Permits - Questions & Answers

What is a Permit?

  • A permit is an official document or certificate issued by the City which authorizes performance of a specified activity.

  • Permits help to ensure that minimum codes, regulations, local ordinances and safety requirements are properly followed in residential and commercial structures.

  • There are several different types of permits, based on the type of construction:

    • Building Permits

    • Electrical Permits

    • Plumbing Permits

    • Mechanical Permits

  • Application for a permits may be made at the public counter.  You may also need to submit construction drawings for plan check review that detail your proposed improvements.  There are many handouts to help you through this process and our counter staff can provide expert guidance if you need assistance.

When is a Permit Required?

  • Any owner or authorized agent who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish, or change the occupancy of a building or structure, or to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system, the installation of which is regulated by code, or to cause any such work to be done, shall first make application to the building official and obtain the required permits.

When is a Permit NOT Required?

  • Work exempt from permit includes the following:

    • One story detached accessory structures used as a tool or storage shed, playhouses and similar uses, provided the floor area does not exceed 120 square feet.

    • Fences not over seven (7) feet high (A front-yard fence permit is required from the Planning Division for fences located in the front yard)

    • Oil derricks

    • Retaining walls that are not over 4-feet in height measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, unless supporting a surcharge of impounding Class I, II or IIIA liquids.

    • Water tanks supported directly on grade if the capacity does not exceed 5,000 gallons and the ratio of height to diameter or width does not exceed 2:1.

    • Sidewalks and driveways not more than 30-inches above adjacent grade, and not over any basement or story below and are not part of an accessible route.

    • Painting, papering, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, counter tops and similar finish work.

    • Temporary motion picture, television and theater stage sets and scenery.

    • Prefabricated swimming pools accessory to a Group R-3 occupancy that are less than 24 inches deep, do not exceed 5,000 gallons and are installed entirely above ground.

    • Shade cloth structures constructed for a nursery or agricultural purposes, not including service systems.

    • Swings and other playground equipment accessory to a detached one-and two-family dwellings.

    • Window awnings supported by an exterior wall that do not project more than 54 inches from the exterior wall and do not require additional support of Groups R-3 and U occupancies.

    • Non fixed and movable fixtures, cases, racks, counters and partitions not over 5 fee 9 inches in height.

Who Can Obtain a Permit?

  • Many types of permits may be issued to the owner of the property or authorized agent, or to a licensed contractor.  

  • The appropriately licensed contractor must provide proof of licensing, available for verification through the California Contractors State Licensing Board and the contractor must obtain a current City of Santa Ana business license.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Permit?

  • Some permits can be issued same day, over-the-counter such as: simple water heater change outs, residential service meter upgrades, minor reroofs, restucco, patio covers and swimming pools. Other projects may require that plans be submitted for plan review.

  • Other Agency approvals such as Planning, Public Works, Fire, Police, and the Health Department may be required. The Permit Counter will let you know at the time plans are submitted which of these reviews will be required.

How Much Does a Permit Cost?

  • Building permit fees vary according to the scope of work. Please call the Permit Counter at (714) 647-5800 for building permit fee information.  Itemized fees are charged for electrical, plumbing, and mechanical permits.  These fees can be found directly on the corresponding application.

Who May Draw the Plans?

  • Plans for projects such as room additions usually can be drawn by qualified individuals such as a draftsperson.

  • Larger projects may require plans to be prepared and signed by an architect or engineer licensed by the State of California. 

  • For patio covers and garages, the City has standard plans that you may follow. This standard plan is then attached to your plot plan.

Who Requests the Inspections?

  • It shall be the duty of the holder of the building permit or their duly authorized agent to notify the building official when work is ready for inspection.  It shall be the duty of the permit holder to provide access to and means for inspections of such work that a required by this code.

When Are Inspections Required?

  • Inspections are required at various times during the course of construction, depending on the scope of work.  Please see the attached handout for more information on what work must be completed at each point in the inspections process.

Do Permits Expire?

  • Every permit issued shall become invalid unless the work on the site authorized by such permit is commenced within 180 days after its issuance, or if the work authorized on the site by such permit is suspended or abandoned for a period of 180 days after the time the work is commenced. 

  • The building official is authorized to grant, in writing, one or more extensions of time, for periods not more than 180 days each.  The extension shall be requested in writing and justifiable cause demonstrated.

What Codes Are Enforced?

  • 2019 California Building Code
  • 2019 California Residential Code
  • 2019 California Electrical Code
  • 2019 California Plumbing Code
  • 2019 California Mechanical Code
  • 2019 California Green Building Standards Code
  • City of Santa Ana Municipal Code Requirements

Still have questions? Call us at (714) 647-5800 and let us help you!