As anyone who has built any project knows, obtaining a building permit is a fact of life. Yet fewer people are aware that their dream of building or remodeling may also need to include obtaining a discretionary permit as well.
The permit process is divided into two realms, the zoning regulations and building codes. Building codes and the building permit process address the life-safety aspects posed by any new structure, including structural soundness, earthquake resistance standards, fire protection, etc.
Obtaining a basic building permit (also known as a ministerial permit) is a relatively simple, straightforward, and direct process. In the vast majority of cases, a ministerial permit is the only permit required.
Yet increasingly, obtaining a building permit may be only the second part of a two-stage process, and obtaining discretionary approvals are an increasingly apparent fact of life for permit-seekers.
Zoning standards regulate the impact any commercial or residential remodel has on the neighboring properties, and concerns the project’s outward i.e. public aspect. Zoning therefore regulates qualities such as height, massing, scale, appearance and aesthetics, and attempts to ensure that the improvement will “fit” into its surroundings, not overscale the immediate neighbor’s, interfere with views they may enjoy, nor with their inherent rights to sunlight, air, and privacy.
The approval obtained in this process is called a discretionary permit, so-called because its granting is at the discretion of the regulating authority – it is generally regarded as a privilege conferred, not a right granted to a property.
Understanding the fundamental structure as to how the permit process works is amongst the most important aspects informing any project. Having an overview of the generalities of the permit process and more specifically, a complete picture as to how your project will wend it’s way to the ultimate goal of obtaining approval, stamped and signed by the regulatory authority, is critical to your success.