The time between permit application submittal and approval is a critical detail commercial construction projects need to plan around.
In San Jose, California, permit approval times can be as short as 10 weeks or 40+ weeks, depending on several factors.
The City of San Jose Building Division offers this approximate plan review timetable document. While the estimates provided here are generally close, we created this resource to help give you a more realistic estimate based on our experience processing hundreds of approvals a year with the city.
The first thing to know about the San Jose permit review process is that there are two types of plan checks: Standard and Expedited.
Standard Plan Check Reviews
Time to Permit: 40 Weeks (if everything goes well)
Most construction projects will go through the City’s standard plan check process. It can take approximately 40 weeks to complete, and that’s if everything goes perfectly. Like most other jurisdictions, there is a backlog of reviews and the building department is short-staffed.
Assuming your application is complete and all required documents include the proper electronic, certified signatures, you can expect the first reviews to be completed within 15 to 25 weeks.
The biggest factor here is the type of project—New construction will be closer to 25 weeks, while tenant improvements and minor structures may be closer to 15.
Subsequent reviews typically take place in half the time. For example, a second review of a new commercial construction project will take approximately 13 weeks. Tenant improvement and minor structure second reviews will take 7-8 weeks.
What’s nice with the San Jose Standard Plan check is if the city has questions or requests comments, you can send them back to the permit specialist assigned to your project rather than resubmitting and potentially working with a different specialist—This is not always the case with expedited plan checks.
Expedited Plan Review
Time to Permit: 10-12 Weeks (if everything goes well)
The alternative plan check review option is the city’s Expedited Plan Review. For this type of review, permit approvals typically take 10-12 weeks (saving approximately 6 to 7 months).
However, this type of review is only available for construction projects the city feels it can review and approve in less than an hour. Specifically, special tenant improvement and industrial tool installation projects.
There are no hard and fast guidelines for what qualifies for Expedited Plan Reviews and the decision is at the Building Division’s discretion. However, there are some common characteristics:
- The square footage is less than 5,000 sq. ft.
- The project does not include any elaborate buildouts.
For example, a 2,000 sq. ft. space may qualify, but if that space includes a sophisticated kitchen, then your project is likely destined for a Standard Plan Check.
Expedited plan check reviews are not something that the City of San Jose promotes to the vast majority of its construction projects.
The first step to qualifying for an expedited review is by having the City of San Jose screen the project with your project name, address, and scope of work.
If your project passes this initial test, you’ll schedule a virtual appointment with a city permit specialist. They will then review everything with you to determine if your project qualifies for expedited review.
If not, you’ll need to go through the city’s Standard Plan Check Review process.
If you do qualify, the next step is to schedule another appointment for the permit specialist to fully review the application. You don’t necessarily need to attend the second appointment. They will then send back comments or issue an approval.
If you’re asked to reply to comments or make corrections, the plan review turnaround time can vary based on when you can schedule another appointment.
It’s important to note that expedited plan checks cost 1.5x the standard plan check review rates. In most cases, the additional permit expense is worth it if it means you can open your doors months earlier. Click here for more on San Jose Building Permit Costs.
How Can a Permit Expeditor Help in San Jose?
It takes a lot of time to review and confirm all documents are in order and that signatures are properly captured.
For this reason, the city streamlines some of its processes and requirements for organizations it trusts to do this initial legwork correctly. For example, Permit Place has done so much work with the City of San Jose and understands its application requirements so well that our submittals are not subjected to the initial plan review to ensure everything is in order.
We also have a weekly standing meeting with the city to review new and existing projects.
This type of access is offered to only a few organizations with a track record of making the city’s job easier.
And thanks to our standing and relationships with the City of San Jose, we can often shorten the approval process by months, helping you get your doors open sooner.
If you’re building in San Jose and are looking for support, schedule time to discuss your project below.