Permit Processing

This section describes the processes involved in obtaining land use and development approval. For processing purposes, projects require a Discretionary or Ministerial decision by the City.

Residential Development Guide


The Residential Development Guide (PDF) provides a detailed description of the the process and requirements by which residential development projects are reviewed and approved in the City of Orinda.

Major Project (Discretionary)


Decisions on "discretionary" projects 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. Decisions on discretionary project applications are made by the Zoning Administrator (if they involve less than 1,500 adjusted square feet of new floor area), by the Planning Commission if they are 1,500 adjusted square feet or greater or by the City Council on appeal.

Discretionary Applications are subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Permit Streamlining Act and may require a public hearing. Examples of Planning Department services which are typically discretionary include:

  • Commercial Use Permit
  • Design Review
  • Elevated Deck Permit
  • Exceptions
  • General Use Permit
  • Hillside grading on slopes over 15%
  • Lot Line Adjustment
  • Revocable Encroachment Agreements
  • Signs
  • Subdivisions
  • Temporary Event Permit
  • Tree Removal
  • Variances
  • Wireless Communications Facility Permit
Please note that the allowed floor area ratio is not an entitlement and the Planning Commission will evaluate the project in relation to the average floor area and FAR of the neighborhood in which the structure is proposed. The purpose of design review is to preserve and enhance the semi-rural character of Orinda, maintain property values, conserve and enhance the visual character of the community and protect the public health, safety and general welfare of its citizens. Title 17 Chapter 30 of the Orinda Municipal Code describes Design Review (portions of the OMC have been amended).

Minor Projects (Ministerial)


"Ministerial" projects involve little or no personal judgment by the public official as to the wisdom or manner of carrying out the project. The standards are quantitative and typically no public notice and input is involved.

A "ministerial" decision involves only the use of fixed standards or objective measurements, and the public official cannot use personal, subjective judgment in deciding whether or how the project should be carried out. A building 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 safety requirements in the applicable Building Code, and the applicant has paid the required fees. Ministerial applications do not require a public hearing, and the Public Streamlining Act and CEQA do not apply to them. Examples of Planning Department services which are typically ministerial include: