Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the definition of "Grading"?

A: Grading is defined by the Monterey County Grading Ordinance No. 2535 as "Any excavating or filling or combination thereof."

Q: Why do I need a grading permit?

A grading permit is required for all but a limited scope of earth-moving operations so that these problems can be prevented. Even when a permit is not required, you should still use great care in grading construction to preserve your own property and to protect adjoining properties and public roads.

Q: When is a grading permit required?

A: In general, a grading permit is required when the total disturbance from a site; (volume of cut and fill soil materials on a site; importation or exportation of soil materials) equals or exceeds 100 cubic yards.  As a rule of thumb, one cubic yard is equal to 27 cubic feet, which is equivalent to a box measuring 3 feet on each side.  An easy method for estimating 100 cubic yards is to imagine a typical master bedroom completely filled with soil materials.

A grading permit can also be required under other circumstances, for example, an over the counter (OTC) grading permit may be required for the construction of a new private driveway or private road over 50 feet in length.  A permit is also required, where grading affects a drainage course or creates slope steeper than two to one or creates a cut slope higher than five feet.

Q: Is staking required for presite inspections?

A: Yes, at the time of application for a building permit, applicants must complete a Presite Inspection Form and check the box for construction staking. If construction staking is not completed, provide a date when work is schedule to be performed.

Q: What type of project needs to be staked?

A: Site boundaries, corner locations of the new building footprint, additions to existing buildings, alterations and remodels, accessory structures, decks, swimming pools, pool houses, detached garages, barns, stables, private access driveways, retaining walls, water tanks, and similar projects.

 Property and Boundary Markers: - Each property shall have a minimum of four (4) corner markers (steel pins driven into the earth) unless otherwise indicating the boundary property lines of the township approved section plan by licensed surveyor.

 Location of Structure Markers: - A minimum of four (4) wooden stakes driven in ground to be installed indicating the corners of where the new building, addition to existing building or any other ancillary structure will be located. They must be identified by "building type" and "compass orientation" on stake with a dark marker. E.g. - "House, SW Corner".

 Private Driveway Markers: - A minimum of two (2) stakes driven into the ground to mark the driveway entrance and or exit. These stakes must have the word "Driveway" on stake with a dark marker.

 Tree Identification Markers: - Any and all tree removal outside excavation for construction must be identified by visible marker and approval given by Monterey County planning division.

Q: What is a presite inspection?

A: A presite inspection is performed by a grading inspector on your property prior to approval of a building permit.  The grading inspector reviews the building plans, site topography, checks for potential construction hazards, and determines if an associated grading permit or other ancillary permits are required.  If a grading permit application is also submitted concurrently with a building permit application, this process is accomplished through the review of the grading construction plans.  Check to see if your construction work qualifies for a presite inspection exemption

Q: How are the grading calculations figured?

A: Grading is broken down into two types: 1) CUT - soil materials that are removed from an area of land, such as an excavation and 2) FILL - the soil materials that are added to an area of land, such as the placement of soil for an embankment or fill slope. 

Grading calculations are the result of CUT + FILL as measured in cubic yards. This means that when one cubic yard of earth is cut, then that same one cubic yard is used as fill elsewhere on the property or exported from the site.

Monterey County views this as two cubic yards of earth movement.  This method is referred to as "double counting". This form of measurement takes into consideration the total disturbance of a site from its existing state.

 Q: How do I get a grading permit?

A: In order obtain a grading permit; the grading permit application form must be completed.  Contact the Permit Center for application forms and supplemental documents including grading handouts related to a grading permit. The specific application required will be determined by the scope of the project.  The applicant will be asked to complete the appropriate applications, submit all required plans, documents and pay applicable fees and bonds.

In most cases, a grading permit application requires six (6) sets of grading and drainage plans which include a site plan in each set.  Supplemental information may include two (2) site specific soils report for habitable structures.  Additional documents may include geological reports. compactions reports, surveys to establish grades, property lines and location of structure, erosion control plans, best management practices (BMPs), maps, and diagrams used to produce your calculations to help prevent any delays in processing your grading permit application.

Once your grading permit application is submitted, it will be forwarded to one or more of the inter-department agencies.  These agencies will verify compliance, if applicable, with the approved planning permit, design approval, and the various codes and ordinances.

Q: How do I get an over-the-counter grading permit?

A: An over-the-counter (OTC) permit may be issued under a grading permit number for a new private access driveway greater than fifty (50) feet in total length that requires less than one hundred (100) cubic yards of soil materials.

Three (3) copies of driveway drawings and details are required for an over-the-counter (OTC) private access driveway permit submittal.

Contact the Permit Center for application forms and supplemental documents including grading handouts related to a grading permit.

Q: Can I draw up my own plans or do I need to hire a professional?

A: Grading plans can be prepared by professional licensed architects, civil, geotechnical and structural engineers.  Licensed professionals are required to wet stamp and sign the first page of the grading plans and provide supporting calculations for their design work.  In some cases, designers (no requirement for state licensing) can prepare regular grading plans.

All grading plans and specifications shall be prepared and signed by a professional licensed engineer when the grading is over 5,000 cubic yards or a drainage structure over five square feet in flow area is required and shall be designated as "engineered grading." "Grading involving less than 5,000 cubic yards shall be designated "regular grading" unless the applicant chooses to have the grading performed as engineered grading, or the Chief Building Official determines that special conditions or unusual hazards exist, in which case grading shall conform to the requirements for engineered grading (Grading Ordinance No. 2535, Chapter 16.08.090).

Q: How does my grading permit get issued?

A: When your grading plans have been approved, you have completed all holds required for issuance, and paid your fees, your permit is issued and you are ready to start grading construction.

You will receive one set of approved drawings, stamped and dated along with an inspection card. The plans and inspection card should be kept at the job site at all times.  A second set of approved drawings, calculations and inspection card will be maintained with the Grading Inspection Division.

See the guide to grading Inspection for information on requesting inspections during the construction phase of your project.

Q: Will my grading permit expire?

A: Your grading permit is valid for 180 days from the date of issuance.  If you do not begin construction within 180 days or call for an inspection within this period, your permit will expire. 

Each time you pass an inspection, your permit is valid for 180 days from the last inspection date.

If your permit has expired and the period has not exceeded one year, the applicant will need to renew the grading permit prior to the commencement of work and the fee is calculated to be one half the amount required for a new grading permit.  If your permit has expired and the period has exceeded one year, you must re-apply and pay a new full grading permit fee.

Q: When should I call for grading inspections?

A: When your grading permit is issued, you will receive an inspection permit card.  This permit card provides a list of called-in grading inspections established by the Chief Building Official to ensure that the grading inspector performs site inspections, coordination, stage approvals, and the grading construction is in compliance with the approved grading permit.

These inspections require the applicants to notify the Grading Inspection Division as various stages of grading construction are completed, and require the grading inspector to be present on-site at various stages to inspect and approve portions of the grading construction.

Pre-Grading Meeting
The initial inspection usually held on site prior to any brushing and preparatory to actual grading construction, is generally referred to as pre-grading meeting.

The meeting provides an open forum for the discussion of the contractor's approved methods of construction; discussion of any special problems such as stabilization of fills, brush, tree and rock removal and disposals methods, erosion control for rainy season protection and discussion concerning the conditions of the permits and the necessary paper work required during in progress and final inspections.

By participants developing strong communication and an understanding of the conditions, requirements, and specifications of the approved grading plan and permit during the meeting, anticipated problems are resolved through careful planning for safe grading construction.

In-Progress Grading Inspections
The in-progress grading include toe of fill key inspection, excavation inspections, compacted fill inspections, drainage devise inspections and driveway/private road inspections.

In-progress grading inspections should continue during construction to ensure compliance with the grading permit and the grading ordinance.  These inspections also help the operation maintain steady progress, and minimize holdups, stop work or expiration of the grading permit.

Much of the in-progress grading inspection is involved with making sure that the soil engineer's representative is on the site observing grading construction, ensuring compliance with the soils engineer report recommendations, and that the grading contractor is complying with the specifications and requirements of the approved plans and permit.

The grading inspector keeps communication open and coordinates work among the contractor, soil engineer representative, and engineering geologist, to assure that each stage of grading construction is properly inspected, tested, and approved by the geotechnical consultants.

Q: How do I schedule a grading inspection?

A: You can schedule a grading inspection at the Salinas Permit Call Center at least 24 hours before the work day of the inspection.  Have your permit number (from the back of your permit card) and the inspection type or code listed on the permit card ready when you call. Telephone Number: (831) 755-5027.

Q: What happens if I am not (or my representative is not) at the site when the grading inspector arrives for a scheduled inspection?

A:  If the grading inspector arrives at the building site for a scheduled inspection and you or a representative are not present, a re-inspection fee must be paid and the inspection will need to be rescheduled.

Q: What do I do if I have changes to my plans during construction?

A: Please let us know as soon as you decide to make a change in your grading construction. Depending on how much you want to change, you may need to submit a change detail or plan revision, or you may need a new grading permit. By discussing this with us early on, we can tell you what is needed, and you can probably avoid a delay or stop work on your project.

Q: How do I pass a "final inspection"?

A: At this stage all grading construction has been completed, but there has been no release of utilities or issuance of the certificate of occupancy.

For final approval of your grading permit, you must pass the final grading inspection.  This inspection takes place when all building site fine grading work has been completed, including; excavation and fills placement, drainage devices and disposal systems, erosion control and landscape of slopes.

All professional reports including in-grading field reports, soil compaction test reports, an as-graded plan, and a final graded letter that summarizes all grading construction for the site must be reviewed and approved by the engineer of record or the soils engineer. 

If there are any hold or correction notes on the permit or grading plans, the grading inspector will need proof that the applicant has taken care of the holds before the permit can be final sign-off.

 Q: Why do I have to put up a grading bond?

A: A grading bond is defined by The County's Grading Ordinance No. 2535, Section 16.08.290 which states, "The Chief Building Official shall require bonds in such form and amounts as may be deemed necessary to assure that the work, if not completed in accordance with the approved plans and specifications will be corrected to eliminate hazardous conditions."

Q: What type of grading bonds is accepted?

A: Monterey County accepts the following as meeting the intent of Section 16.08.290:

Credit card payments are not accepted for bond deposits.

Q: How is the amount of the bond calculated?

A: The following calculations are used to determine grading bond amounts.  The Chief Building Official, may at times, adopt another calculation table to assess fees depending upon construction estimates and specific site conditions.  

Amount  (Cut or Fill) Grading Bond Fees
500 cubic yards or less $500.00
501 to 1,500 cubic yards $2,000.00
1,501 or more cubic yards $2,000.00 for the first 1,500 cuyds plus $1.00 for every cubic yard over 1,500 cuyds

Q: When will my bond be released?

A: When the grading construction is completed and has been final approved and signed off.  The grading inspector will give the approval for release, and the owner, owners, or corporation listed on the bond will then be notified.  Approximately four weeks are required to process the owner's claim for refund after the work is completed.

Q: Can I get temporary occupancy without having my grading permit final?

A: Temporary Occupancy may be granted prior to final grading inspection under certain conditions and extraordinary circumstances. The Applicant will be required to complete a Temporary Occupancy Request Form. A bond in the amount of $5,000 will be required unless the Chief Building Official has first approved a lesser amount. Contact your grading inspector for additional information.

Q:  How can I contact a specific grading inspector?

A:  Click here for a list of phone numbers and email addresses for the grading staff.

Q:  What is Ridgeline Development?

A: "Ridgeline Development" is defined by Monterey County Zoning ordinance - Title 21, Section 21.06.950 as "Ridgeline development means development on the crest of a hill which has the potential to create a silhouette or other substantially adverse impact when viewed from a common public viewing area".