Is a permit required to build a fence? If so, what inspections are required?

Fences that are seven feet or less in height does not require a permit. Fences over seven feet high require permits. According to the local Zoning Ordinance, fences located within residential districts may be permitted if they meet the minimum setbacks. For example, on corner lots, fences are restricted to thirty-inches nearest the radius of the street corner. To verify fence height requirements on your property, contact a Planning Department staff member at (510) 494-4455 or email them. Once the height requirements have been established and a permit is determined necessary, contact a Development Assistant at (510) 494-4460 for plan requirements. There is a sample plan of the fence requirements within the DSC. A copy can be faxed at your request. Inspections for new fences generally take place in two stages. The first stage of inspection is conducted after all the postholes are drilled and cleaned. The second stage, the final inspection, is conducted after the entire fence is completed. The owner or the contractor must request the inspections through our automated inspection request system; instructions for inspection requests will be discussed at the time of permit issuance.

How can I legalize an addition that was never permitted?

In order to legalize an addition or any other work that was done without a permit a Building Permit must first be obtained. In order to obtain a building permit plans must be submitted to the Development Services Center and approved by plan check staff as well as any other department that may be involved. Depending on the size of the addition or scope of work the plans may be approved over the counter. For additions 750 square feet of less and meet conventional construction criteria you may be able to schedule an appointment for an over the counter review. Once the permit is issued all the required inspections and approvals are to be done. For additions this may require opening or removal of concealed construction, the removal of some or all interior finishes and insulation and special inspection testing of epoxy anchors or hold-downs. Please keep in mind that not all illegal additions can be approved. For specific building and planning information, please contact the Development Services Center at 510-494-4460.

Are there safety guidelines or requirements for barriers around swimming pools?

The California Building Code requires covered barriers for swimming pools, spas and hot tubs. By definition, a Swimming Pool is considered to be any structure that is intended for swimming or recreational bathing and contains water that is over 24 inches deep, including spas and hot tubs. This includes in-ground, above-ground and on-ground swimming pools, and fixed-in-place wading pools. A Barrier is a fence, wall, building wall or combination thereof that completely surrounds the swimming pool and obstructs access to the swimming pool. During construction of new pools, spas or hot tubs, the City inspector will enforce the barrier regulations by checking fence heights, gate operations, door alarms, and other associated requirements. A copy of the barrier requirements will be attached to the approved plans for his review. You can voluntarily make your pool, spa or hot tub environment a safe one for family and friends by putting these requirements into play. Community Development Permit Technicians within the Development Services Center will issue building permits for voluntary barrier upgrades for existing pools. For more information please call 510-494-4460 or stop by the Development Services Center office at 39550 Liberty Street. Office Hours are Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to noon.

What type of work can be done without a permit?

The building code is very specific in describing the type of work that can be done without a permit. See Permit exceptions below. If you are still unclear if your project needs a permit contact the Plans & Permits Division at (510) 494-4460.

Permit exceptions

Is it possible to order copies of commercial or residential plans from your office? What procedure is required? Is a fee involved?

Yes, it is possible to order copies of commercial and residential plans through the Development Services Center (DSC). However, if the plans are designed by a professional, a letter of release from each professional must be obtained through DSC staff before copies can be ordered. This process can take up to 30 days and costs $82.50 per release letter. Plans without licensed professional stamps and/or signatures can be readily ordered. Contact the Development Services Center for cost related to copies at (510) 494-4443. For additional information review the Records Request web page: 

Do I need a permit for a storage shed, playhouse, etc.?

Residential accessory structures, including non-habitable storage sheds, workshops, gazebos, cabanas, and similar non-habitable structures, greater than 120 square feet require a permit.

A structure may be exempt from building permit requirements if the structure does not exceed a floor area of 120 square feet. Even though a permit may not be required, all structures must meet Municipal Code Planning and Zoning requirements for use, placement on the parcel, and design. Any electrical, mechanical, or plumbing work associated with accessory structures also requires a permit (whether it is 120 square feet or not).

What are the requirements for carbon monoxide detectors?

Beginning July 1, 2011 all single family dwellings must have carbon monoxide detectors installed outside of each separate dwelling unit sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedroom(s) and on every level of a dwelling unit including basements. Call (510) 494-4400 or

See 2nd page of handout for more information

Why can't I remove a warning placard (red tag) from my property?

No person shall remove, alter or cover any notice after it is posted until the required repairs, demolitions or removal have been completed and the certificate of occupancy has been issued pursuant to the provisions of the Building Code. It is a misdemeanor to do so, except by an authorized representative of the department or upon written notification from the Chief Building Official. FMC ยง 7-4112

Do I need a licensed engineer to sign plans and documents?

Depending on the type of permit being applied for it may require a licensed engineer to sign plans and documents. For specific requirements review the

Guide to Engineering and Land Surveying.

What plans, drawings, and specifications can an unlicensed person prepare?

There are specific cases when an unlicensed person can prepare these documents. Take a look at the

Professional Design Limitations

What are the hours that construction work is allowed to take place?

Please view our handout for this information.

Construction Hours Handout