Building permit information dating back to 2007 can viewed on the City E-Trakit Citizen Portal.
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Cities provide a wide range of important services for residents and businesses alike. The City of San Juan Capistrano’s utilizes a form of municipal government where the Mayor and City Council are elected officials. The City Manager takes direction from the City Council and is responsible for overseeing city staff tasks and keeping the City running efficiently. The City of San Juan Capistrano has five departments: the City Manager’s Office (which oversees city administration), Development Services (which oversees development processing and permitting), Public Works (which oversees the public right-of-way and facilities), Community Services (which oversees parks and recreation facilities), and Finance (which oversees the budget and financial planning for the City).
Planners are involved in a variety of tasks throughout the development process, including conducting research, analyzing data, consulting with stakeholders, reviewing plans, and overseeing the implementation of those plans. Planners guide the growth and development of cities while addressing challenges such as urban sprawl, congestion, social inequality, and environmental degradation. They may also work to address specific challenges cities and their residents face, such as affordable housing, transportation infrastructure, or environmental concerns. The work that planners do contributes to creating vibrant, inclusive, and resilient communities that enhance quality of life, promote the economy, preserve cultural heritage, and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.
Current planning implements the City’s zoning code, processes entitlement reviews, and confirms projects are meeting development standards. Reviews by the Planning Division generally occur before the Building Division’s review to ensure that a project can be built as proposed prior to review for compliance with California State Building Codes.
Long-range planning plays an important role in shaping the cities and communities we live in. It is a process of setting goals and objectives to achieve the City’s long-term vision. An example of long-range planning is the General Plans
The General Plan serves as a planning guide that specifies the City’s long-term vision for the physical development and character of San Juan Capistrano. The document is a comprehensive plan which expresses the community's long-term goals and anticipated development patterns. It is made up of goals, objectives, principles, standards, and plan proposals, as well as a set of maps and diagrams. Implementation of the San Juan Capistrano General Plan will ensure that future development projects are consistent with the community's goals and that adequate services are available to meet the needs of existing and proposed new development. Ultimately, the General Plan provides a bridge between the City's unique historic traditions and the San Juan Capistrano of tomorrow.
In planning, land use refers to the way in which property is or will be used, whether it be for residences, commercial businesses, industrial uses, mixed use, or open space. The purpose of land use planning is to guide development in a manner that enhances and preserves the integrity and character of the City. The goals of land use include planning for more desirable social, environmental, and economic outcomes. The City’s Land Use Code is located within Title 9 of the City of San Juan Capistrano Municipal Code.
Municipal Code refers to the collection of laws passed by the City Council as “Ordinances” which are implemented within the city. Municipal codes are organized by titles, chapters, articles, and sections. They can be used to regulate a wide range of activities within a city, such as zoning laws that govern how property can and cannot be used and building regulations governing how things can be built safely. Land use zoning codes can also regulate the details of construction in specific neighborhoods, such as limiting the maximum height of buildings and establishing processes which need to be approved before construction work can proceed.
Zoning is a tool utilized by planning through which a city divides land into areas with a unique set of regulations for proposed development. Examples of zoning districts include residential, commercial, open space, and industrial along with other more specific zoning designations. Zoning regulations govern how property can and cannot be used in certain geographic areas. For example, zoning can prevent uses with conflicting impacts from being in close proximity to each other. Changes to zoning law may be considered by the City Council through a rezone and/or code amendments which are entitlement processes that require public input and review.
Entitlements provide individuals and groups (e.g., corporations, trusts, etc.) the legal rights to develop and permit a project. Many developments cannot be built until an entitlement has been approved. For example, significant cuts to the grade on a property requires the review and approval of a Grading Plan Modification (GPM); new commercial buildings require the review and approval of an Architectural Control (AC). The zoning code identifies appropriate uses and development standards for a property. However, the city may require an entitlement review to ensure the cities design guidelines and environmental requirements are being met.
Ministerial projects in comparison, can be built solely through permits. These kinds of permits or projects have shorter processing time frames, don’t involve public hearings, and are approved administratively by a Department Director or City staff. This is often the case with Building permits, where a project that has already received an entitlement will have its corresponding Building permit approved ministerially by City staff.
Staff can often identify which entitlements may be needed with a description and preliminary site plan for the proposed development. Please submit a description and site plan to Planning staff at email@example.com.
Property information can include a wide variety of details. Many frequently asked questions about properties are found within this FAQ webpage; however, if you do not see your specific question listed here, please email firstname.lastname@example.org your specific question, address, and/or parcel number.
To determine the precise location of your property’s boundary a civil survey of the property lines will need to be obtained by the property owner. The city does not provide survey services, and a private company will need to be retained for this service. A tax map or tract map providing the dimensions of the property, which can be used to provide an approximate understanding of the property’s boundaries may be available through the County of Orange Public Works Land Records.
A property’s zoning designation can be confirmed at the City’s GIS Portal. To do so, search the address or 8-digit parcel number, and select “Zoning” from the Layer list under the “Layer” icon, located in the top right corner. Please refer to Question six for more information on the definition and purpose of zoning.
Permit information, including inspection records dating back to 2007, can be viewed on the City’s “E-Trakit Citizen Portal.” Permit information and plans prior to 2007 may be viewed in person at City Hall through the City’s Record System. An appointment is required to view public records in person. Please note that no photos are allowed when reviewing the plans in person and taking handwritten notes is encouraged.
Documents or plans that bear the stamp/signature of a licensed, registered, or certified professional must formally be requested through the City Clerk's office using the online request form. For additional information please reach out to the City Clerk’s Office at email@example.com.
Development standards differ for each zoning district. Once you have confirmed the zoning district for your property (see Question 11) the permitted uses and development standards for that district can be viewed within the City’s Municipal Code, within the Comprehensive Development Plans, applicable to Planned Communities or within the Specific Plans applicable to Specific Plan/Precise Plan zones.
For residential zoning districts, please review Municipal Code Section 9-3.301, Table 3-2, for the development standards that apply to that district: https://library.qcode.us/lib/san_juan_capistrano_ca/pub/municipal_code/item/title_9-chapter_3-article_3-sec_9_3_301. If the property in question is located within a Planned Community or Specific Plan, please email firstname.lastname@example.org your address so that staff may verify the applicable development standards on your behalf.
A property’s setbacks are one of the development standards established by zoning. Please refer to question 11 above. Generally speaking, a setback is the minimum required horizontal distance that a building, structure, or other designated feature must be located from the lot line of a property.
Setbacks are measured from a property line or access and trail surface easement inward to a proposed or existing structure.
The submittal process may vary depending on what is being requested. The Planning and Building Counters at San Juan Capistrano City Hall are open by appointment to accept all applications during normal business hours. Please schedule an appointment online via the City’s appointment portal system which will detail the submittal requirements for the appointment type being selected and typically prompt uploads of required documents and plans.
Planning projects which can be administratively approved include: Banner Permits, Sign Permits, Special Activity Permits, Temporary Use Permit, Time Extensions, and Tree Removal Permits Zoning Confirmation Letters can be submitted electronically to email@example.com. For planning applications that require an entitlement (e.g. Architectural Control (AC), Conditional Use Permit (CUP), etc.) please review page 4 of the Planning Division’s “Comprehensive Development Application” which further details submittal requirements for different kinds of entitlements.
For details on the Building Permit application submittal process please visit the Building Division’s permit webpage, apply for a permit. For submittal requirements for different kinds of Building permit applications, please review the Building Division’s “Plan Check Submittal Requirements” document.
The City maintains a Major Development Projects interactive map, which provides the project status and basic information. Each development listed includes the project manager’s contact information who can best respond to specific questions relating to that project.
Active permits can be reviewed using the City’s the City E-Trakit Citizen Portal. For past permit activity and records, refer to Question 18 above.
Permit costs vary depending on what type of permit is being pulled. Fees for Planning Projects and Permits can be found on the fee schedule.
Building Permit fees can vary substantially based on what the value of the project is, the review and inspection process, and various components of the project. The fee schedules are available online. However, you can also contact the city building technicians directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Building permit plan check fees are calculated and due at the time of submittal.
The City’s interactive GIS map, is available. Properties are located by searching the address or 8-digit parcel number within the top left search bar. Additional information can be viewed on the map, by selecting the Layer option in the top right corner. Specific layers are searchable by selecting the magnifying glass at the top of the Layers window and typing in keywords.
The City of San Juan Capistrano classifies short term rentals, vacation rentals, and long-term rentals where a person is temporarily residing before returning to their main home, as “Boarding”. Short-term and long-term boarding is only permitted to occur within the Multi-Family Residential (RM) and Very High Density (VHD) residential zones. All other zones, including single-family residential zones, prohibit this use.
Active and archived Public Hearing agendas and agenda-associated reports going back to May 2012 can be found online under the Government webpage. Records prior to May 2012 will need to be requested through a records request.
City Council, Planning Commission, and all other Commissions, Committees, and Boards meet in the temporary Council Chamber located at the Nydegger Building – 31421 La Matanza Street, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675.
Questions for the Planning Division can be sent to Planning@sanjuancapistrano.org. A full directory is available at https://sanjuancapistrano.org/directory.aspx.
There are several residential developments under review within the City which can be reviewed on the City’s Major Development Projects Map.
An ADU stands for Accessory Dwelling Unit, also known as a secondary unit, mother-in-law suite, granny flat, or casita. An ADU is accessory to a primary residence, which can be either single-family or multi-family. More information regarding ADU’s and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADUs) can be found on the Planning Division’s ADU webpage.
Yes, City and State law permit all single-family residential properties to be developed with an ADU up to 800 square feet in size, given that it complies with City Municipal Code standards. The City can permit ADUs larger than 800 SF under certain conditions. More information on ADU development standards and submittal processes can be found on the City’s ADU website. It is suggested that you provide planning staff with a conceptual plan via email at email@example.com so that staff can provide a preliminary review of the plans, identify any potential concerns, and further detail the submittal process.
A parking space is required to be identified on the plans, such as the driveway or in an existing garage unless one of the following exceptions apply.
1. Within a half mile walking distance of a public transit stop (bus stop or train station)
2. Located within the Los Rios Historic District.
3. Located within the Mission Residential Zoning District.
4. ADU is integrated within the main residence or garage.
5. When on-street parking permits are required but not offered to the occupant of the ADU.
6. When there is an established car share vehicle stop located within one block of the ADU.
In San Juan Capistrano, the only major transit stop is the Amtrak / Metrolink Train Station, located at 26701 Verdugo Street, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675. There are no high-quality transit corridors located within the City.
Free standing block walls over 36” in height require a building permit, reviewed, and approved by the Planning and Building Divisions. However, if the proposed block wall is retaining earth, permitting may be required from Building and Planning even if the wall is under 36” in height. Please reach out to the Planning or Building Division.
Free standing fences, which are not combined with walls or fixtures, up to 6’ in height do not require a building permit. The Building Division can confirm if your proposed type of structure or attachment methods would trigger the need for a permit at Building@sanjuancapistrano.org.
To confirm the determination of whether a retaining wall needs a Building Permit or a Planning Grading Plan Modification entitlement, please email a site plan to showing where the wall(s) will be located on the property and a section drawing of the wall(s) (cross-section view of the wall providing the wall’s dimensions, and the existing and proposed grade on either side of the wall). Site plan and section should be emailed to Planning@sanjuancapistrano.org.
Yes. Businesses need to receive approval through the Planning Division for any new business or commercial sign to confirm the sign meets any applicable Sign Program (see Question 33 below) or, when there is no Sign Program, the City’s Sign Code.
Signs which include electrical illumination or are required to be affixed to a structure are also required to get a Building Permit. When ready to submit plans, please refer to Question 16 above.
If a property has a Sign Program, it can be confirmed using the City’s Interactive Map. Search the address or 8-digit parcel number, and select “Sign Program” from the layer list offered under the Layer option in the top right corner. If a Sign Program exists for that property, the map will identify the Program by its entitlement number.
Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) went into effect on January 1, 2022, and permits 2-unit development and lot splits, under specified circumstances, on parcels zoned for single-dwelling unit development. SB 9 reviews are required to be considered ministerially, without discretionary review or public hearing, if the proposed housing development meets certain objective requirements.
For questions regarding SB 9 and urban lot splits, please contact Planning staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. The following standards apply:
Please note the list is not comprehensive, and all relevant Municipal Code sections should be reviewed for applicable standards. (SJCMC Sec.9-3.538,Article 7.Urban Lot Splits,)
Please email Planning@sanjuancapistrano.org a site plan with your preliminary lot line for staff to review and identify potential concerns prior to submitting for a Tentative Parcel Map with the Comprehensive Development Application.
The City of San Juan Capistrano has endeavored to protect the area’s ridgelines from development, to ensure that ridgeline views from the City’s valleys can be enjoyed by future generations.
Specific ridgelines have been identified for preservation in the City’s General Plan, and the City’s code restricts any development or grading within 200 feet of these preserved ridgelines. The designated ridgelines and their 200’ buffer can be reviewed on the City’s GIS mapping by selecting “Ridgelines” from the layer list offered after choosing the Layer option in the top right corner. Specific development restrictions within the Ridgeline Buffer can be found within the City’s Municipal Code Section 9-3.411.
At this time entitlement project applications are reviewed and processed through the Planning Division are only accepted in person through an appointment scheduled via the City’s appointment portal. Submittal items listed in the Comprehensive Development Application that are required to be submitted digitally (D), and if less than 10 MB are able to be emailed to Planning@sanjuancapistrano.org on the same day as the scheduled appointment.
Public records may be reviewed through the City’s portal.
Active and recent environmental documents are available on the City’s website.
Nonconforming refers to structures or uses that complied with all applicable ordinances and laws at the time they were established but which due to amendments to the Code, no longer comply with City standards. The City’s Municipal Code Section 9-3.533 provides details on non-conforming structures and uses, including when non-conforming structures can be repaired, enlarged, or rebuilt.
The City’s GIS Interactive Map can be used to confirm whether a property is located within a flood zone. Search the address or 8-digit parcel number and select “FEMA Flood Hazard Areas” from the layer list offered under the Layer option in the top right corner.
Pools and spas may have different setbacks than structures on a property. Depending on the zoning of a residential property, pools and spas must have a 5’ or 10’ setback between the property line and the edge of the pool or spa water. Residential zones RS-10,000, RS-7,000, RS-4,000, RG-7,000, RG-4,000, RM, VHD, PC and SP are required to have a 5’ setback for all pools and spas. Residential zones RSE-40,000, RSE-20,000, RA, and HR are required to have a 10’ setback for all pools and spas.
For more information on setbacks please refer to Question 14; additional information on zoning can be found under Question 11.
Pool and spa equipment is required to be at least 20’ from a neighboring residence or be enclosed so that the noise from the equipment does not exceed 45 decibels at the property line. If the pool manufacturer’s information cannot confirm the decibels at the property line, an acoustic analysis may be required as part of the pool or spa permit application. This is a typical note requested to be added to the plans.
Discretionary Land Use determinations made by the Planning Division may be appealed with the City Clerk’s office. The appeal form is available on the City’s website and can be submitted to the Clerk’s office during City Hall hours, 7:30 A.M. – 5:30 P.M. (Monday through Thursday) and 7:30 A.M. – 4:30 P.M. (Fridays). Please note that City Hall is closed, and staff is unavailable daily for lunch between 12 P.M. – 1 P.M.
Affordable housing in Orange County is in very high demand. Most housing opportunities do have waiting lists, and most waiting lists are multi-years long.
The City of San Juan Capistrano has participated in the development of several affordable rental and ownership opportunities and programs which maintain housing options that are affordable to lower-income residents. The City’s housing webpage contains a list of affordable rental opportunities. There are no ownership opportunities available at this time.
The City of San Juan Capistrano requires a Tree Removal Permit for any tree on non-residential property, or within Homeowner Association maintained landscape. Additionally, a Tree Removal Permit is needed on residential properties when the tree is located within the front yard, in a side or rear yard that abuts a street or trail, or is a Heritage Tree, as discussed in Question 44.
San Juan Capistrano defines trees as self-supporting woody plants that usually provide one main trunk and a distinct elevated crown with a trunk diameter (measurement across) of 6” at 3’ above the ground. Any tree with a trunk diameter less than six (6) inches measured three (3) feet above grade do not require a Tree Removal Permit to be removed.
To apply for a Tree Removal Permit, please download the City’s application form and submit the form to the Planning Division to email@example.com.
A tree is deemed a heritage tree if the trunk diameter (measurement across) is 36” or more at 3’ above the ground, and is of the following species:
The San Juan Capistrano Planning Commission, composed of residents appointed by the City Council, has the authority to designate a tree as heritage based on the tree’s unique and intrinsic value to the community because of its size, age, historic association, or ecological value.
The City’s Interactive Map can be used to confirm whether a property is designated as historic on the City’s Inventory of Historical and Cultural Landmarks (IHCL). Search the address or 8-digit parcel number and select “IHCL Historic Sites” from the layer list offered under the Layer option in the top right corner.
Assembly Bill 2011 and Senate Bill 6 are state laws which went into effect on July 1, 2023, and provides developers the right to permit residential development on sites currently zoned and designated for commercial or retail uses.
Assembly Bill 2097 is a state law that went into effect on January 1, 2023, that prohibits or limits parking requirements for developments within a half-mile of a major transit stop or high-quality transit corridor. In San Juan Capistrano, the only major transit stop is the Amtrak / Metrolink Station, located at 26701 Verdugo Street and there are no major or high-quality transit corridors. Therefore, the City cannot require a minimum parking standard for new ground up developments of commercial (excluding event centers, hotels, motels, or lodging) or new residential units within a half-mile of the Amtrak / Metrolink Station. Only if it can be demonstrated that a lack of parking creates a “substantially negative impact” on surrounding properties can a city require parking for the intended development.
Flat work, new landscape, and free-standing structures 36” in height or less typically do not require permits or City review.
Structures over 36” in height, which are affixed to other structures, or installation of electrical, mechanical, or plumbing fixtures and lines require Building Permits which are reviewed by the City Building and Planning Divisions.
Structures over 36” in height must be located outside of the properties zoning designated setbacks (see Questions 6 and 14 for more information on zoning and setbacks).
To prepare for submitting to the Development Services Division, please review the Building Division requirements within the “Plan Check Submittal Requirements.” If you have any Building questions, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, and for a courtesy preliminary review prior to submittal, email email@example.com.
Mobile Home units are a unique type of manufactured residence that are overseen by the State Department of Housing and Community Development.
Due to the State’s involvement in mobile home park developments, there are instances where the State, the City of San Juan Capistrano, or both the State and the City of San Capistrano will be the jurisdiction issuing permits for mobile home repairs. The following handout identifies repair activities and which government entity will need to be contacted to obtain permits.
Mobile Home Permit Guidelines – City vs. State
Below are additional Mobile Home Resident and Park resources:
State Mobile Home Assistance Center: https://www.hcd.ca.gov/manufactured-and-mobilehomes/mobilehome-assistance-center/how-to-submit-complaint