The Permit Center processes many types of permits. Most are directly related to development; however, we also process permits to film in Pasadena, hold a garage sale, or erect a tent for your garden wedding. Below you will learn how to apply for a permit and what additional requirements you need in order to get your project approved.
Research Property • Search For A Permit • Check Case Status • Schedule An Inspection
How To Obtain a Building Permit
In order to obtain permits, applications and fees must be submitted to the Permit Center at 175 North Garfield Ave. Pasadena, during our business hours.
For information on how to obtain a construction related permit, please read the following:
The Plan Review Process
The primary purpose of the plan review process is to verify that buildings and structures will be constructed in compliance with all Federal, State, and City laws and ordinances. Projects necessitating a plan review include: new structures (residence, commercial, industrial building); room additions; remodeling; tenant improvements; among others. In some cases, plans are not necessary for some work (e.g., upgrading electrical service, replacing a water heater). A site plan may be required for any equipment placed outside.
How to Prepare for the Plan Review Process
Make certain you bring all required documents (Plan Submittal Requirements) and a list of all your questions. Required documents depend upon the nature of your project. If you are the property owner and you plan to build a patio, a detailed drawing (e.g., plot plan, footings, materials) is sufficient. If you are a contractor and you want to add a room, you will need the appropriate licenses and insurance; in addition to a plot plan, floor plan, elevations, structural plan, etc.
What to Expect
First, state your project description to our receptionist who will suggest the correct application to fill out and direct you to the appropriate counter. If your project meets our over-the-counter thresholds, you will present your documents/plans to various departments and divisions, whom will review the material you have presented at the counter. Depending on the complexity of your project and the completeness of your plans and adherence to codes, the Plans Examiner and/or Planner may be able to process your permit over-the-counter. If your plans are more complex, you will need to submit them for a behind-the-counter review. If your plans are approved over-the-counter, you will be directed to our permit processing counter where our staff will process your permit application, collect the permit fees due, and issue your permit.
Submitting Your Plan
Complete the Building Permit application form. To speed up the process, you may wish to print out a copy from here and bring it with you completed to the Permit Center when you are ready to submit your plans.
If your project requires plans, please bring them to the counter when you apply for a permit. If you are a contractor, you must be certain to have the proper license to obtain a permit. If you are a home or property owner and plan to do the work yourself, you do not need a contractor’s license.
If you do not have plan(s), a Plans Examiner will be happy to assist you with some helpful information to create one.
Residential projects (R-3 Occupancy) do not require a licensed architect or engineer stamp and signature on the plans. The law requires all other plans be prepared by licensed architects/engineers. If you have any questions, please call our plan review staff at (626) 744-4200.
A plan review fee will be collected at the time of submittal. If you would like an estimate prior to submittal, you may fill out our Fee Estimate Worksheet, fax it to us at (626)744-3979 and we will fax back (or call you back) with an estimated amount based on the accuracy of the questions you answered. The worksheet is just that, and the fees are subject to change after official review of the plans by the Building Plans Examiner. An activity number identifying your project will be issued to you when you submit. Please keep this number handy, for this will speed up our ability to obtain project information for you.
At any time in the process, if you have questions, please contact The Permit Center. A representative will be happy to help you.
Determining the Right Number and Type of Plans to Submit
Upon submittal the Building Plans Examiner will review your application to determine if you have the essential documents to begin the plan review process. The Plans Examiner will request any additional information that is necessary to begin the plans submittal for your project. We require a complete submittal before we begin the plan review process. We have available to you our most commonly applied for project plan submittal requirements. Please review them for an accurate submittal. If you have any questions about the requirements, please call the department requesting the information. If your project does not fall into one of these categories, please call Building & Safety Division for information at (626)744-4200. This will save you time.
- Site/Plot plan (lot dimensions, where the building, swimming pool/spa will be situated within property lines, etc.).
- Architectural and Structural Plans (include plans for floor and roof, exterior elevation, foundation, cross sections, and structural and framing details for buildings, patios, etc.).
- Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) for installing or replacing heating and cooling units, etc.
- Energy Requirements and Calculations (e.g., wall insulation, efficient windows, high efficacy lighting)
- Details of how building elements are constructed (e.g., footings, framing, in-ground pool).
- Information regarding applicable codes and type of construction.
Plans Examiners, Planners And Engineers Review Your Plans
Simple projects that meet our over-the-counter thresholds can be reviewed over the counter in as little as 5 to 10 minutes. If your plan is complex, such that it must be submitted for review, you may expect this process to take approximately two to four weeks. The reason for this is that your plan will be reviewed in prioritized order of receipt. Plans Examiners try to review as many plans as possible over-the-counter. When they are not conducting over-the-counter reviews, they are reviewing more complex plans submitted for review. This process can take some time because of the plans review schedule.
Informing You Of The Status Of Your Plans
If your plans are approved, the Plans Router Coordinator will notify you by phone or email. You may then speak with our permit processing staff to determine fees due.
If your plans are not approved, you will be notified by that department/division and you will be asked to make the necessary revisions and resubmit them for review. If you had an over-the-counter review, you may request to have your plans reviewed over-the-counter once again. If your plans were submitted for a review, they probably need to be submitted for behind-the-counter review once again, it usually take less time to review these resubmitted plans. Again, plan complexity and completeness, in addition to work load, determine the amount of time it will take to review your plans.
Note: Typically, projects will average three (3) plan submissions (one initial submission and two revisions). This includes the Plans Examiner’s request for modifications in order to ensure code compliance. To keep the number of plans revisions to a minimum, we highly recommend that you submit complete plans.
Finally, please note that if your plan revision also includes a change to the square footage (resulting in changes to the initially estimated materials, fixtures and labor), permit fees (e.g., building, electrical) will be changed accordingly to reflect your plan changes.
Our Permit Processing Staff Issues You A Permit Once Your Plans Are Approved
Our Permit Processing staff will issue you a permit based upon whether you are a contractor or property owner. If you are a contractor you must present a valid contractor license and a current City of Pasadena business license (you may apply for one at our permit processing counter or at Municipal Services which is located at 100 N. Garfield, room 121 if you haven’t obtained one already. Licenses are issued and renewed on an annual basis to Pasadena based contractors. Outside based contractors may purchase or renew either a 3 month, 6 month or annual license. Fees are based on state license classification and the length of time purchased). You must also carry the appropriate workmen’s compensation insurance. Finally, the permit processing staff will check that you are an authorized individual to use the contractor license you have presented. The information you provide will be verified through the California Contractors State License Board.
Property owners applying for permits to do the work themselves can obtain a permit without the same requirements for contractors. Additionally, property owners who obtain permits and then hire unlicensed workers will be required to provide Workers’ Compensation Insurance and are subject to other liabilities. The Permit Center highly recommends that you hire a licensed contractor.
A copy of the permit and an inspection card/folder will be given to you at the time of issuance. This card/folder and the copy of the permit must be posted on the job site at all times so that it is available to the inspectors who make inspections at your job site.
Once you receive your permit, you may work on the project within the permitted scope of work. Depending upon the complexity of your project while building, remodeling, or improving, you will need to call the Building Inspector to inspect your work as you complete various stages of your project.
Final Inspection/Certificate Of Occupancy
A Certificate of Occupancy is required for new single family residences, multi-family residences, new and additions to commercial, institutional or industrial buildings, and tenant improvements once the project has been finaled. Final inspections are required before the Certificate of Occupancy can be issued. There is a green stamp and sticker adhered to the approved plans where it is indicated in the final inspection box which departments & divisions require a final inspection. A final inspection can be requested by calling each department/division requiring an inspection directly. The phone number is located on the green stamp and sticker adhered to the approved plans. Once the departments and divisions requiring a final inspection have been contacted, the inspector will conduct a final inspection. The inspection card will be signed by all the inspectors once all requirements have been met. If the project is complete and the inspection card has been signed by all appropriate City agencies a Certificate of Occupancy can be applied for. No fees are required for the Certificate of Occupancy, however any outstanding inspection or permit fees will be collected before the certificate is issued.
Temporary Certificate Of Occupancy
If the project has not met certain requirements and does not pass final inspection you have the option of applying for a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO). A TCO may be issued if there are no outstanding life/safety issues as determined by the Building inspector. Once this is determined all departments will conduct an inspection and indicate approval for a TCO on the building inspection card/folder.
A processing fee will be collected at the time the TCO is issued. If the project has not been completed by the expiration date you will be required to pay additional charges for an extension.
In some instances a deposit may be collected to ensure completion of outstanding requirements. The City will use the deposit to complete the work if the permit holder fails to do so. The amount of the deposit will be determined by the City and is due upon issuance of the Temporary Certificate of Occupancy. A refund of the deposit and less any additional charges will be processed at the time of Certificate of Occupancy issuance.
Please bring inspection card/folder for verification, and visit the Permit Center to apply for a TCO. The Temporary Certificate of Occupancy will be issued within 24 hours of final approval.
Permits are valid for 180 days from the date of issuance. Regular inspections keep your permit valid. Our Building Official may grant one extension, based on the circumstances of the request. Requests must be made in writing, prior to the expiration date.
Construction and Non-Construction Permits
A building permit gives you legal permission to construct, alter or add to a structure. Projects usually require plans and specifications. These are reviewed by a city plans examiner to determine compliance with applicable codes. A building permit is important to you as both a resident and business owner, because building permits and the inspection process protect you from sub-standard construction that if failed could not only decrease your property value, but bring harm to family, customers, or yourself.
In the city of Pasadena, you are required to have a building permit for most construction projects. Even those items that are exempt from the building permit process may require a Zoning Permit to ensure compliance with zoning regulations. When you sell your property, you will need to pass our Occupancy Inspection Program which researches your property, makes a site inspection and reports any illegal construction. If it is determined that indeed you do have illegal construction, you may be forced to tear it down.
You may also be required to obtain a non-construction permit for certain miscellaneous activities.
Non-construction permits may also include Car Wash (Temporary), Certificate of Occupancy – Sale of Home, Donation Facility, Filming, Garage/Yard Sale, Grandstands, Home Base Business, Seasonal/Other Temporary Sales, Tents – Temporary, Vehicle Detail – Small Scale.
City of Pasadena has established a new zoning permit process for property improvements and uses not subject to California Building Codes, but with specific Pasadena zoning requirements.
The types of construction projects and uses that require zoning permits include, among others, fences up to 6 feet high, lower retaining walls up to 4 feet high (measured from the footing), driveways and other paving in residential zones, smaller detached sheds and similar structures up to 120 square feet in residential zones and temporary commercial uses such as seasonal sales and parking lot car washes.
A zoning permit is subject to inspection by a code compliance officer, rather than by a building inspector. The application is short and simple, and fees are a flat rate for single-family properties and all other properties. Additional fees for fire inspections may also apply. Many permits can be issued over-the-counter, though fences and retaining wall permits require one (1) week for review.
Plan Submittal Requirements
To assist customers with the plan review process, we have listed our most common plan review project submittal checklists. Download these checklists below.
Each checklist is organized by type of drawing or supplemental information required, and which department/division needs to review it. Some of the boxes have specific notations in them, implying that a specific piece of information is only required if your project meets the details in the box. If an X is in the box, than that piece of information is indeed required.
The number of sets required for plan review submittal is (3) sets of plans + (1) CD or flash drive (pdf files). Submitting the correct number of plans is vital, as we will only accept projects for plan review that have all the required plan sets.
If you have any questions interpreting the plan submittal requirements, please call the department listed for assistance. The numbers are listed under the Contacts Directory.
Please note that certain projects may be required to comply with Storm Water Pollution Prevention Regulations (contact Building & Safety), Construction and Demolition Recycling Regulations (contact Public Works), and Construction Staging and Traffic Management Plan Requirements (contact Public Works).Checklist for Plan Review Submittal
Plan Submittal – Residential
Plan Submittal – Tenant Improvement
Residential Swimming Pool Requirements