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Coastal Development Permits

Generally if you’re developing along the coast in California you need a Coast Development Permit (CDP). These permits tend to be more complicated than other types of development permits.

We specialize in obtaining Coast Development Permits for various types projects in Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Pasadena, Los Angeles and the surrounding areas.

How to Obtain a Coastal Development Permit in LA

To begin a coastal development project in Los Angeles, you must first obtain a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) from the city of LA and in some cases the California Coastal Commission.

This permit ensures you are meeting all ecological, sustainability, and development standards outlined by the California Coastal Act

What is a Coastal Development Permit?

A Coastal Development Permit (CDP) is a legal authorization required for any development activity within California’s designated Coastal Zone. The California Coastal Zone is defined as:

“… the land and water area of the State of California from the Oregon border to the border of the Republic of Mexico, specified on maps [adopted by the State legislature]…, extending seaward to the state’s outer limit of jurisdiction, including all offshore islands, and extending inland generally 1,000 yards from the mean high tide line of the sea.”

Additional areas that fall under the umbrella of California’s Coastal Zone include:

  • The first major ridgeline paralleling the sea in significant coastal estuarine or habitats
  • The inland area within 1,000 years of developed urban areas

The CDP requirement makes certain that all development projects within the Coastal Zone comply with state and local coastal management policies. Such policies are designed to protect coastal ecosystems, public access points, and scenic landmarks. This initiative stems from the California Coastal Act, established to balance the need for development with the necessity of conserving coastal resources.

The primary purpose of a CDP is to regulate development in a manner that mitigates adverse environmental impacts and ensures that the coastal environment remains viable for future generations. Applying for a CDP involves a thorough review of proposed projects to ensure they meet specific criteria related to environmental protection, land use, and community impact.

To obtain a CDP, you must complete a comprehensive review process, which may include public hearings and environmental impact assessments to align new development with current standards. The application and review process can be time and resource intensive, particularly if you aren’t familiar with the process. That’s where having a trusted advisor, such as Pattern LA can be helpful. We can help remove some of the uncertainty around the process.

What Types of Projects Require a Coastal Development Permit in California?

According to the California Coastal Commission, most development within the designated Coastal Zone requires a Coastal Development Permit. The Coastal Zone can vary in width and can extend up to five miles inland, making it necessary to assess your build site before beginning development to determine whether or not you need to obtain a CDP.

Several types of projects typically require a Coastal Development Permit, including:

  • Construction Projects: Construction projects can include building new structures such as homes, hotels, and commercial buildings, or significant alterations to existing structures. A construction project also typically encompasses demolition as well.

  • Land Alteration: Activities like grading, excavation, feature removal, rock placements, soil placements, or filling can all affect the natural landscape or ecosystems of the coast. All land features must be assessed before a CDP can be obtained, especially regarding protected habitats.

  • Infrastructure Development: The installation of roads, pipelines, and utility lines can all have a significant impact on coastal well-being. Additionally, when planning infrastructure projects, it is important to consider how lines may be altered properly.

  • Resource Access: Any project impacting access to the coast and its resources requires a CDP. For example, the construction of seawalls, revetments, and other forms of coastal protection can impact or impede public access to the beach or recreational trails.

  • Recreational Facilities: The development of parks, marinas, and other recreational areas requires a CDP before construction can begin, especially if the development area is expected to greatly increase land use (such as if a private property is turned into a commercial venue).

  • Habitat Restoration: Projects aimed at restoring wetlands, dunes, and other critical habitats, although beneficial, still require permits to ensure they are done sustainably.

Who Issues Coastal Development Permits In LA?

The main issuer of Coastal Development Permits in Los Angeles is the California Coastal Commission.

The California Coastal Commission works with local authorities to issue permits including:

  • The Department of City Planning: The Los Angeles Department of City Planning (DCP) poses specialized requirements for obtaining a Coastal Development Permit, which include a completed coastal development questionnaire, a land use radius map, a notice of intent, and a certificate of posting. Developers must also answer specialized questions regarding previous actions within the development area, existing land use conditions, special hazard areas, and project impacts.

  • The Local Coastal Commission Office: Along with having statewide authority, the California Coastal Commission also has local offices that developers in LA can visit to obtain a permit. If you are not applying for a Local Coastal Program (which would direct you to the LA DCP), you can apply for a permit through your nearest commission office. Visit the California Coastal Commission website to search for district offices by county.

If you are unsure which government agency to visit to obtain a permit, check out the commission’s Local Government Resources webpage, which includes additional information on:

  • Local assistance grant programs
  • Local coastal program information
  • Materials and resources for coastal jurisdictions
Or contact Pattern to help with a Coastal Development Permit application.

Coastal Development Permit Requirments in LA

In most cases, developers in Los Angeles will need to apply for a Coastal Development Permit through the Los Angeles Department of City Planning. As mentioned earlier, the LA DCP has specific specialized requirements that applicants must meet to obtain a CDP. These requirements include:

  • Coastal Development Questionnaire: This questionnaire provides the DCP with additional information that assists them in approving or denying a permit. The information provided via this questionnaire is intended to give the decision-makers greater context on a project. Special questions that a developer must answer include:
    • Has the property ever had an application submitted to the State Coastal Commission or the City of Los Angeles for Coastal Approvals?
    • If the property is located within a Specific Plan area, has this project been reviewed, and have any kind of approvals (e.g., VSO, MEL) been issued?

  • Existing Conditions: As part of your application to the LA DCP, you must detail both the existing and proposed use of land conditions within your development project area.

  • Special Hazard Areas: Before you can obtain a permit, you must assess and identify any special hazard areas within your project site. Specifically, you must address whether a project is located in either the Hillside Area or the Bureau of Engineering (BOE) Special Grading Area. During this phase of the application, you must also indicate the amount of dirt being exported or imported into an area, as well as if your project requires the use of caissons or piles. Additionally, you must address whether the project area is in a flood zone and whether or not the area will be affected in the future by sea level rise.

  • Project Impacts: One of the biggest components of the application is identifying project impacts. When applying for a CDP, you must address each of the following questions in full detail:
    • Will the development extend onto or adjoin any beach, tidelands, submerged lands or public trust lands?
    • Will the development maintain, enhance, or conflict with public access to the shoreline and along the coast?
    • Will alternatives to private vehicle use be provided or facilitated? How will the development affect traffic on coastal access roads?
    • Is the development proposed within, or in close proximity to, an existing developed area? Will it be visually compatible with the character of surrounding areas? If in a special community or neighborhood, how will it protect the unique local character?
    • How will grading be conducted so as to minimize alterations to land forms? If located on a bluff or in an area of high geologic risk, how will the project design assure stability and minimize erosion? For Projects located on a bluff or in an area of high geologic risk, provide a bluff delineation study and include the total number and location of all caissons and piles on a Grading Plan.
    • Does the development involve diking, filling, or dredging of open coastal waters, wetlands, estuaries, or lakes? If so, what alternatives are available? How will the adverse environmental effects of this be minimized?
    • Is the proposed development coastal-dependent? Will it displace any coastal-dependent facilities?
    • How will the development affect biological productivity of coastal waters?
    • Is the development proposed near parks or recreation areas or sensitive habitat areas? How will the project design prevent adverse environmental impacts on these areas?
    • Is the development proposed within or adjoining land suitable for agriculture? Will it convert agricultural land to another use? How is the project consistent with continued local agricultural viability?
    • What water conservation features are included in the project?
    • What energy conservation features are included in the project?
    • What is the current location of service lines for necessary utility connections, and are any extensions or relocations of service lines necessary?
    • Will the development protect existing lower-cost visitor and recreational facilities? Will it provide public recreational opportunities?
    • Will the development protect or provide low- and moderate-income housing opportunities? Will it displace low or moderate-income housing?
    • Is the development proposed within or near a known archeological, paleontological, or historic site? How will impacts on such sites be minimized?
    • List all permits, permissions or approvals required from public agencies for this development and indicate those already applied for or granted.
    • Is the project located between the sea and the first public road paralleling the sea, within 300 ft of the inland extent of any beach, or within 300 ft of the top of a seaward face of any coastal bluff?

Coastal Development Permit Process in LA & Surrounding Areas

Now that you know the specific application requirements for a CDP in Los Angeles, let’s quickly run through the steps for applying for and obtaining this permit.

Once you know where to apply, the process is as follows:

  • Schedule a Pre-Application Consultation: Meet with the Los Angeles Department of City Planning or your local California Coastal Commission office for preliminary guidance on the application process and location-specific requirements.

  • Submit Your CDP Application: Complete and submit the Coastal Development Permit (CDP) application along with all required documents and fees. These documents can include site plans, architectural drawings, environmental impact documentation, public notice documentation, and technical reports (such as geological surveys or habitat assessments). Keep in mind that the necessary assessments and documentation processes can take several months to complete, so be sure to plan for at least 3 to 6 months for the evaluation process.

  • Attend a Public Hearing: For your development project to receive a CDP, you will typically need to attend a public hearing where the local community can provide input. This is an essential part of the process for ensuring public access is not hindered during or after development.

  • Await Processing: After finishing the above steps, you must wait for your permit application to be processed. The application review and response process for a CDP takes 30 days, while the deadline for a public hearing is 180 days. You can view additional California Coastal Commission processing timelines here.

  • Receive Your Decision: The City Planning Department or the California Coastal Commission will alert you when they approve, conditionally approve, or deny the permit. If your permit is denied, you can begin the appeals process.

How Much Is a Coastal Development Permit?

The filing fees for a Coastal Development Permit in Los Angeles vary depending on the type of project but typically range between $10,000 to $16,000 as a base fee.

Obtaining Coastal Development Permits

Why Pattern

We bring extensive industry knowledge and a strategic approach to every project. Our team combines years of experience with up-to-date expertise on regulations and best practices in land use, development, and permitting.

We are passionate about our projects and take great pride in realizing goals into reality.

Tailored Service

We understand that each project is unique. That's why we offer customized solutions designed to meet your specific needs.​

Strong Relationships

We've built strong relationships with local officials and agencies, which can be invaluable in expediting the permit process.

Efficient Process

Our systematic approach ensures a smooth, efficient process, reducing delays and keeping your project on schedule.

Experienced Team

Our team of seasoned professionals has the knowledge and experience to navigate the complex regulatory environment.

Past & Current Projects

We service all of Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Pasadena, Los Angeles and the surrounding area

Our projects include single-family and multi-family development, retail/restaurants, warehouses, and subdivisions.