Planning Applications

This section describes the processes involved in obtaining discretionary land use and development approval. 

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.

Discretionary Projects
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 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. Discretionary projects include:

Once a project has received discretionary approval, there is a 10-day appeal period following the decision date where any member of the public may appeal the decision. If no appeal is received within the 10-day appeal period, then the decision is final. Once the decision becomes final, the applicant may apply for building permits if the project requires a building permit. Please see the Building Permits page for more detail. 

Submittal Instructions

Step 1Submit a completed application form and required submittal documents here. Please carefully review all submittal requirements to ensure you submit a complete application. Incomplete applications will result in a delay in processing. Only electronic submittal is accepted.
Note: All submitted documents must be in PDF format. Plans sets shall be drawn to scale.
Step 2Staff will email an invoice with payment instructions. Payment is accepted by check (mailed or dropped-off) or credit card (online payment). Applications will not be processed until payment is received.
Step 3Once payment is received, your project will be assigned to a staff planner. The assigned project planner will begin reviewing your project for conformance with the quantitative and qualitative requirements of the Orinda Municipal Code.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take for a planning application to be approved? There are multiple factors that influence how long it takes to process your application. Factors include the type of application, how complete the application submittal is, and any neighborhood feedback received.
  • Will my neighbors be notified of my project? Yes, all discretionary applications require that all properties in a 300-foot radius of the property be notified of the project. Staff strongly recommends you inform your neighbors of the proposed project if they will be potentially affected by the project. Once the application is deemed complete, the project planner will prepare a 10-day public notice that is mailed to all properties in a 300-foot radius. 
  • Will my planning application require a public hearing? Zoning Administrator projects do not require a public hearing, but any member of the public may request a public hearing during the 10-day public notice period. If a hearing is requested, then staff will schedule a Zoning Administrator public hearing. All Planning Commission projects require a public hearing with the Planning Commission.
  • What's the difference between a Zoning Administrator and Planning Commission project? Zoning Administrator projects are generally more small-scale minor projects and do not require a public hearing unless one is requested during the public notice period. Planning Commission projects are generally more large-scale projects (such as 1,500sf+ addition projects) that require approval of the Planning Commission at a public hearing. Zoning Administrator applications are typically processed more quickly since they are more small-scale projects and application fees are not as costly compared to Planning Commission projects. 
  • Does my project approval expire? Yes, discretionary application approvals expire one year from the final decision date. If an applicant does not apply for a building permit prior to the expiration date, an extension request can be submitted. Extensions are typically granted for one year. The first extension request will be processed by the Zoning Administrator. The second and thereafter extension request will require approval from the Planning Commission at a public hearing.