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Business Construction & Land Use Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the responsibilities of the Planning Division and the Building and Safety Division?
A: The Planning Division is responsible for regulating the type, scale and the design of land use that may be established at a given location. They must check to see if the proposal is 1) consistent with the general plan, 2) meets local zoning requirements, and 3) meets the requirements of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act). The local Municipal Code, together with the official zoning map, establishes zones to regulate land use for compatibility with surrounding uses. Development standards are included for density, height, yards and open space, parking requirements, landscaping and irrigation, etc. You always need to get the Planning division's approval first. Building and Safety is responsible for structural and life safety concerns in the construction, demolition or alteration of buildings including, but not limited to, matters such as electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems, energy conservation and access for the disabled.

Q: What are the differences between a planning permit and a building permit?
A: 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, with or without conditions, or denied.

Q: Why do I need to apply for a building permit?
A: A building permit is a license that grants legal permission to start construction of a building project. Permits allow the enforcement of the codes that have been adopted as law by the State of California and they provide the means for code officials to inspect construction to ensure that minimum standards are met and appropriate materials are used. You have an investment in the home or business you are about to build or remodel; when that home or business building does not comply with the codes, your investment could be reduced. The City cannot design or prepare your documents for you. If you do not know how to prepare construction documents then you should consider hiring a licensed contractor, designer, licensed architect, or licensed engineer.

Q: What do I need in order to obtain a permit?
A: In the State of California building is a privilege, not a right. Much in the same way you need a driver's license to drive a motor vehicle, you need a building permit to construct. In general, a project must be submitted with construction drawings and a completed Building permit application. These construction drawings or plans must show all proposed work and details.

Q: I am a contractor working on a project in the City of Beverly Hills, but my business is headquartered outside Beverly Hills.  Am I subject to any business tax/business license fees?
A: The City of Beverly Hills requires all general contractors to pay a Contractor's Business Tax Registration fee on each project, equivalent to 0.2125% of the project valuation.  All sub-contractors employed by a general contractor are covered by this fee.  The fee is assessed when a building permit is issued, and requires no filing of additional paperwork with the City.

Q: When did the current California building codes go into effect?
A: The building codes currently being observed are the 2010 California building codes; these became effective January 1, 2011.

Q: I filed my building permit application prior to January 1, 2011, but did not obtain my permit prior to January 1, 2011. Will my project have to comply with the 2010 building codes?
A: Your project may comply with the 2007 building codes in effect when you submit your application, provided you obtain your permit before the expiration date of your application.

Q: Where can I purchase a copy of the 2010 California building codes?
A: The 2010 California building codes are available for purchase through the International Code Council at www.iccsafe.org. Please note that the proper reference name for these documents is the California Building Standards Code. It is also known as Title 24, California Code of Regulations. This group of codes includes many parts such as building, plumbing, mechanical, electrical, energy, elevator and historical building code provisions. It also includes special administrative requirements for schools, essential buildings and medical clinics. You may wish to purchase all or only a portion of these documents as your needs dictate. 

Q: What does a complete set of plans include for new buildings and additions?
A: In general, plans should include:

  • Site plan - showing setbacks from property lines
  • Foundation plan
  • Floor plans
  • Structural plans
  • Elevations (front, rear, and side views. Show existing grade and structure height.)
  • Cross-Section of the building

You can also reference the City of Beverly Hills building plan review webpage by clicking here, and the City of Beverly Hills trade plan review webpage by clicking here.

Q: When may I start building?
A: The building codes, as empowered by the State of California Health and Safety codes, are clear that no construction is allowed until the permit is issued. Once the permit application and accompanying plans have been submitted, the Building & Safety division will review and process the plans. Following approval of the plan and payment of fees, a permit will be issued.

Q: I have a permit for a custom home and I want to make some changes but keep the project on schedule. What is the best practice with respect to changes?
A: When design decisions or changes are made and you have a permit from the Building & Safety division, the "right" thing to do is to wait for the architect to revise the drawings, and then submit the revisions to the Building & Safety division for approval. Not waiting for "approved" revisions from the division is always a recipe for inspection problems and more delays.

Q: What needs a building permit?
A: As required by the State of California Health and Safety Code, the California Building Standards adopted by the California Building Standards Commission apply across the state. Those standards determine when a permit is required. In addition, local cities and counties are allowed to make local amendments to the "California Building Standards." For most permits, if you live within the City limits, you would contact the Department of Community Development - Building & Safety Division.

Q: Who may apply for a building permit?
A: Property owners, licensed contractors or authorized agents may apply for a building permit. Contractors must provide a Certificate of Workers Compensation Insurance. Property owners doing their own work are required by State law to sign the Owner-Builder Verification stating that they are actually doing their own work and are exempt from the requirement of having Workers Compensation Insurance, or they will be required to provide a certificate of insurance.

Q: I am installing an in-ground swimming pool. Do I need a permit?
A: Yes, you will need a building permit for your pool and an electrical permit to run the appliances necessary to clean the pool or to have lights.

Q: I am putting up a sign for my business. Do I need a permit?
A: Yes--you will need a building permit for your sign and an electrical permit if it is a lit sign.

Q: I am tearing down an old house before starting my new one. Do I need a permit?
A: Yes--you will need a permit to demolish your old building.

Q: I am only changing my electrical service. Do I need a permit?
A: Yes--you will need to have this inspected before the power company will begin your service.

Q: Can construction work occur on a holiday?
A: No person shall engage in construction, maintenance or repair work which requires a City permit between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. of any day, or at any time on a Sunday or public holiday unless such person has been issued an after hours construction permit. In addition, no person shall engage in such work within a residential zone, or within five hundred (500) feet of a residential zone, at any time on a Saturday unless such person has been issued an after hours construction permit. For the purpose of this Section, "Public Holiday" shall mean:  (1) New Year's Day  (2) Memorial Day  (3) Independence Day  (4) Labor Day  (5) Thanksgiving Day  (6) Christmas Day.  No person employed for the purposes of construction, maintenance, or repair work which requires a city permit shall enter a site on which such work will be done prior to 8:00 a.m.  Any violation of this condition shall be deemed to be an infraction.

Q: Does Beverly Hills have any requirements for sale or purchase of property?
A: Yes.  The Smoke Detector & Water Conservation Plumbing Fixture Affidavit must be completed and returned to the Building & Safety division upon transfer of property.

Q: Is romex wire allowed to be installed in single family residential homes?
A: Yes, romex wire is allowed to be installed in single family residential homes when installed in accordance with the California Electrical Code. Romex wire was previously outlawed in Beverly Hills for construction work that occurred prior to January 2008.

Q: Is romex wire allowed to be installed in Multi-family residential and commercial properties?
A: Yes, romex wire is allowed to be installed in Multi-family residential and commercial properties when installed in accordance with the California Electrical Code. Romex wire was previously outlawed in Beverly Hills for construction work that occurred prior to January 2008.