California homeowners can run into serious legal issues by neglecting to obtain the appropriate building permits for home remodeling prior to initiating a renovation project. Avoid penalties by learning when you need an Alameda County residential permit and how to get one.
What Is a Residential Permit?
Many home renovation projects need a residential permit prior to construction. The permitting process governs the construction and usage of residential properties to ensure they are safe and healthy for both the environment and occupants. Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations Building Standard Code states that no structures can be constructed, erected, repaired, removed, improved, demolished, converted, or otherwise altered without an individual permit to do so for each structure. Some projects are exempt from requiring a residential permit. However, this varies between jurisdictions.
What Happens If I Don’t Get an Alameda County Residential Permit?
If your home remodel project needs a permit, it’s crucial that you obtain one. If your contractor proposes bypassing this stage, you should find another one. As inconvenient it may be, getting a permit is preferable to dealing with the county when it discovers you should have a permit but don’t.
If this happens, Alameda County may not only compel you to get a permit, but they may also increase permit fees. If the county has concerns about your project adhering to the appropriate building and environmental codes, they may halt your project or compel you to take down any changes you have already made. Unpermitted renovation can decrease the value of your house. It will likely be necessary to bring the home up to code as a condition of its sale.
Will I Need an Environmental Review (EEA)?
As part of the requirements to obtain a residential permit for renovation, the county may ask you to obtain an Environmental Review. This is also called an Expert Environmental Assessment or EEA. Generally, it’s only necessary when there is the potential for your remodel project to impact the surrounding environment.
Examples of this include digging further than 50 cubic yards into the ground or making significant changes to the surrounding landscaping to make room for new structures. E.g., if you propose cutting down a tree to put in a shed, you will likely need an Environmental Review.
About the Environmental Review Process
During the Environmental Review, the governing agency will examine the proposed building plans and their possible environmental consequences. This is to ensure your project complies with all applicable local, state, and federal environmental regulations.
An environmental review identifies potential detrimental influences the project may have on the surrounding environment. This also includes possible health effects for homeowners. Although not all home remodel projects will undergo a full environmental review, each must comply with guidelines set forth by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other applicable regulatory agencies.
When completed, the review should not only identify potential impact to the surrounding environment but also provide potential mitigation solutions.
Projects That Require an Environment Evaluation Application
Whether or not your home renovation needs a residential permit depends on what you plan on changing. For example, you may not need a residential permit if you are painting your walls, redoing your cabinets, putting in new flooring, or putting up a small fence.
However, you’re more likely to need a permit if you want to erect or take down walls, convert one type of space to another (such as a garage to a bedroom), update your roofing, tear down a part of your home, or add on to it. Like other counties in California, Alameda County has its own building codes and a unique permitting process.
Will I Need a 311 Neighborhood Notification?
Neighborhood Notification is mandatory when new construction or demolition is planned in residential districts. It’s also generally necessary when a homeowner expands their dwelling, when a change in use occurs, or when a homeowner removes more than 3/4 of an existing or interior frame.
You must complete a 311 Neighborhood Notification prior to receiving authorization by the neighborhood planner. This notifies property owners or residents located 150 feet or less from the project about the plans to renovate. These parties may request a Discretionary Review within 30 days, which implements a public hearing on the matter. If no neighbors contact the county within this time frame, they may forfeit their right to object to the construction.
Recently, Alameda County processed 311 Neighborhood Notifications within about 4 to 5 months on average following an application’s submission. However, it may take several additional months to process the application if neighbors request a Discretionary Review.
Will I Need a Pre-Application Meeting?
A pre-application meeting may be necessary for renovations with certain scopes of work. This meeting is conducted by the sponsor of your project and is done to gather feedback before sending a Project Application to the county Planning Department.
Examples of renovations that are likely to require a pre-application meeting include vertical additions that extend over 7 feet above ground, horizontal additions that extend over 10 feet to either side, and large decks that extend more than 10 feet from grade.
E.g, if you plan on installing an in-ground pool, your neighbors may object to putting up a tall slide that interferes with their view of the nearby landscaping.
Get Help Obtaining an Alameda County Residential Permit
Drafting Cafe Architects offers comprehensive home design and remodel services and can help you obtain the necessary permits and reviews to proceed with your renovation project. We strive to offer Alameda County homeowners with functional design, high-quality construction, and on-time delivery no matter the complexity of the project.