Interaction With City Departments

Today we’re going to talk about interaction with city departments when going to get a building permit for your project.

We call obtaining a building permit the entitlement phase. There’s several different layers of that and it depends on whether your project is commercial or residential. There are two types of residential projects, one would be a custom home from the ground up and the other would be a remodel or addition with some subheadings in respect to remodels and additions. A unique cutoff point there, which we’ve talked about in the past but, would be about 500 square feet. In some areas it’s a little bit different but 500 square feet is typically where a fee kicks in related to schools and the term we use are school fees. It’s a developer fee that applies to each project. But if you want to add on to your home, let’s say you want to do a bedroom and a bathroom or a small master suite, if you can keep it below that 500 square feet that school fee does not apply. If we’re designing something close to that we always take a really close look at it to see if we can avoid that fee. Now that fee is structured based on the dollars that the school districts collect. Sometimes there are two school districts that want to collect fees based on your development. There may be a grade school and maybe a high school associated with it. Those fee structures we’ve seen them in a range of maybe $2.50 a square foot up to possibly $5.50 a square foot.

The school fees are based on the square footage of your project. The larger the square foot is the larger the fee. So let’s just take an example of a 1,000 square feet in an area where the school fees are $5, that would be a $5,000 fee directly applied to your project. The good thing about this is it’s a one-time development fee. It does not repeat year after year. It’s important to know that. This needs to be factored in to your budget but also over time the impact is less and less. The same thing applies to a larger residential home. But those fees do go up so you want to make sure you keep a line item in there for your school fees.

Now in the entitlement process on a residential project let’s say a small or medium sized addition the departments that we need to check with at the city are, the planning department then from there we would check with the engineering department, the building department, and also the fire department. It’s very interesting because every city and every county has their own process for this and we can help you with this. In some areas there are so many different departments you have to check through that there are actually people that provide what we call entitlement services. These services are technically outside of an architects services, on smaller projects we quite often will do that but it’s identified as an entitlement fee. Now if the project gets more complicated and turns into a commercial project, then we would probably recommend that you get an entitlement person to run the plans, specifications, and requirements through the various departments. We’ve seen as many as 50 different departments on some commercial jobs.

But let’s get back to the residential here for a minute. We want to give you an example of Rancho Cucamonga because we are in Rancho and we do a lot of projects here. A project like the one below, we would develop the preliminary concepts early on in the project. Actually in the first phase of the project we would take this in and review it with the planning department. As the client you’re welcome to come with us so you can hear their specific requirements and requests. Once we have a general understanding and agreement with the planning department we will then share that information with other departments and it will give us enough information to get an idea of any special fees that might be associated with your project and any special requirements or restrictions.

Screen Shot 2019-07-10 at 3.09.13 PM.png

Something that comes to mind, there are some properties in this area that maybe are on a street where part of the street is improved and part of it’s not. As part of your development and there’s different requirements that kick in at different levels, but as part of your development you might have to put in a curb and gutter. The city of Upland for example is like this. There’s a number of streets where the curb and gutter has been put in on some of the homes but not all of them. There’s also areas in Rancho Cucamonga that are the same way. You may have seen it, but sometimes when you’re driving down the street you’ll notice the road gets narrow and then it gets wide again. This might be kind of confusing and having you wondering what that’s about. The reason for that is that the people that own that property have their property line right where the street is. The problem is if they do any improvements on that property they have to dedicate a portion of it and may have to put in the curbs and gutters to improve it. So be very careful of your particular circumstances of your property. These are the things that we surface very early when we talk to the planning department. Some other things along those line, there may be easements for drainage or utilities that will further restrict where you can build on your property. But we go over that in detail so we make sure that it’s all taken care of when we get into the construction document phase.

We hope this has been helpful in understanding a little bit of the process of what it’s like to interact with the city departments to get a building permit. Schedule a free consultation now to ask us any questions you may have!