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. Examples of Planning Department services which are typically discretionary include:

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.

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.