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County Building Permits Keep Residents Safe

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Nov. 2, 2012

Every year, the County reviews and issues thousands of building permits — an important and often overlooked public safety process that makes sure people are safe in and around the buildings in which they live, work and play.

This year alone, the County’s Department of Planning and Development Services (PDS) is on pace to issue nearly 7,000 building permits to local residents and builders. Those permits range from the relatively simple to the complex — from checking homeowners’ minor electrical upgrades to ensure that faulty wiring doesn’t create fires, to making sure homes and commercial buildings are built structurally strong enough to resist earthquake damage, and that they’re built with the appropriate fire–resistant materials and designs needed to resist wildfire damage.

“Everyone should feel safe and secure in their homes or in the businesses they visit,” said Planning and Development Services Director Mark Wardlaw, “and that’s exactly the value provided by building permits and inspections.”

Building permits are required for most, but not all, types of construction, including residential and commercial remodels, demolition and minor electrical, mechanical and plumbing work.

California law states that “no building or structure shall be erected, constructed, enlarged, altered, repaired, moved, improved, removed, converted or demolished unless a separate permit for each building or structure has first been obtained from the building official.”

A key part of the building permit system is the inspection process, which requires County building inspectors to assess projects at every stage, from a building’s foundation, to its framing and electrical systems, right up to the roofing work.

To increase customer service and streamline minor permits, PDS developed a program to allow contractors, architects and engineers to sign off, or “self-certify,” simple projects — such as replacing water heaters, demolition work, window replacements, interior drywall work, and other projects — without needing County inspections.

San Diego County’s building codes and inspection/enforcement system received top grades in 2009 from the Insurance Services Office, an independent rating/advisory organization that serves the property and casualty insurance industry.

To get more information about the County of San Diego’s building codes and permits, go to the Planning and Development Services Building Division Web page. You can also watch the video below.

To see what kinds of building projects do not need building permits, see the County’s Adoptive Ordinance Building Permit Requirement Exceptions.