Resources

Guide to Opening a Business in Downtown Santa Monica

Buildout / Construction

Will you be physically altering the exterior of the building?

  • Any external changes to buildings in the City of Santa Monica must be reviewed by the Architectural Review Board. This includes signage, changing paint color, and landscaping.
    • See here to find the correct application and determine whether you are likely to require staff approval or approval by the Architectural Review Board. Contact City Planning to schedule an appointment and/or ask for further assistance.
    • Estimated timeline:
      • Small projects that only require staff approval: up to 5 days
      • Larger projects that require Board approval: 6 to 8 weeks
    • For rules about signage, see the Santa Monica Municipal Code, Chapter 9.61.

Will you be physically altering the interior of the building?

  • For small projects that involve multiple trades:
    • Complete the Combination Building Permit Application
    • Small projects include (for commercial buildings only):
      • Non-structural interior demolition
      • Removal and replacement of roof tiles/shingles
      • Window/door replacement
      • Facade remodel/repair
      • Fence/wall that is six feet or less in height
      • Wall sign
      • Mechanical/electrical/plumbing work (note: some of this work will require more than over-the-counter approval. See here for more information.
      • New HVAC/mechanical equipment
      • Sandblasting
    • Submit plans to the Permit Services Center public counter
    • Estimated timeline: same day
  • Minor Projects
    • Minor projects include:
      • Retail/office tenant improvements of less than 2,500SF and no change of use;
      • Re-roof involving removal of sheathing, truss, or structural members;
      • Patio cover at-grade;
      • EV charger and PV installation;
      • All other minor projects that do not qualify for Same-Day Review.
    • Submit plans to Santa Monica's Electronic Plan Review System.
    • Estimated Timeline for Minor Plan Review:
      • Initial review time estimate: 5 days
      • Resubmittal review time estimate: 2 days
  • Medium Projects
    • Medium projects include:
      • Monument signs; 
      • Tenant improvements for change of use up to 5,000SF;
      • Restaurant tenant improvements up to 2,500SF;
      • Office tenant improvements of 2,500SF – 10,000SF
      • Retail tenant improvements of 2,500 – 5,000SF;
      • Additions of less than 500SF;
      • Storage racks;
      • All other projects that do not qualify for Minor Plan Review or exceed M/E/P thresholds (see here for more information).
    • Submit plans to Santa Monica's Electronic Plan Review System.
    • Estimated Timeline for Medium Plan Review:
      • Initial review time estimate: 3 weeks
      • Resubmittal review time estimate: 2 weeks
  • Major Projects
    • Major projects include:
      • New nonresidential or mixed-use structure;
      • Restaurant tenant improvements of more than 2,500SF;
      • Office tenant improvements of more than 10,000SF;
      • Retail tenant improvements of more than 5,000SF;
      • Tenant improvements for change of use for more than 5,000SF;
      • Addition of 500SF or more;
      • All other projects that do not qualify for Medium Plan Check Review.
    • Submit plans to Santa Monica's Electronic Plan Review System.
    • Estimated Timeline for Major Plan Review:
    • Initial review time estimate: 5 weeks
      • Resubmittal review time estimate: 3 weeks
  • Note: for projects in the Coastal Zone, the City cannot issue a building permit without approvals from the Coastal Commission. Contact the South Coast District early in the permitting process.
  • If a building permit is required, the Fire Department must be notified. Sprinklers may be required if:
    • More than 50% of the interior walls and/or ceilings are exposed in an existing building greater than 1,000 square feet in size;
    • More than 75% of the interior walls and/or ceilings are exposed in an existing building 1,000 square feet or less in size;
    • More than 50% of the existing floor area of an existing building greater than 1,000 square feet in size is added to within three calendar years;
    • More than 75% of the existing floor area of an existing building less than 1,000 square feet in size is added to within three calendar years;
    • There is a change in use to a more hazardous use.

Will you be loading supplies into or out of the building or doing construction of any kind?

For load in/out or construction that requires use of the public right of way (e.g. the Promenade, alley, sidewalk, road) you may need a Use of Public Property Permit from the Public Works Department and/or several other types of plans/permits.

  • Time estimate: Depends on the type of permit needed. A Use of Public Property permit can be issued in one day. However, if vehicles need to be driven onto the Promenade, SMPD Public Service Officers must be hired, which takes several days. If a Temporary Traffic Control Plan is required, each round of review can take up to 60 days and often more than one round of review is required.

In Downtown, construction may occur between 8am and 6pm, Monday through Friday, and 9am to 5pm on Saturday. No work is permitted on Sundays or major holidays. In Downtown Santa Monica, there is also a holiday construction moratorium from Thanksgiving through New Years' Day.

 

If you would like to do construction after hours, submit the After Hours Construction Permit to the Building & Safety Division. These requests are granted on a case-by-case basis.