How To Get A Building Permit – Property Identity & Questions To Ask

The lot you own isn’t just a piece of dirt on the outskirts of your hometown. It will be
identified in a number of different ways depending on who wants to know. But, before
you can apply for a building permit you must know how your local government
identifies it. If it is a bare piece of land, (outside of a developed subdivision) it most
likely will not have a situs address yet.

The identity used most by government agencies is an identifying number referred to
as the Tax ID Number or the Assessor’s Parcel Number (APN). You will find the APN
on your deed or on your tax bill from the local Tax Collector. It is a fairly long number
and my look something like this: 123-456-789. The first set of numbers is the “book”
number. The second set of numbers is the “page” number, and the last set is the
“parcel” number. (There may be some additional number tagged onto the end and
these are used by the tax collector).

FYI: These numbers correspond to the exact location in the local Recorder’s office
where the original map is on file showing your property when the parcel was created.

You will give this number to the building permit technician when you call or visit the
building department. The questions that must be asked (not necessarily in this order)
before you start your construction project are:

1. What is my property zoned? The answer to this question will tell you if you can build
a single family dwelling on the property. IECC 

2. Is my property in a 100-year flood-zone? The answer to this question will determine
if you must meet the local floodplain requirements. Information on flood-zones can be

3. What are the setback requirements?

4. Are there any street/road improvements required?

5. Do I need a septic system or domestic well, or are there public utilities available?

6. Are there any known soil conditions on or near my property that I should be aware of?

7. What is the seismic zone and wind-speed where my property located?

8. What climate zone is my property located?

9. Can you give me an estimate of the total fees that are due before I will be issued a
building permit?

10. Are there any local amendments to the State Building Code that will affect my project?
Be sure to get copies of these amendments. If the jurisdiction has not filed the amendments
with the California State Building Standards Commission, they are not enforceable. But
depending on what they are, this might not be worth fighting against.

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