Resource Management Agency Seal

Resource Management Agency

Building Services

Building Services
1441 Schilling Place
Salinas, CA 93901
(831) 755-5027
(831) 757-9516

Although every effort is made to provide complete and accurate information on this website and all its documents, users are advised to contact applicable County Resource Management Agency staff before making project decisions and fee estimates.


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The Top Ten Most Common Questions

  1. What can I do with my property?
  2. How can I determine the zoning for a particular parcel?
  3. Will I need a permit?
  4. How do I apply for a permit?
  5. What is the application fee for a permit?
  6. How long does it take to obtain a permit?
  7. What happens after I apply for a permit?
  8. How can I check the status of a permit application?
  9. Will my project require an Environmental Impact Report or other environmental review?
  10. What is my neighbor doing on their property?

Other General Questions

Planning Questions

Building Questions

Building Inspection Questions

 Code Enforcement Questions


What can I do with my property?

The use of land in unincorporated Monterey County is primarily determined by the regulations contained in the Monterey County Zoning ordinances and the policies in the General Plan. Factors such as the availability of water, septic feasibility, slope and impacts to environmentally sensitive habitats also play a role in determining how property can be used. The Uniform Building Code contains regulations to ensure that structures are structurally sound and safe for human habitation.

The first step in determining how your property can be used is to find out the zoning designation on the property, either by contacting Planning staff (831)755-4800 or by looking up the zoning using Accela Citizen Access (ACA).  You can look up the zoning using the street address, Assessor's parcel number, or project file number.  Additional information may be available on the County's GIS Mapping website.

The zoning ordinances contain a list of uses that are either allowed or conditionally allowed for each designation and overlay district.  Title 20 regulates development for property in the coastal zone and Title 21 regulates development for non-coastal or inland areas.  Because of the wide variety of factors that are involved in determining how a property can be used, it is important to contact Planning staff before committing any resources to the development of a  project.  This can be done by phone or in person at the front counter. 

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How can I determine the zoning designation for a particular parcel?

The zoning designation can be identified by contacting Planning staff or by looking up the zoning using Accela Citizen Access (ACA). The zoning can be found by using the street address, Assessor's parcel number, or project file number. Zoning on a parcel generally consists of the main designation and overlay districts. For example, a property zoned MDR/B-8-D (CZ) has a base zoning designation of Medium Density Residential (MDR) with Building Site (B) and Design (D) overlay districts in the coastal zone (CZ).

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Will I need a permit?

Constructing almost any structure will require a construction permit. Some uses and structures also require planning (discretionary) permits based on Zoning Ordinance requirements, even if a construction permit is not required. Contact Building Services or Planning staff by phone or in person before starting construction to determine if permits are required.

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How do I apply for a permit?

The first step in applying for a Planning permit is to complete the Application Request Form (found on our Forms & Applications page) and the attached Scope of Work Statement. If you're sure that you only need a construction or grading permit, you can skip the Planning Application Request Form and submit an application at Building Services in Salinas.

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What is the application fee for a permit?

Planning permit fees are based on the permit type. A discount of 15% is applied to projects where more than one permit is required. Building permit fees are based on a flat fee or are based on the value of construction. See our fees here.

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How long does it take to obtain a permit?

The time to obtain a permit varies widely depending on the type of permit. Some types of construction permits and design approvals can be issued over-the-counter on the same day or within a very few days, while a complex discretionary permit or subdivision application may take many months to process. A Development Review Committee reviews more complex discretionary permit applications prior to submittal of the formal application. This process helps applicants identify issues early in the process.

In addition, many types of discretionary permit applications are referred for review to other agencies outside of Planning. These agencies may require conditions on the permit or may even require additional permits that can substantially add to the time that it takes to complete your project. Contact Planning and Building Services staff for an estimate of how long your particular Planning or construction permit might take to process.

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What happens after I apply for a permit?

This depends on the type of permit. Review the Planning Permit process or contact Building Services or Planning staff by phone or in person.

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How can I check the status of a permit application?

The status of a construction permit or discretionary permit application can be viewed online using Accela Citizen Access (ACA) online database. The status can be found by using the street address, Assessor's parcel number, or project file number.

A list of current construction applications and construction permits issued within the last 40 days can be viewed through ACA by clicking on the Building tab and viewing the Permit Reports at the top of the page. If you would like more information on a specific construction permit application, please call (831)755-4800.

A list of active Planning and Minor applications and their current status can be viewed through ACA by clicking on the Planning tab and viewing the Planning Reports at the top of the page. If you would like more information on a specific Planning application, please call (831)755-4800 or call or e-mail the assigned planner.

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Will my project require an Environmental Impact Report or other environmental review?

All applications will be reviewed for compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  Based on that review, projects will fall into one of 3 categories:

  1. Categorically Exempt:  The proposed development activity is exempt from CEQA;

  2. Negative Declaration/Mitigated Negative Declaration: The proposed development activity will have no significant impacts or has potentially significant impacts that can be mitigated to a less-than-significant level by modifying the project and/or attaching conditions of approval to the project.

  3. Environmental Impact Report: The proposed project has potentially significant environmental impacts that must be fully examined by the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). 

Detailed information on CEQA can be obtained from the California Office of Planning Research website.

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What is my neighbor doing on their property?

There are several steps you can take if you are curious about development that is proposed or permitted for a parcel. First, check the ACA online database of active Planning and Minor applications or current construction applications and issued construction permits and their current status in your area (see #8 above).  If a Planning application is currently under consideration or a construction permit has been applied for or issued within the last 40 days, it will show up on this list.  You may also contact us for information about applications that have not been formally submitted.  Please provide the Assessor's Parcel Number (APN) or specific street address of the parcel you are interested in.  You are welcome to visit our office to review the file for the project; however, you are urged to call ahead of time so we can be sure the file is available by the time you arrive.

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Other General Questions

Where are the Planning & Building Services offices located?

The Planning and Building Services offices are located on the second floor of the Monterey County Government Center at 1441 Schilling Place, 2nd Floor, Salinas, Ca 93901. For phone numbers, Permit Center hours, and directions to our offices, please see the Planning and Building Services websites.

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What are the differences between a planning permit and a building permit?

The purpose of a building permit is to ensure that new structures are structurally sound and safe for human habitation. Building permits are ministerial in nature, meaning that so long as the proposal complies with the Building Code a permit will be issued.

Planning permits generally address the use of the property as well as the physical location and appearance of structures.  Planning permits are discretionary in nature meaning that there is no guarantee that the permit will be approved. Planning permits can be approved, approved with conditions, or denied.

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How can I obtain information on development activity (permits in process, permits approved, historical information, etc.) in Monterey County?

A list of Planning applications approved since January 1, 1999 can be viewed on Accela Citizen Acces (ACA). The permit history of a parcel can be viewed online using Accela Citizen Access (ACA) online database - click here to see what you can do with ACA. The permit history can be found by clicking on the Planning or Building tab and searching applications by using the street address, Assessor's parcel number, or project file number.

How do I obtain information about hosting a special event in Monterey County?

Visit our page on Special Events here. 

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How do I obtain a Certificate of Temporary Occupancy?

Please come into the office and see a Permit Technician at 1441 Schilling Place- 2nd Floor South, Salinas, Ca 93901.

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Planning Questions

How can I obtain copies of the Zoning Ordinances, General Plan or any other publications published by the Planning Department?

Title 20 (Coastal Zoning Ordinance), Title 21 (Inland Zoning Ordinance), and the 2010 General Plan, as well as other planning documents and ordinances, are available online.  Paper copies of these and other documents may be available in limited quantities at our office. Please call (831)755-4800 for availability and pricing.

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Where can I view agendas for the Planning Commission, Zoning Administrator, and/or Subdivision Committee?

Planning Commission, Zoning Administrator, and Administrative Permit agendas can be viewed on our Public Hearings webpage. Agendas are normally published seven days prior to the hearing date.

Projects scheduled for hearing can be viewed through Accela Citizen Access (ACA) by clicking on the Planning tab and viewing the Planning Report "Projects Scheduled for Hearing" at the top of the page.

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Is it true that I can't build a new house or remodel because of lack of water?

In general, there is currently no new water available for unincorporated parcels that are located within the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) boundaries and are served by the California-American Water Company (Cal-Am).  Certain existing subdivisions within this area may have limited water allocations available.  Planning does not accept applications for projects that do not have an assured source of water. This includes applications for new houses and commercial uses, and remodels that will use additional water.

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If I cannot obtain a Cal-Am connection, can I drill a well to provide water for my project?

Contact Environmental Health (831-755-4505) and the MPWMD (658-5601) for information on drilling wells in the Cal-Am area.

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Building Questions

May I request what time of day I'd like the Building inspection to occur, such as morning or afternoon?

At this time we cannot take specific requests for morning or afternoon inspections.  You are more than welcome to call us between 8:00AM and 8:15AM on the day of your inspection, and we will provide you with an estimated time of arrival (ETA).

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Is a building permit required to re-roof a structure in Monterey County?

Yes, re-roof permits can normally be issued over-the-counter at the Planning & Building Services office and by Fax (831)757-9516.

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Is a building permit required to construct a fence?

Permits are not required for concrete and masonry fences not over 6 feet high, wood, vinyl and metal fences not more than 8 feet high and open metal fences not over 10 feet high. However, zoning regulations may require you to obtain a planning permit. Contact the Planning Department at the permit Center to determine if a planning permit is required.

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How large can a storage shed be before a building permit is required?

  1. A building permit is not required for a one-story detached structures accessory to detached one and two family dwellings used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses, provided the floor area does not exceed 240 square feet and the structure does not contain any electrical, plumbing or mechanical work and is not used to store hazardous material or vehicles.

  2. One-story detached structures accessory to detached a commercial building used as tool and storage sheds and similar uses, provided the floor are does not exceed 120 square feet and the structure does not contain any electrical, plumbing or mechanical work and is not used to store hazardous material or vehicles.

However, you should consult with a Department planner to determine setback requirements and design review requirements. A structure larger than 240 feet or one of any size that contains utilities requires a building permit.

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Is a building permit required for a retaining wall?

A building permit is required for a retaining wall if the wall is 4 feet or greater in height or for a retaining wall of any height if the wall supports a surcharge.

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Can a new single-family dwelling be occupied prior to the final building permit inspection?

"Occupancy" of a new single-family dwelling can be granted if there are no outstanding health and safety issues and provided that the Fire, Health, and Public Works departments have approved the occupancy. A Building Permit "Final" will be granted only after all outstanding issues (health, safety, and other) are addressed.

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How long should I expect the plan check process to take?

At the moment, it is 6 to 8 weeks.  We are working to reduce the plan check time. 

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Building Inspection Questions

When do I need a pre-site inspection?

A pre-site inspection is performed by the grading inspector to determine if a grading permit or other ancillary  permits are required.The grading inspector also reviews the site topography to determine if unusual site conditions exist.  Click here for more information

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How do I schedule inspections?

To schedule a Building and/or Grading inspection, visit the Accela Citizen Access (ACA) portal here and schedule online or call (831) 755-4800. To see what you can do online with ACA, click here.

 To schedule the inspection, the clerk will need:

  • Permit Number
  • Job Address
  • Type of Inspection
  • Date of Request
  • Contact Phone Number
  • Owners Last Name from Permit

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When will the inspector arrive?

We are sorry that we are unable to schedule specific times for inspections. Inspection times are not set until the morning of the date of inspection. You may call the respective office and ask if your inspection is expected to occur in the morning or afternoon.  Inspectors are generally available by phone between 8:00-8:15 am and 3:30-4:00 pm, daily.

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What do I need to do on the day of the inspection?

You are required to have your JOB CARD and APPROVED PLANS  in a dry, accessible place at the job-site.  If either your plans and /or job card are not at the site when the inspector arrives, your inspection will need to be rescheduled.  The inspector will sign the inspection record (job card) for each construction item that is inspected and approved. If an item does not pass inspection, the inspector will leave you a correction notice. These corrections must be completed prior to calling for a re-inspection.  A plan revision may be required to be submitted and approved prior to the next inspection if any deviation occurs from the approved plans.

Future inspections may be denied if there are any outstanding issues such as fees owed, changes to plans which have not been approved, failure to provide required/requested information, special inspections, structural observations, etc.

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What if I call for an inspection and I'm not ready?

You may be charged a re-inspection fee if the work to be inspected is not complete, the plans or job card is not available at the job site, corrections requested by the inspector have not been completed, there is no access to the inspection area.

 NOTE: no further inspections will be made until the re-inspection fee has been paid and all issues resolved.

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What is a "special" inspection?

A special inspection is performed by a third party inspector hired by the owner to perform a specific technical inspection. The county inspector is NOT a special inspector. Special inspections are required to inspect as per the CBC section 17.

 This requirement is usually determined in plan check, although, a change in the structure during construction can trigger this requirement later.  A list of pre-approved special inspection firms is available in the permit centers. Click here for special inspection forms.

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What is structural observation?

Structural observation (CBC section 17) is when the design professional, the plan checker or the inspector determines that the project has specific components that need to be observed in the field, during construction, by the design professional (architect or engineer).

 Again, this is the responsibility of the owner. It is not unusual for this to be requested by a county inspector during the construction process if they find an unusual connection, conflicts with the plans as drawn, requested on the plans by the plan checker or design professional, etc.

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What if I need an extension?

Building Permits Expire if it has been 365 days since the last inspection. If you are approaching 365 days since having a valid inspection, you may request a one time extension of 365 days. The request must be in writing and submitted to the building official and include reasons for the request.

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Code Enforcement Questions

Can I operate a business out of my home?

Some businesses are allowed without permits, some are allowed with the approval of a Use Permit, and others are not allowed in a residential zoning district. Contact the Planning Department to obtain more information prior to commencing the business.

A Notice of Violation is recorded against my property. How can I get it removed?

You must obtain the required permits, all permits must be finalized, all violations must be abated, and all Code Enforcement and recording fees must be paid. Once the violation is abated and the fees are paid we will record a Release of Notice of Monterey County Code Violation.

How many large animals can I have on my property?

If your property is zoned for large animals (horses, cows, llamas, ostriches) you may have one large animal for every 20,000 square feet of land. Note: An acre is 43,560 square feet.


How much time do I have to clear the violations?

In most cases you are given 30 days to either abate the violation or apply for permits to abate the violation. However, the time frame is at the Code Enforcement Officer’s discretion depending on the severity of the violation.

What do I need to do to clear the violation?

If no permit is required simply cease the illegal activity and call the assigned Code Enforcement Officer to schedule an inspection. If a permit is required you must schedule an appointment with the Code Enforcement staff who will assist you with your application submittal. The permit must be approved, all permit and code enforcement fees paid, the permit is to be issued, and a final inspection to sign off the permit before the violation is cleared.

How much will the permits cost to clear the violations?

Permit fees vary depending on the complexity of the project. Staff at the Permit Center will assist you in determining your cost.

Can I legalize an addition or detached structure that was built without permits?
Yes. You can submit “As-Built Construction” plans to obtain a permit for the illegally built structure. You may be required to submit structural calculations if “As-Built” structure does not meet all the provisions of conventional construction per the California Building Code.

When is a grading permit required?
A grading permit is required when:
  • Grading over 100 cubic yards (cumulative). Calculations are to include quantities of cut and fill. Note: 100 cubic yards is equivalent to a cube measuring 14’x14’x14’.
  • Grading a driveway over 50 feet long
  • Grading on slopes over 30% (25% in North County)

What happens when someone is in violation of the codes?
If the violation is in progress a Stop Work Notice will be posted on the property and all work must stop immediately. If the work in violation has been completed a Notice of Violation will be posted on the property. In either case, a Notice of Violation letter will be mailed to the property owner who will be given a time frame (usually 30 days) in which to comply.

What are setbacks and how do I determine mine?
Setbacks are the minimum distance that a building or structure can be placed from a property line and other structures. Setbacks can vary depending on the zoning. Contact the Planning Department staff to determine your setbacks for the type of structure you wish to build.

My neighbors have violations too. Why aren’t you investigating them?
If you suspect there is a code violation on another property, you may contact Code Enforcement staff and provide this information. A case will be opened and investigated appropriately.  If a violation is found to exist, the owner will be contacted and required to remove the violation and/or obtain the necessary permits for the violation.
Who turned me in?
We receive complaints from a number of sources including internal referrals, outside agencies and the general public. We do not disclose the source of the complaints; that information is kept confidential and protected under state law.

What do I do if I receive a "Notice of Violation" or a "Stop Work Notice"?
    1. Go to the Government Center (1441 Schilling Place, 2nd Floor, Salinas, CA)
      If you received a Compliance Order or Stop Work Notice, go to the Government Center and initially meet with the Planning Department.  If you have any questions, contact the Code Enforcement Inspector assigned to your case.
    2. Apply for a permit.
      Simple permits can be issued "over-the-counter".  More complex applications are reviewed by County plan check technicians and/or engineers and other County agencies.  Click here for more on the plan check process.
    3. Schedule Inspections
      You are not done when the permit is issued. You must still schedule and pass all the inspections that are required for your permit. Once these are complete, you will receive a final inspection, at which time you will have finished the permit process.  Click here for more on the inspection process.

    Note about as-built construction
    If you received a Compliance Order for work that was already complete, you still must apply for a permit for that work.  You may be required to expose the inside of walls to verify structural requirements, or take other actions to verify that the construction complies with Building Code Requirements

    How do I report a violation?
    There are several ways to report a violation. You can call the department at 831-755-4800 and ask to speak to the Code Enforcement office assistant who will take the complaint over the phone. You can download a complaint form and submit it by mail or fax, or you can come to the Permit Center and submit a complaint with the counter staff.  Please note that in order to process a complaint we need the Assessor’s Parcel Number and the address of the violation so that a case can be opened prior to sending an officer or inspector to investigate.