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Community Spotlight: Things to Know When Building in San Diego

You found the perfect lot for your dream home. Now what? Well, if you’re planning on building within the San Diego County area, you need to first and foremost be aware of certain permit requirements, zoning codes, and building regulations.

California has one the most stringent building codes within the country. Top that with local San Diego regulations and you can see why it may be best to seek a local professional firm who knows how to design and construct residential buildings from the start of a build or remodeling project. Building a new home or remolding an existing one is an exciting time. However, if you are unsure of the process, you may want to be aware of a few things first.

Permitting Process

The San Diego County, as well as the city of San Diego, requires that all work must have a permit. For example, if you plan to redo your plumbing or electrical, there is a permit process. While some permits can be combined, other projects like demolition require separate permits. If you are planning on doing work to your house and going through the permitting process, you can expect a wait, as these things take time.

Helpful hint: Permits expire after 180 days if the inspection has not occurred. If your project expires before a final inspection is made, it will be considered a violation. Unfortunately, you may be forced to remove any construction or upgrades. So plan accordingly.


Regardless of whether you are building within the county or in the city of San Diego, you will have zoning restrictions. Depending on your parcel of land, you can expect to have a maximum density allocation, floor-area ratio specification, and even a building height requirement. You will also need to follow regulations regarding open space requirements and a minimum setback.

Building Green

Over the last few years, San Diego County has adopted several green initiatives when it comes to building. San Diego is serious about everyone going green in the future, and is putting regulations in place to help speed up the process. Requirements for new builds include a conduit that can be used for future solar panel placement. New residential construction also must reserve space for the addition of solar panels on the south-facing side for future installation.

Local Amendments

For the most part, San Diego abides by the majority of California state building codes. However, there are several amendments too. The city, in particular, has made amendments to almost all areas within residential requirements. Amendments include, but are not limited to, the following: fencing, landscape, building materials, lighting, mechanical, and fire codes.

Coastal Development

If your project is located within the coastal zone, you will be subject to additional regulations. Demolition and replacement even after a natural disaster will require a special permit. Furthermore, you cannot alter any vegetation or impede any sensitive habitat.

Best Advice

Overall, it is in your best interest to hire a qualified expert when erecting a new home or starting a remodeling project on an existing dwelling. While it is possible to jump in and traverse the process, it isn’t advised. Working with a professional will not only save you time but money as well. A professional can help you steer clear of any non-permitted regulations and help you stay within code. Plus, industry professionals know when and who to immediately call should an issue arise or if an inspection needs to be scheduled. A reputable design firm will know requirements up front and can design your plans accordingly.

Smith Brothers would be happy to meet with you about building or remodeling your home in San Diego. Please give us a call at 1-877-230-0333 or contact us here.

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