stories and basement in height.
  • Multiple dwellings containing no more than four dwelling units of wood frame construction not more than two stories and basement in height. However, this paragraph shall not be construed as allowing an unlicensed person to design multiple clusters of up to four dwelling units each to form apartment or condominium complexes where the total exceeds four units on any lawfully divided lot.
  • Garages or other structures appurtenant to buildings described under subdivision (a), of wood frame construction not more than two stories and basement in height.
Agricultural and ranch buildings of wood frame construction, unless the building official having jurisdiction deems that an undue risk to the public health, safety or welfare is involved. Per California Business & Professions Code Sections 5538 & 6745, the following may also be designed by any person:
  • Nonstructural or non-seismic storefronts, interior alterations or additions, fixtures, cabinetwork, furniture, or other appliances or equipment including any nonstructural or non-seismic work necessary to provide for their installation, so long as those alterations do not change or affect the structural system or safety of the building.
Unlicensed persons may not design any building or structure component that changes or affects the safety of any building, including but not limited to, structural or seismic components. NOTE: Unlicensed designers must sign all plans (Architect’s Practice Act).

Plans required to be designed by an Architect or Engineer:
The following are examples of work requiring plans which are stamped and signed by an engineer or architect registered by the State of California.
  • Projects with interior or exterior structural alterations
  • Interior Alteration with an occupancy change
  • All Group A (Assembly) Occupancies
  • All Group E (School and Day Care) Occupancies
  • All Group F (Factory and Industrial) Occupancies
  • All Group H (Hazardous) Occupancies
  • All Group I (Industrial) Occupancies
  • All Group R, Division 1,2, or 6 Occupancies
  • All Group S (Storage) Occupancies
  • Interior alterations with walls and partitions over 5 feet 9 inches in height or ceiling work which cover a floor area greater than 3,000 square feet, for Groups B, S-1, S2, OR M Occupancies
  • Storage racks over 8 feet in height
  • Tanks and vessels
  •  Machinery and equipment support and anchorage, (there may be exceptions)
  • Lateral force resisting systems utilizing poles embedded in the ground
  • Any other project deemed by the Building Official to require professional designs by a California Registered Engineer or Architect.
Design Limitations for Professionals:
The following limitations for professionals are based on the California Health and Safety (HSC) and the Business and Professional Code (BPC). Please note that electronic signatures are accepted per California Code of regulations Title 16, Section 411.

Architects May design any building of any type except the structural portion of a hospital (HSC section 15048 and BPC sections 5500.1 and 6737).

Landscape Architects May not “practice, or offer to practice, architecture or engineering in any of its various recognized branches.” (BPC section 5615)

Civil Engineers May design any building except hospitals and schools (HSC section 39148, BPC sections 5537.5, 6731, 6735, and Education Code section 39148).

Structural Engineers No limitations. May design any building of any type (BPC sections 6637.1, 6731, and 6736)
When is a Soils Investigation Report required?
This information is intended to clarify when a soils investigation is required as part of a building permit application. The requirements below are intended as general policy guidelines. Section 1803 of the California Building Code (CBC) outlines specific instances of when a geotechnical report is required based on soil conditions and construction methods. In addition, Section 1803 allows the Building Official to require a geotechnical investigation for any project. Where a geotechnical investigation is required, the content of the report shall conform to the requirements of Section 1803.

In all cases, if a soils report has been previously performed for the parcel, this report must be included in the application. If the existing report is more than two years old, a soils report review letter from a qualified licensed professional must be included with the application. The recommendations of the report and review letter must be followed.

Technical Details
A soils investigation is required as follows:

  1. New or replacement structures for Occupancy Groups A, B, E, F, H, I, M, R-1, R-2, R-4, and S occupancies unless specified below – Soils investigation required.
  2. Specified new or replacement structures accessory to Occupancy Groups A, B, E, F, H, I, M, R-1, R-2, R-4, and S: trash enclosures and other structures which are not occupied by human beings – not required.
  3. New or replacement structures for Occupancy Group U: commercial engineered structures. New or replacement structures for Occupancy Group R-3: single family dwellings, accessory dwelling units, guest houses, pool houses or miscellaneous residential occupancies such as home office, gym, yoga room, art studio, recreational or media room, etc. – A soils investigation is required when any of the following conditions exist, as determined by site review or mapped information:
    • Area of suspected expansive soil
    • Area of suspected slides, slumps, or soil creep
    • Area of previous or proposed fill placement
    • Area without sufficient setback to slopes, steams, or adjacent foundations
    • Area subject to possible liquefaction
    • Area of suspected soft, compressible, or organic soil with low bearing capacity
    • Area of high moisture content in soil
    • Area subject to high erosion
    • Area of soft soil due to past deep ripping or cultivation below minimum foundation depth
    • Area within 1000 feet of a solid waste disposal site
    • Design values in structural calculations exceed presumptive load bearing values per Table 1806.2
    • Project includes deep foundations or shallow footings bearing on compacted fill material more than 12"
    • There is evidence of structural failure of the existing foundation due to soil conditions
    • When the structure is R-3 occupancy and engineered (non-prescriptive code standards)
    • Replacement structures that increase loading to existing foundation
  4. Specified new or replacement Occupancy Group U structures accessory to an Occupancy Group R-3: private garages, barns, storage buildings, workshops, and water tanks exceeding 10,000 gallons or other Occupancy Group U’s designated by the building official. A soils investigation is required when any of the following conditions exist, as determined by site review or mapped information:
    • Area without sufficient slope setback
    • Area without recommended setback from stream
    • Proposed building is potentially hazardous to other structures
    • There is evidence of structural failure of the existing foundation due to soil conditions
    • Area of previous or proposed fill placement
    • Replacement structures that increase loading to existing foundation
  5. Foundation upgrades – A soils investigation is required if:
    • There is evidence of structural failure of the existing foundation due to soil conditions
    • Area without sufficient slope or stream setback
  6. Flood elevation projects to raise structure above the base flood elevation – A soils investigation is not required if the existing foundation is found to be sufficient. If the existing foundation is replaced or retrofitted, a geotechnical report may be required per the other sections of this bulletin.
  7. Remodels with no increase in square footage and no foundation repair or upgrade – A soils investigation is not required.
  8. Swimming pools – A soils investigation is not required if the design complies with all of the following:
    • Expansive soils, if present, are assumed in the pool design
    • The pool is not in any area listed in Section C, Items 2 through 10.
    • Design values in structural calculations do not exceed presumptive load bearing values per Table 1806.2
    • If a soils investigation is not required by the product listing
  9. A change of occupancy will be treated as a “new” structure for the proposed occupancy.
  10. Retaining/Basement/Foundation Walls with more than 6 feet of backfill – A geotechnical engineer shall determine the dynamic seismic lateral earth pressure due to design earthquake ground motions (CBC 1803.5.12) with specifications for back fill placement, compaction, and material recommendations. Other report requirements listed in CBC 1803 are not required unless the proposed retaining wall design is subject to any of the items listed in Section 3, Items a. through l.
  11. Room additions – A soils investigation is not required if:
    • The proposed foundation is the same type as the existing foundation, and
    • The existing foundation is a perimeter or pier and grade beam foundation, and
    • The existing foundation complied with the code when it was constructed, if a building code was adopted at that time, and
    • The addition has sufficient slope and stream setback, and
    • There is no evidence of structural failure of the existing foundation due to soil conditions, and
    • The proposed foundation complies with current code, and
    • If the proposed foundation is a pier and grade beam foundation, the piers must be the same depth as the existing piers.
  12. Room additions – A soils investigation is required if:
    • The proposed work does not comply with section K above, and
    • Any of the conditions described in section D above exist
How long will it take to review my plans?
See table below for TARGET time lines, download this PDF version. These are approximations and not guarantees. All days are BUSINESS days, and do not include weekends or holidays. Add 2 days at the front and back end of the plan review to allow time for processing and routing.

Routing to reviewers once fees are paid 2 days – ADD THIS TIME TO ALL REVIEWS
Projects under $100,000 valuation 15 days
Projects over $100,000 and under $1,000,000 20 days
Projects over $1,000,000 20-40 days, depending upon complexity
Small residential solar projects under 10kw 3 days
Other solar projects and electric storage systems 5 days, more if complex
Signs and mock-ups 10 days
Revisions and back checks 10 days (we try to prioritize these and will expedite if possible)
Routing to applicant after review is complete 2 days – ADD THIS TIME TO ALL REVIEWS