Planning (Current and Environmental)

Staff in the Department of Planning & Building's Current and Environmental Planning Division process land use and land division entitlement applications and assist elected and appointed county officials and the general public in evaluating any potential environmental impacts that may be caused by both private and public land use projects.



The Department of Planning & Building is responsible for assigning street addresses to all addressable buildings within the unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County. Each of the county's seven incorporated cities are responsible for assigning street addresses to buildings within their respective city limits.


Any discretionary decision that relates to a project or portion of a project may be appealed. The hearing body tasked with considering an appeal can affirm, affirm in part, or reverse the decision being appealed.

Business License Review

The Department of Planning & Building reviews business license applications to verify that the proposed use complies with applicable land use regulations and minimum building code requirements (sometimes called a zoning clearance). Business license applications originate with the County Tax Collector.

Certificates of Compliance

A certificate of compliance or conditional certificate of compliance is used to establish a legal record officially recognizing that a parcel was legally created, in compliance with the rules and regulations that were applicable at the time of its creation and current case law. Determinations for certificates of compliance are made by Department of Planning & Building staff.

Coastal Commission Coordination

The California Coastal Commission is the ultimate permit authority in the Coastal Zone of San Luis Obispo County. In other words, the County can issue development permits in the Coastal Zone, but the Coastal Commission has the ultimate say in how the County's Local Coastal Program (Title 23) is interpreted. Strong coordination between Department of Planning & Building staff and Coastal Commission staff ultimately benefits applicants, as they often need to obtain initial permit authority ("retained jurisdiction") from the Coastal Commission as part of the development permit process.

Community Advisory Council Support

The Board of Supervisors has authorized eleven community advisory councils comprised of residents who volunteer their time to represent their community's interests within the County planning process. The Department of Planning & Building assigns a staff liaison to each community advisory council, who serves as a contact between the community and the Department.

The CAC Handbook defines the roles of CACs in the planning process and provides guidelines for parliamentary procedure.

For questions regarding liaison information: 

Chris Macek ([email protected]) and/or Hilary Brown ([email protected])

Environmental Review

Department of Planning & Building staff reviews of all discretionary projects to identify, analyze, mitigate, and disclose their potential environmental impacts. This review process is conducted under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and when necessary, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and results in an environmental determination being made for the project.

Emergency Permits

Obtaining a land use permit or grading permit can take a substantial amount of time, and sometimes, work must occur immediately in order to address an emergency situation. In these cases, the County can issue an emergency permit to authorize work to occur immediately. Then, within sixty (60) days, it will be necessary to follow-up by applying for the land use permit or grading permit that would ordinarily be required in a non-emergency situation.

Geologic Report Review

Geologic reports are required for projects requiring a permit within a designated Geologic Study Area (GSA). GSAs include areas of seismic, landslide, liquefaction, erosion, and stability hazards.

Growth Management Ordinance Administration

The County of San Luis Obispo has adopted a Growth Management Ordinance that meters the number of residential dwelling units that can be built in the unincorporated areas of the county during any one fiscal year (July 1st - June 30th). Based on a growth rate of 2.3%, a total of 1,107 dwelling units can be built in in the unincorporated areas of the county during fiscal year 2017-2018. In order to secure the opportunity to build one of these units, a request called an "allocation" is required.

Land Divisions

A land division occurs when a parcel of land is divided into two or more parcels, each of which can be sold and owned independently of the others. The Department of Planning & Building processes land division applications for subdivision entitlements according to the provisions of the state Subdivision Map Act and the County Real Property Division Ordinance.

Land Use Permits

The County, through adoption of various ordinances, has determined that there are certain types of uses that may have an impact on the area in which they are located. These types of uses require the approval of a land use permit, which sets conditions for the use's establishment and operation. Approval of a land use permit only entitles the use itself; separate permits may also be required for any construction or grading activities.

Planning Commission

The Planning Commission is a five-member body appointed by the Board of Supervisors. Its primary role is to consider how land use decisions affect the County. In this role, the Commission has review and approval authority for tract maps, conditional use permits, and variances and is responsible for making recommendations to the Board of Supervisors regarding plan and ordinance updates. The Planning Commission typically meets the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at 9:00 AM in the Board of Supervisors Chambers at the County Government Center.

Pre-Application Meetings

Pre-application meetings are intended to aid prospective applicants in understanding the required rules and regulations that apply to their project and to reveal potential problems. The goal of providing a pre-application meeting is to make the permitting process as efficient and understandable as possible.

Public Records Act Requests

The Department of Planning & Building provides access to the records it maintains in accordance with the California Public Records Act.

Road Naming

A road name is required for any road that provides access to more than one lot, or to one lot with more than two buildings or more than four houses. Road names must be approved before a final subdivision map is recorded or before a final building inspection is completed. Existing roads can be named or renamed through petition of a majority of the property owners located on the road.

Surface Mining Inspections

The State Office of Mine and Reclamation (OMR) requires the County to conduct annual mine inspections for all active mines within the unincorporated areas of the county. These inspections include on-site visits to ensure that the mines are operating within their approved boundaries and following the requirements of their approved reclamation plans.

Tree Removal Permits

The Department of Planning & Building issues tree removal permits in accordance with county regulations, which differ in the inland and coastal portions of the county. Some areas have additional regulations regarding the removal of trees. Anyone wishing to remove a tree on their property should first contact department staff to determine what regulations apply to their property.

Tribal Cultural Resource Consultation

In accordance with California Assembly Bill 52 (AB 52), the Department of Planning & Building consults with Native American tribes regarding any project that is not exempt from environmental review. This consultation provides the most effective way for the Department to determine if a project could result in significant environmental impacts to tribal cultural resources.

Voluntary Mergers

A voluntary merger is used to legally combine two or more adjoining parcels which are held in common ownership into a single parcel.

Williamson Act Administration

The Department of Planning & Building administers land conservation contracts under the Williamson Act, which provides a reduction of property taxes to owners of farmland and open-space land in exchange for a ten or 20-year agreement that the land will not be developed or otherwise converted to another use.

Interactive Maps (Land Use View)

Our interactive Land Use View mapping application can be used to look up property information by assessor parcel number (APN), plan or permit number, or address.

Launch Land Use View Application

Online Services (CSS Portal)

The County of San Luis Obispo provides online services through Citizen Self Service (CSS) to request a building inspection, research construction permits and property information, and to pay fees.

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