Do I Need a Coastal Development Permit?

May 14, 2021

Do you have an upcoming project located along the California coastline? If so, you may be required to obtain a special permit.

The permit we're talking about is the Coastal Development Permit. Understanding its requirements early in your planning phase (before you start work) will save you time and money.

What is the Coastal Development Permit For?

In 1976, the California Coastal Act was enacted to keep a balance between public access, development, and protection of the state's natural resources along its coastline.

A state agency called the California Coastal Commission was formed a few years prior and is tasked with ensuring compliance with the act. The commission has land-use authority over the California coast, and the permit process is one of its requirements for development proposals that may impact the state’s shorelines.

When Is It Required?

A Coastal Development Permit is required for certain development activities along the coastline within a defined area called the Coastal Zone.

The zone runs from California’s border with Oregon to its border with Mexico and generally extends inland 1,000 yards. However, in some urban areas, it extends inland only a couple of hundred feet, and in some rural areas, it extends as far as five miles inland. The zone also includes an extension seaward to the state's outer limit of jurisdiction.

As far as what is considered development, the definition under the California Coastal Act is broad. It includes, but is not limited to, demolition, grading, clearing vegetation, or repair or maintenance that has an environmental impact. Other development activities that fall under the act also include altering a property line or changing the property’s intended use.

Typically, single-family, ground-up residential projects do not require a Coastal Development Permit. Nor does a remodel project. There are, however, some exceptions. For example, if you are removing more than 50% of the existing walls of a structure, then a Coastal Development Permit would be required. A permit may also be required if the property is located very close to the beach or in a sensitive area.

What You Should Know About Local Jurisdictions

It’s important to note that approval authority may fall under a Local Coastal Program if the project is in its jurisdiction. 

One example is Laguna Beach. There, the City of Laguna Beach Planning Department is in charge of carrying out the California Coastal Act. The California Coastal Commission granted them the authority to do that within Laguna Beach’s city limits.

How Can I Find Out If I Need the Permit?

There are a few ways to find out if you need a Coastal Development Permit. 

You can call the California Coastal Commission’s district office near your project site or hire an architect to perform a preliminary zoning analysis for you.

The easiest method is to at Design Appruv, and we’ll handle it for you. We have years of experience in making the permit process seamless and stress-free for our clients. 

About Design Appruv

Design Appruv is an expert firm of residential and commercial draftsmen and designers. We pride ourselves in delivering a 5-star experience; we value transparency, regular communication, and a client-focused approach.

With Design Appruv’s established industry partners and 80 years of combined experience, you can trust your project is in capable hands. Don’t hesitate to for a complimentary consultation today!