Public Works: Building Division

Frequently Asked Questions


Why Do I Need a Building Permit?

Whether we are in our homes, offices, schools, or places of entertainment, we take for granted the fact that the structures that surround us are safe. What we usually don’t think about is that most aspects of building construction – framing, wiring, heating, and plumbing facilities – represent a potential hazard to building occupants and users.

Building codes strive to reduce risks to an acceptable level. Building inspections provide the means to verify that the codes have been followed. The building permit is the link between the two. The permit and inspections ensure that your personal safety is protected and that your investment in your home also is protected.

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When is a Building Permit Required?

Most home improvement projects require a building permit. The basic requirements are established by the the California Building Code & Uniform Building Code is that a permit is required every time a building or structure is erected, constructed, enlarged, altered, repaired, moved, improved, removed, converted, or demolished. Only a limited number of projects are excluded from building permit requirements. Even projects that initially do not require a building permit may require design review or zoning approval, so we advise you to check City requirements carefully before proceeding. If you are in doubt about whether or not a building permit or design review is required, you should contact the Public Works Office at 510-420-3050. This may save you from costly redesigns later on and can guide you towards a project design which fully meets the City’s requirements and expectations.

When in doubt, ask!

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Who Should I Contact Regarding Building Permits?

The city's Building Official is responsible for maintaining Piedmont's standards for both home and commercial construction. This includes review, acceptance and issuance of permits for building projects and periodic monitoring and inspection during the construction process. The Building Official is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to Noon at (510) 420-3062.

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What Building Codes Does the City of Piedmont Use?

The current regulations include the 2001 California Building Code of Regulations, Title 24, including the California Building Code, Volume 1 and 2 and all of its appendices, and the 1997 Uniform Building Code, Volume 3, as amended in sections 5.2 of the Piedmont City Code, Chapter 5. The City Council may from time to time designate by resolution which edition of the California and Uniform Building Code is currently applicable, since they are periodically revised. In addition, there are supplemental regulations which the City of Piedmont has added to replace and, in some cases, amplify certain sections of the California Building Code. Be sure and review the list before proceeding. The most up-to-date regulations adopted by the City Council can be found at Chapter 5 of the Piedmont City Code.

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How Can I Get A Building Permit Application Form?

The city now provides a Building Permit Application Form which you may download and complete.

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How Do I Submit This Application Form?

We do not accept forms by mail or fax. Someone needs to bring in the application form to our Public Works Office counter during normal business hours:

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What Supporting Documents Do I Need?

The documentation required could vary from photographs of the current construction to full scale plans, structural calculations, Title 24 Report, etc. Contact the Building Division at 510-420-3062 regarding your specific project.

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What Drawings are Required?

The drawings or architectural plans required can vary depending on the scope of your project. Contact the Building Division regarding your specific project. Drawings that may be required include:

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Do You Issue Over-the-Counter Permits?

No. All permits take at least 24 hours to be processed. We will telephone you when the permit is ready to be picked up by the owner or the contractor. We do not mail or fax approved permits, since they require a signature by an authorized person.

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Do You Issue Demolition Permits?

No we do not issue demolition permits without having an approved building permit which may include demolition. All building permits need to have the appropriate documentation and the overall project approved before a permit can be issued.

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How Long Does It Take to Get a Building Permit?

All building permit applications take at least 24 hours to be processed. All applications are processed in the order in which they are received. Processing time varies depending on the complexity of your project and the level of review required. Permits for simply jobs (rewiring electrical, hot water heaters, sewer repair, etc.) are typically processed in one (1) to five (5) days. However, if additional information is needed, we will usually telephone the applicant for that information. Once the information is received, the permit is usually ready a few days later.

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Who Reviews My Application?

Your application will initially be check by city planning staff to determine if design review is required. If planning review is not necessary, your documents are forwarded to the city’s Plan Checker who reviews the application for compliance with building, electrical, mechanical, plumbing and other codes. Once the Plan Checker has completed his review, your application is forward to the Building Official for his review and approval.

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What Are the Fees for a Building Permit?

The fees are set by City Council resolution and change periodically. Building permit fees are calculated on a sliding scale depending on the dollar value of your project, including labor and overhead as well as materials. They are based on the currently adopted Building Code schedule and consist of three parts: Permit/Inspection Fee, Plan Check Fee and the SMIP (Strong Motion Instrumentation Program) Fee set by the State of California. All applicable fees must be paid when your application is submitted.

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Does My Contractor Need a License?

California State Contractors License

In California, anyone who contracts to perform work that is valued at $500 or more for materials and labor must hold a current, valid license from the Contractors State License Board. There are 43 different types of contractor licenses, including general and specialty contractors. You can check on contractors and obtain valuable information for your project at the CSLB website, www.cslb.ca.gov.

Piedmont Business License

Anyone who does business in Piedmont is required to have a current City of Piedmont Business License, including contractors and subcontractors. To obtain a business license, please contact the City Clerk’s Office at 510-420-3040. You may also to present a certificate of workers’ compensation and proof of liability insurance coverage.

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Can I Be My Own General Contractor or Owner/Builder?

“Owner/builder” describes a situation in which the homeowner becomes the general contractor. As an owner/builder, you (not the person you hire) assume responsibility for the overall job. Your responsibilities may include such things as state and federal taxes, workers’ compensation insurance and other legal liabilities. For more information on this, go to the CSLB website, www.cslb.ca.gov.

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Why Do I Need a Sidewalk Inspection?

The City Council requires that sidewalk inspections be done at specified times, including when any permit (or aggregate of permits within the year) amount to $5,000 or more for a property and when real property is sold. Refer to City Code, Chapter 18, Article V, Sec. 18.26.

If the Building Official determines that repairs are necessary to the sidewalk, the owner is given two choices: (1) pay the City at a per square foot rate established periodically for the City’s contractor to replace the portion of sidewalk specified; or (2) apply for a building permit and make arrangements for a private C-8 licensed contractor to replace the damaged portion of sidewalk.

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How Do I Contact Your Office?

Please call or come to our office if you have any questions before you undertake any project:

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How Long Does My Building Permit Remain Valid?

Your building permit will remain valid for 180 days from the date the permit is issued. Each time your project is inspected, the expiration date is automatically extended to 180 days from that inspection date. If work has yet to start and the permit is still active, you may request a one-time free extension of 180 days. However, once your permit expires, renewing it requires paying a fee.

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Do All Building Permits Need Inspections?

Yes. After your permit is issued, a series of inspection will be required. Depending on the scope of your project, inspections may be required for foundation, framing, plumbing, electrical and similar work. The City requires a final inspection on all building permits.

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How Do I Schedule Inspections?

Once your permit is approved, you will need to schedule periodic inspections. Please be aware that there is usually a 2-3 day wait for inspections. All inspections are performed in the afternoon between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Have the following ready when calling for each inspection: address of property, type of inspection needed, permit number, and name, phone number of a contact person. An adult over the age of 18 must be present for all inspections.

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Do I Need to Post My Permit on a Window?

No, however, it is necessary for each inspection that the set of approved stamped plans, calculations and the original yellow Building Permit card be available to the Building Official at the time of each inspection. The inspector will check the actual construction against the approved plans and sign-off on the back of the Building Permit card. A Correction Notice will be issued if anything is noted that needs further attention.

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Do All Permits Need a “Final” Inspection?

Yes. All work completed under a building permit issued by the City of Piedmont must pass a “final inspection” by the Building Official. Even though a contractor may have taken out a building permit for a property owner, it is ultimately the responsibility of the property owner to see that a final inspection is attained for each building permit. Failure to have a final inspection could result in withholding approval of any future permits. According to City Code, Chapter 5, Section 5.2.3, “the building official shall not issue a permit…until all expired building permits have been finally approved and all work originally done without permits has been covered by a building permit, inspected and finally approved.”

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What Will the Inspector Look at for the “Final” Inspection?

The inspector will look to see that all work is done in conformance with the approved plans and applicable building codes. In addition, it is a state requirement that for permits over $1,000 in value, the inspector will need to verify that smoke detectors are located in each area required by the Uniform Building Code and that a spark arrester is installed on each chimney. If you need a brochure on smoke detectors, please contact the Building Division.

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When My Project is Done, What Do I Do with the Permit?

Your contractor should leave the approved plans and yellow Building Permit card with you for your files and future reference.

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What If I Begin Work Without a Permit?

If you begin work without the required permit, a “Stop Work Order” will immediately be issued by the Building Official. You will be required to apply for the permit and pay twice the original permit fee. After the permit has been properly issued, you will be required to uncover any work which has been covered so that it may be properly inspected. In some cases, regulations may not permit the type of construction that has been done. If this happens, you may be required to replace or restore the area to its original condition prior to your construction.

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What is a House File?

There is a file kept at City Hall of every property in Piedmont. It contains correspondence, reports, architectural plans, etc. from the late 1970s to the current date. Any drawings or plans submitted prior to that time were destroyed.

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I Am Selling My House, What is Required?

A Sidewalk Inspection is required in conjunction with the sale of real property (City Code, Chapter 18, Article V, Sec. 18.26a.) The fees are set by City Council resolution and change periodically.

A Housing Records Search is not required by the City of Piedmont, but we encourage sellers and real estate agents to have this done. The actual building permits are filed in chronological order by date applied for and not kept in the House File. Therefore, a manual search is done for permits back to 1907. In addition, we do have copies of the Alameda County Assessor’s Records of 1926. The fees are set by City Council resolution and change periodically.

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