Grading & Site Improvement

The City of San Juan Capistrano receives many requests for site development that may involve grading and related improvements to a property. Grading and Site Improvement proposed projects have many special requirements. All proposed projects involving grading and visible site improvements must first be approved by the Planning Department. In addition, the Building Division, and Public Works Department must review and approve the proposed project. Additional submission and requirement information is listed below.  

Grading Submittal Requirements

Planning Department

Title 9 of the San Juan Capistrano Municipal Code outlines land use regulations for the City. Section 9-2.323 details the specifics for grading plan review and modification. A Grade Plan Modification is a required entitlement prior to permitting for grading work subject to the referenced section of the Municipal Code. For grading questions relating to planning, please email the Planning Division at


 In addition to the adopted applicable Building Codes, in accordance with SJC Municipal Code Section 8-2.01, for the purpose of prescribing regulations for grading and excavations, the most current Orange County Grading and Excavation Code has been adopted. For grading questions related to building, please email the Building Department at

Public Works Department

Grading submittals must be submitted electronically. After planning approval has been obtained, a completed Grading Permit Application (PDF), OCFA Screen Check Form (COMM/MULTIFAM/TRACT or SFD/DUPLEX), preliminary engineer's cost estimate and an electronic copy of the grading plans must be sent via email to the Public Works Department for advanced plan check fee calculation. Once plan check fees have calculated for your project, an Engineering Technician will assign a grading permit # and provide Electronic Plan Review formatting requirements for first submittal.

All documents as outlined on the Plan Check Submittal Requirements (PDF) list are required at first submittal in the form of an electronic PDF (thumb-drive) or cloud share link.

Plans must contain all applicable notes:

  • City Grading Notes (PDF)
  • City Sediment and Erosion Control Notes (PDF)
  • If Hydrology and/or Hydraulics Report(s) are required then the analysis shall be submitted in accordance with the Orange County Format. Both a 25 Year and 100 Year study will be required.
  • All Grading and Site Improvement Plans are to include the City Engineer's Signature Block.
  • All projects are unique and will have different needs that will be addressed on a case-by-case basis during the review process.
  • The maximum allowable submittal size for plans is 24" x 36". 
  • All final approved plans will require a digital submission in accordance with City Standards effective June 1, 2007, and original Mylars signed and stamped by both the Civil Engineer of Record and the Geotechnical Engineer of Record.

California State Water Resources Control Board - Construction Stormwater Program

Dischargers whose projects disturb one or more acres of soil or whose projects disturb less than one acre but are part of a larger common plan of development that in total disturbs one or more acres of soil are required to obtain coverage under the General Permit for Discharges of Storm Water Associated with Construction Activity Construction general permit. Construction activity subject to this permit includes clearing, grading and disturbances to the ground such as stockpiling, or excavation, but does not include regular maintenance activities performed to restore the original line, grade, or capacity of the facility. The Construction General Permit requires the development of a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) by a certified SWPPP Developer (QSD). Visit the California Water Boards Construction Stormwater Program for more details.

Grading Inspections & Completion Certification

  • Refer to the Pre-Grade Packet (PDF) for Inspection Requirements and Completion Certification
  • Refer to the Water Quality Management Program and Construction Site Best Management Practices

Special Requirements

Adjacent Property Owners

Work may not be done or impact adjacent properties or improvements without written permission from the Property Owner(s). Copies of the written permission must be provided to the Building and Public Works Departments prior to work being performed.

Existing drainage on site must continue to function and approved protective measures and temporary drainage provisions must be used to protect adjoining properties during the grading project.

Once work has begun it shall be prosecuted to completion without delay so as to provide minimum inconvenience to adjacent property owners.

The Public

  • Contractors shall provide a clear unobstructed walkway for pedestrians past work area(s). At no time shall pedestrians be directed into a vehicular lane.
  • No staging of construction equipment shall be permitted in the right-of-way.
  • A traffic control plan shall be required for all lane closures and submitted for review and approval by the Traffic Engineer prior to issuance of an encroachment permit for work in the right-of-way.
  • Once work has begun it shall be prosecuted to completion without delay so as to provide minimum inconvenience to the traveling public.
  • Contractors shall be responsible and shall take necessary precautions to prevent public trespass onto areas where impounded water creates a hazardous condition.
  • A guard shall be posted on the site whenever the depth of water in any device exceeds 18 inches.


  • Erosion and Sediment Control shall be pursuant to the Best Management Practices and shall be installed and maintained by the contractor during the entire construction process.
  • Per City Council Policy 601, an Archaeological Monitor is required to be on site during all excavation activities in excess of 18 inches, unless determined to be exempt by the Planning Director.
  • Areas shall be maintained in such state that fire access shall be maintained at all times (including access to neighboring properties).
  • During construction contractors must provide daily street sweeping. (Sweep at the end of every day to pick-up dire and/or debris)