Frequently Asked Questions about the Development Center

General Questions

  • What is the Development Center?
    The Development Center is a customer service center where contractors, homeowners, developers and architects can apply for and obtain development-related City permits and approvals. The Palo Alto Building and Planning Divisions, and the Public Works, Fire, and Utilities departments are all represented at the Development Center.
  • Where is the Development Center located? When is it open? What's the phone number?
    The Development Center is located at 285 Hamilton Avenue, across the street from City Hall. The phone number is (650) 617-3118 and the fax number is (650) 329-2240. The Development Center is open Monday - Friday, 9am-4pm.
  • Do I need a building permit?
    Most construction requires a building permit. This includes remodeling, demolition, additions, tenant improvements, signs, and replacing a roof, water-heater or furnace. 2nd-story additions, new homes and many non-residential projects require planning application approval prior to a building permit. If you have questions please call (650) 329-2496, or visit the Development Center located at 285 Hamilton Avenue so we can assist you.  
  • What are the rules regarding construction hours?
    Construction is limited to the following days and times throughout Palo Alto for all properties:
    Monday through Friday - 8am - 6pm
    Saturday - 9am - 6pm
    Sunday and Holidays Construction Prohibited
    Construction hour violations can be reported to the Palo Alto Police Department non-emergency number (650) 329-2413.
  • Can I check my permit status online?
    You can check your building permit status online at "Permit Status".
  • How do I apply for a parking permit?
    Visit the Transportation Division's parking information page for more information.
  • How do I know what uses are permitted on my property? The zoning of your property determines what uses are permitted. To determine the zoning classification of your property, use the online zoning maps .  After you have determined your zone, refer to Title 18 of the Municipal Code to determine what uses are permitted on the property and what restrictions may apply. The Planning Division has developed a "what use where matrix" to help you conveniently determine what uses are permitted on your property, but the final authority is always the Municipal Code.
  • Can I make an appointment with staff at the Development Center?
    Yes, though you can also stop by without an appointment during regular business hours (Monday-Friday, 9am-4pm).  
  • Do I need to make an appointment to submit for a building permit?
    No, building permit submittals are processed during our normal business hours.
  • How do I find out about building permits issued for a property in Palo Alto?
    A history of building permits issued since 1985 is available online at "Permit Status". Additional information is available at the Development Center.


Doing business in the City of Palo Alto

  • Do I need a business license?
    The City of Palo Alto has no Business License requirements for most businesses located in or contracted to do business in the city. A one time Certificate of Use and Occupancy is required for all new businesses and change of tenants in Palo Alto.


Plan Checks

  • Do you issue over-the-counter permits?
    Yes, most permits that do not require plans are issued over-the-counter. These include re-roofing, minor electric, plumbing and mechanical permits. In addition, minor projects that require plan review are also issued over-the-counter. Examples include kitchen and bathroom remodeling and minor commercial tenant improvements.
  • How can I check the status of my plan review?
    We prefer that you don't call to check plan review status. Whoever applied for the permit received a note from the staff with an approximate response date. If you   want to follow the progress of your plan review do so on the Development Center web site at "Permit Status". You can see which departments have completed their review and if there are any conditions of approval. Alternatively, you may contact the Building Department at (650) 329-2496.
  • Does a fee need to be paid when plans are submitted for plan check?
    Yes, a plan review fee must be paid at the time of permit submittal. Other fees are collected when the permit is issued. Click here to visit the fees page.
  • How many sets of plans must I submit for plan review?
    It depends on how many departments are going to review your project. The plan set requirements can be downloaded from the Building Permits section of the Development Center Web Site
  • Does the City inform the County Assessor of our project? The City is required by State law to collect one set of drawings for use by the County Assessor.



  • What information do I need to schedule an inspection?
    You need the permit number, project address, type of inspection, a daytime phone number and a contact name. It is required that you have this information or the inspection will not be scheduled. Call (650) 329-2496 for inspection scheduling.
  • When can I talk to an inspector?
    Inspectors are available for phone calls between 7:30am - 8am Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday .  
  • Can I find out at what time the inspector will arrive?
    When scheduling your inspection you will be given a choice of morning (8am - 12pm) or afternoon (1pm - 4pm). Call (650) 329 2496 to obtain a 2 hour window the morning of your scheduled inspection.
  • Should I cancel an inspection if I'm not ready?
    Absolutely. If the inspector shows up on the job site and the work is not ready for inspection the inspector may assess a reinspection fee that must be paid before an inspection can be rescheduled. Call (650) 329-2496 to cancel or reschedule an inspection
  • Does someone need to be on the job site when the inspector arrives?
    In most cases yes. The inspectors will not enter private property unless someone is present. The permit, approved construction plans and the inspection record must also be on the job site and available to the inspector.


New construction projects and remodels

  • What version of the Building code does Palo Alto enforce? 
    The 2016 California Building Standards Code CBSC became effective statewide on January 1, 2017. Included in the new CBSC are the 2016 versions of the California Building Code (based on the 2015 International Building Code), 2016 California Residential Code (based on the 2015 International Residential Code, 2016 California Electrical Code (based on the 2014 National Electrical Code), 2016 California Mechanical Code (based on the 2015 Uniform Mechanical Code), 2016 California Plumbing Code (based on the 2015 Uniform Plumbing Code), 2016 California Fire Code (based on the 2015 International Fire Code), 2016 Building Energy Efficiency Standards, and the 2016 California Green Building Standards (CalGreen), 2016 California Existing Building Code, 2016 California Historical Building Code, 2015 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code.
  • How do I figure out the zoning classification of my property?
    You can determine the zoning classification of your property using the online zoning maps. 
  • How do I figure out what zoning regulations apply to my property?
    The regulations that apply to your zone district are in Title 18 of the Palo Alto Municipal Code.
  • How do I figure out if a building on my property is on the City's historic inventory?   What regulations apply to historic buildings?
    To find out if a building is on the City's historic inventory, please call the Planning Division at (650) 329-2441.   Buildings on the historic inventory are subject to the regulations in Chapter 16.49 of the Palo Alto Municipal Code .
  • Is my property in the flood zone?   What regulations apply to property in a flood zone?
    For more information on flood zones, view the Public Works flood zone information pages.
  • My project may require design review by the Architectural Review Board (ARB).   Where can I get more information?
    Visit the Planning Division's ARB web site .
  • I want to put a fence on my property. What do I need to know?
    View the City's Fence Code for more information.
  • I want to put a shed on my property. What do I need to know?
    A shed is considered an accessory structure. An accessory structure less than 120 square feet does not require a permit.   However, there are regulations as to the height and placement of the structure. Additional Accessory Structure information may be found in Title 18.88 of the Palo Alto Municipal Code.
  • I have a question about a tree on my property, or a City tree near my property.   Where can I find more information?
    Visit the Public Works urban forestry web page.
  • I want to build a bridge over the creek that runs through my property.   What do I need to know?
    Please contact Public Works at (650) 329-2325 and The Santa Clara Valley Water District.



  • Who can I call about utility services (water, gas, electricity, & sewer)?
    Call Customer services at (650) 329-2161 Monday - Friday, 8am - 5pm.   Information is also online at Utilities info page.
  • Where do I find more information about water service?
    Call (650) 496-6960 or visit the Utilities water FAQ.
  • Where do I find more information about electric service?
    Call (650) 566-4502 or visit the Utilities electrical FAQ.
  • What utility rebates are available?
    The utility department has lots of information on utility rebates and efficiency programs.  Information on the Photovoltaic incentives is online at PV Partners Program.  Utility rebates and incentives require a building permit.  Please call (650) 329-2241 for more information.

( visit the development center home page )

Last Updated: June 16, 2007