Resource Management Agency Seal

Resource Management Agency

Environmental Services

Environmental Services
1441 Schilling Place
Salinas, CA 93901
(831) 755-4879
(831) 755-5877

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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Grading Permits

In general, a grading permit is required when the total volume of cut and fill material is 100 cubic yards or more. A grading permit can also be required under other circumstances-e.g., when grading affects a drainage course or creates slopes steeper than two horizontal to one vertical or creates a cut slope higher than five feet. In order obtain a grading permit, an application must be submitted to RMA-Building Services and all appropriate fees paid. Grading Permit application and instructions can be downloaded here.

A grading permit cannot be issued if a determination is made that grading will result in hazards by reason of flood, geological hazard, seismic hazard or unstable soils, or is liable to endanger any other property, result in the deposition of debris on any public way or property or drainage course, or otherwise create a nuisance.

Grading Plans

Grading plans shall be included with all applications for grading permits. Grading plans shall be drawn to scale upon substantial reproducible material and shall be of sufficient clarity to indicate the nature and extent of the work proposed and show in detail that it will conform to the provisions of Monterey County Code Chapter 16.08 and all relevant laws, ordinances and regulations. the location of the work, the name and address of the owner, and the parcel number of the property on which the grading is to be done shall be clearly shown on each set of plans.

The plans shall include the following information:

  1. A statement as to the specific intentions or ultimate purpose for which the grading is being done;
  2. General location of the proposed site;
  3. Property lines and relative contours of the existing ground and details of terrain and area drainage;
  4. Elevations, dimensions, location, extent, and slopes of all proposed grading by contours or other suitable means;
  5. Detailed plans of all surface and subsurface drainage devices, walls, cribbing, dams and other protective devices to be constructed with, or as a part of, the proposed work, together with a map showing the drainage area and the estimated runoff at the area served by any drains;
  6. Location of any buildings or structures on the property where the work is to be performed and the location of any buildings or structures on land of adjacent owners which are within fifteen (15) feet of the property or which may be affected by the proposed grading operations;
  7. A statement of the quantity of excavation and fill, and estimated starting and completion dates;
  8. Specifications, when required, shall contain information covering construction and material requirements.


Geotechnical Reports

A geotechnical report or engineering geology report shall be included with grading permit applications, unless waived by the Building Official. The report shall include data regarding the nature, distribution, and strength of existing soils, conclusions, and recommendations.

The report shall include an adequate description of the geology of the site, conclusions, and recommendations regarding the effect of geologic conditions on the proposed development, and opinions and recommendations covering the adequacy of sites to be developed by the proposed grading.

Recommendations included in the report shall be incorporated into the grading plan.


Excavations - Design Standards

Cut slopes shall be no steeper than two horizontal to one vertical. Steeper slopes may be allowed if the Building Official determines they will be stable or if a civil engineer or geologist certifies that the site has been investigated and that the proposed deviation will be and remain structurally stable. The top of cut slopes may be required to be rounded off so as to blend in with the natural terrain.

Drainage terraces shall be provided. If vegetation removal takes place prior to a grading operation and the actual grading does not begin within thirty (30) days from the date of removal, then that area shall be planted in accordance with the provision of Monterey County Code Section 16.08.340 to control erosion. No vegetation removal or grading will be allowed which will result in siltation or water-courses or uncontrollable erosion.


Fills - Design Standards

Unless otherwise recommended in an approved geotechnical report, fills shall conform to the following provisions:

Fill slopes shall not be constructed on natural slopes steeper than two to one unless a civil engineer or geologist devises a method of placement which will assure the fill will remain in place. Slough shall not be placed on any slope where it is likely that it will enter a drainage course. Fill slopes shall toe out no closer than twelve (12) feet horizontally to the top of existing or planned cut slopes (see Figures 3 included following this Chapter.)

Preparation of Ground For Fill. The ground surface shall be prepared to receive fill by the removal of topsoil and other unsuitable materials as determined by the soil engineer and, where the slopes are five to one or steeper, by keying into sound bedrock or other competent material.

Preparation of Ground. The ground surface shall be prepared to receive fill by removing vegetation, noncomplying fill, topsoil and other unsuitable materials scarifying to provide a bond with the new fill, and, where slopes are steeper than five to one, and the height is greater than five feet, by benching into sound bedrock or other competent material as determined by the soils engineer. The bench under the toe of a fill on a slope steeper than five to one shall be at least twelve (12) feet wide. The area beyond the toe of fill shall be sloped for sheet overflow or a paved drain shall be provided. Where fill is to be placed over a cut, the bench under the toe of fill shall be at least ten (10) feet wide but the cut must be made before placing fill and approved by the soils engineer and engineering geologist as a suitable foundation for fill. Unsuitable soil is soil which, in the opinion of the Building Official or the civil engineer or the soils engineer or the geologist, is not competent to support other soil or fill, to support structures or to satisfactorily perform the other functions for which the soil is intended.

Fill Material Permitted. No organic material shall be permitted in fills except as topsoil used for surface plant growth only and which does not exceed four inches in depth. The Building Official may permit placement of imported rock over twelve (12) inches in its maximum dimension only when a civil engineer, soils engineer, or engineering geologist properly devises a method of placement, supervises its placement under continuous inspection, and provides assurance of fill stability.

Fill Slopes. No compacted fill shall be made which creates an exposed surface steeper in slope than two horizontal to one vertical. The Building Official may require that the fill be constructed with an exposed surface flatter than one and one-half horizontal to one vertical if he or she finds this necessary for stability and safety.

Compaction of Fills. All fills shall be compacted to a minimum of ninety (90) percent of maximum density as determined by the Uniform Building Code, Standard No. 70-1. Compaction tests may be required on any fill. As a minimum requirement, filed density verification must be submitted for any fill greater than twelve (12) inches in depth where such fill may support the foundation of a structure.

Drainage and Terraces. Drainage and terraces shall be provided in the area above fill slopes and the surfaces of terraces shall be graded and paved as required by Monterey County Code Section 16.08.330

Levees. Design plans shall be approved by a Registered Civil Engineer and be based on standards established by the Department of the Army, Corps of Engineers, as published in that agency's Engineer Manual EM1110-2-1913.


Winter Grading Operations:

When grading operations take place from October 15th through April 15th, the following measures must be taken to mitigate erosion:

  1. Vegetation removal shall not precede subsequent grading or construction activities by more than 15 days. During this period, erosion and sediment control measures shall be in place.
  2. Disturbed surfaces not involved in the immediate operations must be protected by mulching and/or other effective means of soil protection.
  3. Run-off from the site shall be detained or filtered by berms, vegetated filter strips and/or catch basins to prevent the escape of sediment from the disturbed area or site. These drainage control measures must be maintained by the contractor as necessary to achieve their purpose throughout the life of the project.
  4. Erosion and sediment control measures shall be in place at the end of each day.
  5. The Monterey County inspector may stop operations during periods of inclement weather if erosion problems are not being controlled adequately.


The 2013 California Building Code includes slope setbacks from site boundaries and footing setbacks from slopes.

1808.7.1 Building clearance from ascending slopes.
In general, buildings below slopes shall be set a sufficient distance from the slope to provide protection from slope drainage, erosion and shallow failures. Except as provided in Section 1808.7.5 and Figure 1808.7.1, the following criteria will be assumed to provide this protection. Where the existing slope is steeper than one unit vertical in one unit horizontal (100-percent slope), the toe of the slope shall be assumed to be at the intersection of a horizontal plane drawn from the top of the foundation and a plane drawn tangent to the slope at an angle of 45 degrees (0.79 rad) to the horizontal. Where a retaining wall is constructed at the toe of the slope, the height of the slope shall be measured from the top of the wall to the top of the slope. (GRAPHIC LINK)

1808.7.2 Foundation setback from descending slope surface.
Foundations on or adjacent to slope surfaces shall be founded in firm material with an embedment and set back from the slope surface sufficient to provide vertical and lateral support for the foundation without detrimental settlement. Except as provided for in Section 1808.7.5 and Figure 1808.7.1, the following setback is deemed adequate to meet the criteria. Where the slope is steeper than 1 unit vertical in 1 unit horizontal (100-percent slope) the required setback shall be measured from an imaginary plane 45 degree (0.79 rad) to the horizontal, projected upward from the toe of the slope.

1808.7.3 Pools.
The setback between pools regulated by this code and slopes shall be equal to one-half the building footing setback distance required by this section. That portion of the pool wall within a horizontal distance of 7 feet (2134 mm) from the top of the slope shall be capable of supporting the water in the pool without soil support.

Private Road Standards

All private road construction involving grading shall be done under permit pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 16.08. The Building Official may modify these requirements for emergency access or temporary roads. All private driveways less than fifty (50) feet in total length shall be exempt from the requirements of Subsection 16.08.350B.

Private road construction requiring a grading permit shall be subject to the following requirements:

  1. Width of roadbed shall be ten (10) Fire Standards require 12 feet minimum
  2. Minimum centerline radius shall be thirty (30) feet
  3. In no situation will road gradients be allowed grater than twenty-five (25) percent
  4. The structural section shall consist of a minimum of four inches of Class II aggregate base, except where native materials provide sufficient bearing capacity for all weather use. Additionally, one and one-half inches of asphalt concrete surfacing shall be provided where road gradients exceed fifteen (15) percent
  5. Asphalt berms are required where necessary to control drainage. Discharge shall be at points of natural waterways with energy dissipators installed where necessary to control erosion.
  6. Turnouts shall be provided at least every five hundred (500) feet if the traveled way width of the roadbed is less than sixteen (16) feet