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Development Review-General Information

What is The Permit Center?

The Permit Center draws its functions from the building, civil engineering, environmental, zoning, and traffic engineering specialties and coordinates with other professional disciplines. This includes the review of subdivision maps and public improvement and grading plans; compliance with land use regulations, community plans and environmental statutes; and review of construction plans and inspection of construction projects. This includes review for transportation, park and recreation, and housing elements. The City of Walnut Creek is responsible for managing the land development process from concept to completion.


The following summarizes the development processing responsibilities and services provided by the City of Walnut Creek:

Planning & Zoning

Each project requiring discretionary review has a project planner who will serve as the project manager through the entitlement process. Planners are the heart of Walnut Creek's system for processing development and construction projects. The project planner coordinates the review among the various disciplines, guides the project through the process, and sets timelines and schedules in an expeditious manner. The project planner will analyze the project proposal in context with the applicable standards and guidelines.

Discretionary projects are subject to the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in accordance with the City's adopted procedures. A determination on the applicability of CEQA is be made within 30 days of a determination that the project application is complete, but is typically made earlier in the process.

Building Division

The Building Division is responsible for reviewing and inspecting private sector buildings for compliance with fire and life safety provisions of state and locally adopted codes, as well as the state mandated disabled accessibility and energy regulations. The Building Division is also responsible for historical permit records.

Public Works

Public Works provides engineering and traffic systems review and construction field inspection services such as the site design and grading, infrastructure inspections, maintenance and operation of streets and their traffic flow as well as the design and construction of public improvement projects.

City Arborist

The City Arborist is responsible for the review of all construction involving the dripline encroachment or removal of trees that are 9 inches or more in diameter when measured 54 inches above grade. An arborist report may be required at the time of initial application. The City Arborist will review the arborist report, evaluate its completeness, and provide input and recommendations for the preservation or removal of the trees to the project planner for inclusion in the project records.


Depending on the scope and type of project, other City departments, divisions, and commissions may also comment on the project. These may include: the Housing Division; Park, Recreation, & Open Space Commission; Transportation Commission; WC Police Department; and Arts Commission.

Permit Processing & Flow Charts

The Discretionary Development Review Process encompasses a number of distinct but related functions that provide approvals or entitlements for the development and use of public and private properties. The process generally involves an assessment of a project's consistency and compliance with the City's stated goals and objectives that are established in the General Plan, Zoning Ordinance, Design Guidelines, City Codes, and other regulations and standards. Discretionary review approval is required prior to issuance of site development and building permits. 

The simplified flow chart below depicts the basic process. More detailed flowcharts and descriptions of each phase of the process can be found on the Process Workflow page. 

Simplified Process


"Ministerial" or "Over the Counter" permits involve little or no personal judgment by the public official as to whether or how the project should be carried out. The standards are quantitative and typically no public notice or input is involved. The decision involves only the use of fixed standards or objective measurements, and the public official cannot use personal, subjective judgment. The applicant may independently obtain the required building permit from the City, as well as approval of the permit from fire, sewer, and water district agencies.

For example, a permit is ministerial if the ordinance requiring the permit limits the public official to determining whether the zoning allows the structure to be built in the requested location, the structure would meet the requirements in the International Building Code, and the applicant has paid all required fees. Ministerial applications do not require a public hearing, are not subject to the Permit Streamlining Act, or are exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by State law or City Ordinance.

Examples of ministerial permits typically include:

·Building Permits(Plumbing, electrical, mechanical) ·Encroachment Permits
·Second Family Unit Permits ·Residential Parking Permits
·Sign Permits

"Discretionary" development projects, in contrast, are based on qualitative standards and require judgment or deliberation. Discretionary projects typically involve an opportunity for public input and they may be approved subject to specific conditions. Discretionary development review applications are subject to CEQA, the Permit Streamlining Act, and may require a public hearing.

Examples of Discretionary Development Permits typically include:

Design Review Wireless Communications Facility Permits
Exceptions to Standards Conditional Use Permits
Variances Subdivisions
Tree Removals Grading or construction on slopes over 15%

For detailed descriptions of specific development review, please visit the Planning Guides & Guidelines webpage.

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