The answer is almost always: yes, you need a building permit. Permits are the way the city of San Diego regulates construction. This is designed to ensure that all construction in the city is safe – the safety of the occupants of buildings is the primary reason for having construction codes. The city of San Diego has adopted several codes, among them the Uniform Building, Mechanical and Plumbing, and National Electrical codes.

Without a building permit and an approved set of plans, you are vulnerable to several risks. Below are a few items that a building permit ensure compliance with:

ADA Compliance. When submitting a set of plans for a building permit, the owner of the building is required to sign a statement confirming that the building is ADA accessible and compliant.

Fire Life Safety Issues. When submitting a set of plans for a tenant improvement project to the City, it gets reviewed for several items. One of these items is fire life safety. During this process, there is a review for proper exiting, and distance to a fire rated corridor, stairway or exit door. There is also a review for the fire rating of specific walls and doors to make sure they meet the code requirements. This may even require special visual and audio devices in some buildings to warn of a fire or other emergency.


Building Code Issues and Inspections. In addition to reviewing plans for ADA issues and Fire Life Safety issues, each set of plans is reviewed to ensure it meets the standards established by the city, state and federal building codes. These codes ensure that each component is designed to function properly and includes multiple improvements based on years of information. For example, ceiling systems, lights and HVAC diffusers have specific anchoring requirements to make sure they are held fast and do not fall during an earthquake. Failure to design and specify these systems may result in an improper installation that could put a company’s employees at risk. In addition to the plans being reviewed, the city also conducts on-site inspections during construction. This ensures that each component of the construction is installed properly and according to the current codes. Without this inspection process, one is relying on the contractor and subcontractors to install systems properly.

If you are relocating or remodeling your existing space, it is extremely important that you ask to have your project designed and permitted.