Planning Division FAQ’s


Do I need a permit?

There are two basic types of permits that are required in the City. 1) Design Review Permits: Most exterior alterations and/or site coverage changes require approval from the Planning Department. 2) Building Permits: Most work related to construction, electrical, re-roofing, plumbing, driveway replacements, etc. requires a building permit. Please contact the Department of Community Planning and Building to determine what permits might be needed for your project. 

Design Study Flowchart
Exemption from Design Study
Scope of Work Declaration

What are the construction hours?

Construction hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday thru Saturday. No construction is permitted on Sunday.

Is my house historic and what does a historic designation mean?

The City maintains an inventory of designated historic resources. If your property is not on the inventory, but is over 50 years old, a historic evaluation may be required prior to obtaining any permits for exterior alterations. See historic preservation for more information. 

If a structure is deemed historic it cannot be demolished. Additions and alterations must be consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. 

What does the Design Review Process entail?

See Design Review Process

What are the City’s regulations regarding windows?

All proposed changes to window materials, size and placement require approval from the Planning Department.  Window styles and materials should be consistent with the architecture and uniform throughout the entire building. Unclad wood windows with external divided lights is the standard in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Other materials may be considered if they are more appropriate to the architecture (i.e. metal windows on a Modern building). Vinyl windows are not appropriate and high gloss finishes should be avoided.

Base Floor Area & Site Coverage

Base Floor Area

The allowed floor area is based on the size of the lot or buildable area. On a site of 4,000 square feet or less, the maximum floor area is 45 percent of the lot size. A typical 4,000 square foot lot has a base floor area of 1,800 square feet. As the size of the lot increases, the floor area ratio decreases. For example, on a 6,000 square foot lot the maximum floor area is 41 percent (as opposed to 45 percent). The maximum floor area may not be achievable on sites with constraints such as steep slopes, significant trees and unusual shapes. 

Site Coverage

Site Coverage includes areas where materials or structures that do not qualify as floor area cover the soil. Examples include patios, walkways, driveways, decks, steps, decomposed granite, gravel, trash enclosures and hot tubs. Regulations regarding site coverage. 

How much do permits cost?

See our master fee schedule here.

Can I add another bathroom?

Water credits in single-family homes are based on the number of existing water fixtures. Homes with only one bathroom can add a second bathroom without the need for a water allocation from the City. Property owners can free up additional water credits by retrofitting old fixtures with high efficiency fixtures or eliminating fixtures altogether. Contact the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District for more information. 

Water entitlement is available to purchase from the Malpaso Water Company, please contact Michael Waxer at (831) 625-1090 for more information, complete the Malpaso Water Review Form form and return to the Planning and Building Department.

Can I have a garage sale?

Yes.  Per the City’s Municipal Code (5.24) you can have one garage sale per year and it cannot be held on two consecutive days.  The City’s Muni Code (17.40.070) allows for one sign advertising the garage sale.  This sign must be on private property at the location of the sale and can be no larger than 3 square feet with letters a maximum of 3”.  A garage sale does not require a permit.

What are the required setbacks and height limits for my lot?


A setback is a required distance that a structure or object must be located from the property line. Setbacks requirements depend on the zoning, size, and shape of the lot. 

What are the height limits and can I add a second story?

The City allows a maximum of two stories.  Properties that are located in the Beach and Riparians Overlay District that are west of Carmelo Street have a height limit of 18 feet.  Contact this department to determine if your property is located in the overlay district.

What are the requirements for opening a new business?

All businesses operating within the City are required to submit a Business License Application Fixed Location. This includes businesses operating from a fixed location, contractors operating within the City and home occupations. It is recommended that business owners contact the Department of Community Planning and Building to determine the zoning regulations prior to submitting the application. In some circumstances, a Use Permit is also required. 

How can I review my property file?

The Department of Community Planning and Building has files on every property located within the City limits.  To view these files you view our GIS map located here: For additional questions beyond the information listed here, you may contact our main line at (831) 620-2010.

What are the rules regarding tree trimming or tree removal?


NO CONSTRUCTION:  Trees on Private property: If the limb is 4” and larger it will need a permit to be removed.  You may prune a tree’s limb at the property line, however you may not prune to the detriment of the tree.   If it is a dead or broken limb you may remove the limb without a permit (Dead means – NO Green on the limb).

NO CONSTRUCTION: Trees on public property:  Pruning on public trees is generally prohibited – you must consult with the City Forester and obtain a permit for any limbs on City trees.

CONSTRUCTION SITES:  Any limb or root that is 2” in diameter and larger must have a permit to be removed.


NO CONSTRUCTION:  If the tree is an oak, cypress, pine or redwood and is 6” in diameter your must have a permit to remove it.  Any other species that is 10” in diameter or larger requires a permit to remove. 

CONSTRUCTION – Any tree that is 2” in diameter or larger must have a permit to be removed. 

Trees on public property meeting the standards above require a permit. The fee is set by the master fee schedule and may be subject to the Forest & Beach Commisison.

What are the rules regarding art galleries?

The City’s Municipal Code (17.14.040) requires that all new galleries meet at least one of the following standards:

a.  The use features a single artist representing at least 80 percent of the art for sale; or 

b.  The use includes a working studio that is utilized for art production by artists represented in the gallery for over half the house the use is open.

*Note:  The operation of a multi-artist gallery without a studio is only permitted at locations previously occupied by a multi-artist gallery that have not abandoned the use (discontinued use for longer than 6 months).  All new galleries are only permitted in the Central Commercial District.

How many business signs can I have?

Businesses are permitted (and required) to have one business sign. Additional signs require approval from the Planning Commission. Businesses located in a courtyard are permitted to have a second directory sign. Placement of the business name on the windows and/or awning is considered a business sign. The City encourages permanent, natural materials such as wood and that the sign be simple in graphic design. ()

What are the requirements to build a new fence? 

All fences require Design Review approval. Fences over six feet tall also require a building permit. Fences along the front property line should convey a simple-hand crafted design and allow filtered views into the property. The table below discusses the height restrictions on fences and walls.
Fences & Walls

How do I file a complaint?

It’s best to call the Code enforcement officer in the Department of Community Planning and Building at (831) 620-2026 and discuss the issue.