The permitting process can differ depending on your town. Find out which application process concerns you with Marin Map Data Viewer

Your project may be simple enough that a permit can be obtained “over the counter” on the same day that you apply. Depending on the type of work and complexity, drawings may not even be required.

Permit applications for more complicated projects will take longer due to plan review by various agencies, public notifications, and the need for certain agencies to complete their review before other agencies can begin. In a moderate residential project, the agencies that may be involved reviewing your permit application are the Planning Department, Department of Building Inspection, Department of Public Works, and (sometimes) the Fire Department.

The time it will take to process the application is – unfortunately – long and difficult to predict. The Building Department review studies the purely technical aspect of your proposed construction. A Planning Department review checks that the architectural and design features conform with the town's policies, regulations, and guidelines and requires neighborhood notification. The previously described, Design Review, adds months to the permit application process.

These figures are just guidelines, of course, and based on simple residential projects without variances or other complications. The plan checker's workload at the time of your application is also a variable that you cannot control. There are ways to "expedite" the permitting proces that may somewhat accelerate the building department's review. Where appropriate, we help clients organize projects into work that can be permitted over the counter, work that can be permitted without neighborhood notice, and work requiring neighborhood notice. This adds some cost for the permits, but allows work to advance.

According to your town’s website, the review time for your planning and/or building permit are as follows:

  • Corte Madera: The plan check can range anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months.
  • Larkspur: No information given.
  • Marin County: State law mandates that the Planning Division issue a decision within 3 months of the date a complete application is submitted.
  • Mill Valley: The Design review can range anywhere from 3 to 6 months and the plan check from 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Ross: The Design review can range anywhere from 3 to 4 months and the plan check from 4 to 6 weeks.
  • San Anselmo: The plan check can range from 4 to 6 weeks.
  • San Rafael: The plan check can range from 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Sausalito: The plan check can currently range from 5-6 weeks.
  • Permit cost is based on the project’s estimated construction cost derived from data from a national appraisal organization. Separate fees are charged for the permit application and plan review (paid when the application is filed) and for the permit itself. These will vary according to the project size, value and the number of departments that have to review the application. Additional fees are charged for other activities that may be required by your application, such as, processing of variances, mailing of neighborhood notices, review of Historical Resource Evaluations, and mandatory hearings. Attempting to predict the precise cost of a building permit for even a moderately complex project is daunting, but the Building Department does publish Permit Fee Tables that you can access below.

    If you project creates more than 499sf of new living space, under California law, you will also be assessed “developer fees” payable to your school district BEFORE permit issuance.

    For permit fees specific to your town, please refer to the links below:

  • Corte Madera: Planning Fees | Building Fees
  • Larkspur: Planning Fees | Building Fees
  • Marin County: Planning Fees | Building Fees
  • Mill Valley: Planning Fees | Building Fees
  • Novato: Planning and Building Fees
  • Ross: Planning and Building Fees
  • San Anselmo: Planning and Building Fees
  • San Rafael: Building Fees
  • Sausalito: Building Fees
  • Useful Links:

  • Property Information Packet
  • Planning Permit Application Submittal Checklist
  • The: steps to obtain a building permit vary according to the building type. We’ll assume here a residential addition or remodel of an existing structure because unbuilt lots are unusual. For new construction on undeveloped lots, the process is somewhat different.

    The first steps occur long before the permit application is filed. At the start of any project, we research the property’s zoning, age, preservation status, design review controls, permit history, and legal status according to tax records and to anticipate the items required for the permit application. Much of this information is consolidated in the Property Information Packet (1), available from the building department upon request. For example, alterations to an older home may require a “Historic Resource Evaluation” which is a lengthy process that should be started as soon as possible to be complete before the application is filed. Another common example is the conversion of spaces that was never legally permitted in the first place. The Building Department considers these unwarranted spaces as an addition of conditioned area to a home and this triggers calculations for energy code compliance and possibly developer fees from your local School District.

    Not every project fits neatly into the code. If there are specific questions or uncertainties about how the various codes might apply to your project, a “Pre-application meeting” can be scheduled through the Building Department for a fee. Attending the conference will be plan checkers from the departments with authority over the issue(s) you want to discuss. The written decisions and interpretations made at these meetings are “official” and may be relied upon in your final permit application.

    If the project will be subject to neighborhood notification, we encourage an early outreach meeting with the adjacent neighbors and the local design review boards after the design program has been set, but before going too deep into design itself. The neighbors do not determine our design, but being proactive permits us to hear their concerns, anticipate and try to avoid future obstacles if possible, and build trust and communication that will be important throughout the project.

    Finally, before submitting your application, a pre-filing meeting is available to you in order to ensure that all the submittal requirements have been satisfied. You can also use the Planning Permit Application Submittal Checklist (2) to make sure you application is complete.