Building and Safety staff often get asked questions regarding the building process.  Below is a list of some frequently asked questions.  If your question is not addressed here, please feel free to contact our staff for additional assistance.  Our hours of operation is listed here.


For alterations or additions you do not need an Architect or Engineer if your project meets all of the conventional construction provisions of the California Residential Codes.

A plumbing permit is required to relocate or to install a new water heater.

You can submit to Building and Safety prior to Land Use clearance.  However, this can be risky if the land use review process places conditions on the project that would require significant redesign or if they deny the request completely.  A redesigned project will have to be reviewed by Building and Safety staff as if it were new and additional plan check fees will be assessed.  In the case of denial, the plan check fees are not refundable if the project has undergone initial plan review by Building and Safety staff.

If the additional square footage results in a building that is over 5,000 square feet, the entire structure will need sprinklers.  In Montecito, the threshold for sprinklers is 3,500 square feet.  If your residence is outside an Urban Limit Line, any addition greater than 1,000 square feet will require the installation of fire sprinklers in the entire structure.  For more detailed information on sprinkler requirements, please see Chapter 15 (Fire Prevention) of the Santa Barbara County Code.  Any additional square footage will need sprinklers if the existing dwelling is sprinklered.

For most projects we require that you submit three (3) sets of plans and two (2) sets of construction documents.  Additional sets may be required for the planning/zoning process.

There are many variables in the permit issuance process.  Clearances from other County departments, revisions to projects, incomplete project/plan information, and the amount of time that the plans are in the possession of the draftsperson or registered professional making corrections as required by the County Plans Examiner.  Our staff provides initial plan review for smaller projects (less than 600 square feet) within ten (10) working days from the date of submittal.  Initial plan reviews for larger projects (greater than 600 square feet) are provided within 30 calendar days from the date of submittal.  Building and Safety staff also offers over the counter plan reviews for some simple tenant improvements, and for smaller projects (less than 600 square feet) that are located on a flat parcel.

Each project is unique and costs may vary based on various factors.  Our permit fees are generally based on the size, construction type, and occupancy of the building.  Please click here for more information regarding our fees.

The requirements can be found in Chapter 3 of the California Residential Code.  This publication can be found online at the Building Standards Commission website here.  Please also refer to the County's adopted Building Code that addresses these regulations.

The Santa Barbara and Santa Maria offices keep archives of commercial plans and some residential developments.  Depending on the location of your property, you may contact either office to inquire whether we have copies of your plans.  However, most plan sets are sent to the Architectural Archives.  You may contact the Architectural Archives at (805) 967-3639 located at 320 Camino Del Remedio, in Santa Barbara.  Their website is here:

Yes. However, if the retaining wall does NOT exceed four feet (as measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall), the backfill behind the wall is level, and there are no other surcharges on the wall, (e.g. driveway or building), the retaining wall is exempt from building permits.