Building Permits

A building permit is required before any person, firm or corporation shall erect, construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, improve, remove, convert or demolish any building or structure. A list of projects that do NOT require a building permit may be viewed here.

Building Permit Process

A typical review process for obtaining a building permit includes:

  1. City of Orinda - Planning Department: All projects that require a building permit require review and approval from the Planning Department, except for Projects Exempt from Planning Review. The Planning Department reviews projects to ensure zoning compliance with the Orinda Municipal Code as well as for Waste Management Plan compliance, for projects such as re-roofs. 
    • Building Permit Application Form (PDF)
    • Plan Set Checklist (PDF)
    • Neighbor Consent Form (PDF)
      Step 1Submit your online building permit application here. Submittals by email are not accepted.
      Note: All submittal documents must be in PDF format. Plan sets must be a minimum 11" x 17" paper size.  

      In-Person Plan Check

      A limited number of in-person plan checks are available by appointment only. Schedule an appointment for an in-person plan check here. Do not submit your application online if you have scheduled an appointment for in-person plan check. 
      Step 2Staff will review your submittal. The project planner assigned to your application will email you with any comments, clarifications, or questions. 
      Step 3If the application is deemed incomplete, the applicant must addresses all plan check comments. If the application is deemed complete, continue to Step 4. 
      Step 4Once it is confirmed your application complies with the Orinda Municipal Code, you will receive an emailed invoice with payment instructions. Stamped approved plans will not be provided until payment is received.
      Step 5Applicant pays plan check fees. Payment is accepted by credit card (online payment) or check (mailed or dropped-off). 
      Step 6Once payment is received, the approved documents will be emailed to you and you may proceed to all other applicable agencies listed below. Planning approval is not a building permit. Only Contra Costa County Building Department issues building permits. Each agency has their own application process and fees. The applicant is responsible for submitting their project to all applicable agencies. The Planning Department does not route projects to other agencies. 
  2. Sanitary District or Environmental Health (if applicable): Certain projects require approval from Central Contra Costa Sanitary District for existing or new sanitary sewer connections. Please contact the Sanitary District here for more detail. Properties with septic systems require approval from Contra Costa Environmental Health. Contact Environmental Health here for more detail.
  3. Moraga-Orinda Fire District (if applicable): Certain projects may require approval from the Fire District. Please contact the Fire District here for more detail.
  4. Contra Costa County - Building Department (required): Building permits are reviewed and issued by the Contra Costa County Building Department. The City of Orinda does not have its own building department and contracts with Contra Costa County for building services. The Building Department reviews permit applications to ensure all projects meet current building code requirements. The Building Department requires that all applicable agencies have reviewed and approved the proposed project before processing any building permit. 

Property Records

The City of Orinda does not maintain copies of building permits. To view or obtain copies of building permits, Contra Costa County provides the following services:

  • Permit Lookup - To view building permit history, any member of the public may use the ePermits Center.
  • Building Permit Records - To obtain physical copies of plans or other building permit information, please complete the Records Research Request Form.

Waste Management Plan (Green Halo)

The following projects must divert at least 65% of the construction and demolition debris to an approved recycling facility:

  • Residential additions/alterations that affect 1,000 square feet. 
  • Residential additions/alterations that have a project valuation of $50,000 or greater. 
  • Residential additions/alterations that increase the structure’s conditioned area, volume, or size.
  • Demolition projects where a demolition permit is required.

If a project meets any of these thresholds, at the time of building permit, the Orinda Planning Department will place a "WMP Hold" on the permit. All recycling reporting must be completed on Green Halo Systems, a free online reporting system. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I need a permit for an emergency back-up generator? Yes, a homeowner must obtain a building permit from the Building Department for a permanent residential back-up generator. Planning Department review is not required for permanent residential emergency back-up generator.
  • Do I need a permit for roof-mounted solar panels on my home? Yes, a building permit is required for any solar project. Planning Department review is not required for flush, roof-mounted solar on residential properties. 
  • Why does the Planning Department review reroof permits? The Planning Department reviews reroof permits because of the Waste Management Plan requirements. Most reroof projects affect 1,000 square-feet and/or have a project valuation of $50,000 or greater. If a reroof project does not meet the Waste Management Plan thresholds, then Planning approval is not required. This may include partial reroofs of less than 1,000 square-feet or a roof overlay where no debris is generated. Reroof applications that require Planning Department review shall submit a completed Building Permit Application. No project plans are required for reroofs. 
  • How many plan set copies do I need to submit? You may submit a single digital copy. If you are receiving a plan check in person, only one copy is required.
  • What paper size do the plan sets need to be? The plan sheets must be a minimum 11" x 17" page size. This includes electronic submissions.
  • What plan sheets does the Planning Department review? Typical plan sheets the Planning Department reviews are the site plan, floor plan, elevations, sections, grading plans, and landscape plans. The Planning Department does not review Title 24, electrical, mechanical, or structural plans or calculations. These plan sheets are reviewed by the Building Department.
  • Do you route my plans to the Building Department? No, once your plans have been approved by the Planning Department, the applicant must submit their plans to all other applicable agencies. 
  • Who do I call for inspections? All building inspections are handled by the Building Department. Schedule your inspection online or call the automated number: (925) 646-4108.
  • Why is there is hold on my permit? Often times, a hold is placed on a building permit for either a Waste Management Plan if the project meets one of the thresholds listed above or a Planning final inspection if the project went through discretionary review (such as Design Review, Elevated Deck Permit, Exception Permit, etc.). Please review your plans stamped by the Planning Department and/or signed Orinda Permit Application Form to determine what holds are on your permit. If you are unable to determine what holds are on your permit, contact the Planning Department at (925) 253-4210 or
  • Can I build near a creek? You may be able to build near a creek, provided you adhere to the appropriate setbacks and/or guidance from the Public Works & Engineering Department. Work within creek setbacks will require an Exception Permit. If you believe your project is in the vicinity of a creek, speak with a planner about your options, or submit a Creek Setback Request. A member of the Public Works & Engineering Department will assess your project plans and conduct a site visit to document the top of bank location, type of creek setback, and any considerations regarding your proposed project.
  • Are there any easements on my property? The City does not maintain a list of easements on private property. Please refer to your Title Report for all recorded easements on your property.
  • Does the City maintain a list of approved architects/contractors/design professionals? The City does not maintain a list of approved professionals and is unable to make any recommendations.