Land Use

Land Use Permits

Example Land Use Map 
Land Use Map

Land Use Permit is required to allow certain types of development. Land use permits can be required for a number of reasons, which include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • The site’s zoning
  • The proposed use
  • The amount of grading or vegetation removal
  • Inability to comply with ordinance requirements

Land Use Permit Entitlements

Use the Land Use Permit Application package to apply for any of the entitlements listed below.  Standard submittal requirements are discussed in the application package.  Read the User’s Guide to the Land Use Permit Process for more information.  Additional information may be required depending on site circumstances. The application fee must also be paid upon application.

  • Conditional Use Permit (Development Plan) – A discretionary permit, acted on by the Planning Commission, allowing a specific land use.
  • Curb, Gutter and Sidewalk Waiver – A request to waive the requirement for construction of curb, gutter and sidewalk, acted on by County Planning and County Engineering staff.
  • Emergency Permit – Authorization granted by the Planning Director, allowing a property owner to perform emergency work associated with a sudden, unexpected occurrence demanding immediate action to prevent or mitigate loss or damage to life, health, property or essential public services. The property owner must apply for and receive required land use permits and construction permits within 30 days of receiving the emergency permit.
  • Minor Use Permit – A discretionary permit, acted on by the Hearing Officer (Zoning Administrator), allowing a specific land use.
  • Plot Plan – A ministerial permit, acted on by staff, allowing a specific land use.
  • Site Plan – A ministerial permit, acted on by staff, allowing a specific land use.
  • Surface Mining/Reclamation Plan – A discretionary permit, acted on by Planning Commission, allowing the mining of surface materials from a site and requiring the reclamation of the site after the mining is completed.
  • Tree Removal Permit – A permit, acted on by staff, that is required for the removal and replacement of trees within certain areas of the county under certain circumstances.
  • Variance – A discretionary permit to modify requirements of the Land Use Ordinance or the 
    standards in the Area Plans of the Land Use Element. A variance cannot reduce the minimum parcel size or authorize uses that are not allowed by Table 2-2 of the Land Use Ordinance or Table O of the Coastal Zone Land Use Element.
  • Zoning Clearance – A ministerial permit processed and approved as part of the construction permit or business license clearance.

Pre-Application Meeting

The pre-application meeting is intended to aid prospective applicants in understanding the required rules and regulations that apply to your project and to reveal potential problems. Our goal in this process is to make the permitting process as efficient and understandable as possible.

  • Information about Pre-Application Meetings


Within 30 days of application submittal, Planning staff will visit the project and provide a written letter. The letter will either formally accept the application, or request additional information. Once the project is accepted, the project will need to go through the environmental review process. Once that has been completed, the project will be noticed for hearing.

Priority Processing for Smart Growth Projects

Strategic growth is a version of the national movement called “smart growth.”  Good news for “Smart Growth” development projects!  We’ve initiated priority processing for land development or subdivisions that include features attributed to Smart Growth principles. Projects that score a certain amount of points on a checklist of criteria could qualify for quicker review and save months in the time it takes to process applications.  Download the  Smart Growth Criteria for Development Projects Checklist. 

If you have questions or would like to have your proposed project reviewed for possible priority processing, please contact Mike Wulkin at 781-5608.

Coastal Zone

Projects within the Coastal Zone are subject to the Title 23 (Coastal Zone Land Use Ordinance), where the rest of the County is subject to Title 22 (Land Use Ordinance). Additionally, Area Plan standards may apply, and where Area Plan standards provide different limits than Title 23 standards, the Area Plan standard are to be followed.

Planning Area Standards

North Coast Planning Area (Cambria, San Simeon Acres, and rural areas)

Environmental Review

Most land use permits are subject to the California Environmental Quality Act, often referred to as CEQA. Additional submittals such as (but not limited to) archaeological reports, botanical reports, and geological studies may be necessary. The required reports may be discussed during a pre-application meeting or in a letter requesting additional information after application. Please Note: a filing fee is charged by the County Clerk on behalf of the Department of Fish and Game for most projects that are not exempt from CEQA.


A Land Use Permit authorizes only the use itself. If you’re proposing to build a structure, modify a building, or do grading, you will typically need to apply for a Construction Permit or Grading Permit following Land Use Permit approval. If approved, your Land Use Permit will have conditions that you must comply with. These conditions may require that you apply for approvals through other agencies (e.g. Public Works, Department of Fish and Game, Regional Water Quality Control Board). You may also have mitigation measures that you must comply with.


Depending on your conditions of approval, you may be required to enter into an agreement with the county (e.g. open space, navigation, mitigation).

Additional Fees

After the land use permit process is complete, you will likely encounter additional fees. These fees include:

These fees are in addition to any mitigation fees, Building Permit fees, and project review fees charged by other agencies.