Land use permits are permits or approvals granted by the city that allow certain business uses to proceed, certain construction permits to be issued or certain development activities to take place. The Carlsbad zoning codes identify the specific land uses, locations and types of building and land development activities that require a land use permit.
Most small remodel, patio, pool, spa, electrical, plumbing and right-of-way permits do not require a land use permit prior to submittal of a construction permit application to the city. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact planning department staff by phone or at the development services counter during regular working hours to determine if a specific land use or project proposal requires a land use permit.
There are a variety of land use permit applicable to different land use and project proposals. A specific land use or project proposal may require one or multiple land use permits. Each land use permit follows a defined review process. The city land use permit application form allows for multiple permit requests using a single application form.
Every project, whether or not a land use permit is required, is subject to environmental review in accordance with city and state requirements. Some minor projects are exempted from the environmental review process. Projects with potentially significant environmental impacts must submit an environmental impact assessment form to help determine what level of environmental review is required for a specific project request.
The following is a detailed overview of the land use permit review and approval process. For an overview of the process see the land use permit review and approval flowchart.
The land use review process begins with the submittal of a completed land use permit application form to the Carlsbad Development Services Office (redevelopment office for projects within the Village Review Area) together with supporting documents and plans as listed on the applicable application submittal checklist and the application fees as stated on the fee schedule.
Immediately after submittal, the city will assign staff members from the planning, engineering and/or redevelopment departments to manage the review process. The application package is then reviewed for completeness. If the application package is found complete, a letter will be sent notifying the applicant that the application is complete, and the review process will begin. If the application is found incomplete, the application will be returned with a letter identifying the missing or incomplete items. Once the applicant has addressed the incomplete items, the application package may again be submitted to the city for completeness review.
Site Plan Review
Once the review process begins, staff may identify issues or concerns that must be satisfactorily addressed by the applicant prior to permit approval. Staff will return a marked-up set of the project plans and/or documents to the applicant for correction. When all corrections/concerns have been addressed, the applicant will resubmit for city review. Staff and the applicant may telephone one another or request face to face meetings to address specific project issues and concerns.
Once all project issues and concerns have been satisfactorily addressed or it has been determined that the project issues cannot be satisfactorily addressed, city staff will begin preparation of appropriate approval or denial documents for the approving authority of the respective land use permits.
The approving authority for land use permits can be a department head (planning director, city engineer or redevelopment director), the Planning Commission or the City Council (Housing and Redevelopment Commission for projects in the Village review area).
Usually, a simple letter of approval or denial is all that is required for land use permits approved by a department head. Projects approved at the department head level may be appealed to the appropriate board, commission or the council as provided for in city codes.
Projects requiring board. commission or council approval require preparation of a detailed staff report and an appropriate resolution of approval/denial. Once the staff report and resolution are complete, a Planning Commission hearing will be scheduled and publically noticed. The applicant will be afforded the opportunity to make a brief presentation, if desired, prior to the commission taking public testimony and rendering a decision.
Depending on the application type, the commission’s approval may be a final decision or a recommendation to be forwarded to the City Council or Housing and Redevelopment Commission for final decision. Any final decision of the Planning Commission may be appealed to the City Council or Housing and Redevelopment Commission, as appropriate.
Projects requiring final decision by the City Council or Housing and Redevelopment Commission are scheduled for hearing after receiving a recommendation by the Planning Commission. The applicant will be afforded the opportunity to make a brief presentation, if desired, prior to the Council/Commission taking public testimony and rendering a decision. Decisions of the City Council or Housing and Redevelopment Commission are final and cannot be appealed.
Environmental review is required for most Carlsbad land use permits. Environmental review occurs while the land use permit application is processed. A decision is made on the environmental determination before a decision is made on the land use permit application.
The environmental review process is dependent on project size, scope, complexity and potential environmental impacts. Different levels of environmental review and determination may occur as follows:
- Environmental exemption: for projects that by state statute or category are found not to have a significant environmental impact.
- Negative declaration: for projects that after review of the environmental impact assessment are found not to have a significant environmental impact.
- Mitigated negative declaration: for projects that after review of the environmental impact assessment form are found to potentially have a significant environmental impact which can be mitigated prior to or concurrent with construction of the project.
- Environmental impact report: for projects that have the potential for significant environmental impacts that require preparation of detailed environmental studies to determine the specific environmental impacts and potential mitigation measures.
For approval to be granted, each Land Use Permit must be found in conformance with the city’s general plan, zoning codes, Growth Management Plan and all applicable land use plans. Following is a brief definition of the various land use permit reference documents. Select the highlighted text for more information or to view the selected document.
General plan: a legal document required by the state of California and approved by the City Council that defines the city’s vision for its future and contains policies to guide city decision makers in the review of land use permits.
Zoning Codes: Laws that embody community standards and dictate the general location and extent of allowed land uses as well as the population density and building intensity for building and development in Carlsbad.
Growth Management Plan: A plan that ensures the timely provision of adequate public facilities and services to preserve the quality of life for Carlsbad residents.
Local coastal plans: planning documents used to guide development in the coastal zone, in partnership with the Coastal Commission, that contain ground rules for the development and protection of costal resources.
Habitat Management Plan: a citywide plan developed in cooperation with the federal and state wildlife agencies, to preserve the diversity of habitat and protect sensitive biological resources within Carlsbad.
Regulatory ordinances: Any of several regulatory documents approved by the city for a specific area that may supplement or override normal zoning requirements. Includes precise development plans, master plans and specific plans.
Special overlay zones: Any of several special overlay zones specified in the zoning code that may supplement or override normal zoning requirements. Includes Qualified Development Overlay Zone, Scenic Preservation Overlay Zone, Beach Overlay Zone, Commercial/Visitor Overlay Zone and various Coastal Protection Overlay Zones.