Permitting in Los Angeles, California

What You Need to Know

City of Los Angeles Commercial Permitting Resource Center

If you’re doing any sort of commercial construction project in the City of Los Angeles, you’ll need to work with the City to obtain the proper permits. That can be a confusing and frustrating process, especially if you’ve never worked with the City before or have tight timelines. This page was created to give retailers easy answers to important questions. 

Table of Contents

About the City of Los Angeles

All permit applications in the City of Los Angeles are reviewed and approved by the Los Angeles Department of Building & Safety, or LADBS.

  • Website:
  • Phone: 311 (or 213-473-3231 outside of LA County)

Office Addresses

Van Nuys District Office
6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Second Floor, Room 251, Van Nuys, CA 91401
West LA District Office
1828 Sawtelle Blvd., Second Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025
South LA District Office
8475 S. Vermont St., Room 111, Los Angeles 90044
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For a full directory of offices and phone numbers click here.

Permitting Departments

Depending on the type of construction and location you are opening, you may work with one or multiple City departments. Below are the most common departments retailers and restaurants work with when opening a locations in Los Angeles.

Department of Building & Safety
Whether you’re making tenant improvements (TIs) to an existing space or building a new store from the ground up, you’ll primarily be working with LADBS.
County of Los Angeles Public Health Department
If you're serving food, this department needs to approve your site plans, building materials, surface materials, equipment, equipment installation, and ventilation systems.
Los Angeles Fire Department
If you’re rerouting sprinkler systems, adding/updating a fire alarm system or changing the floor plan, the LA Fire Department will need to inspect your work to ensure it aligns with fire codes.
Bureau of Sanitation Services
This department will review your sewer access and make sure you have grease traps or grease interceptors in place if you’re cooking with fats, oils and greases.
Los Angeles Department of City Planning
The City Planning Department will be involved if you’re installing a parking lot, street connection, or changing the aesthetics of the building exterior.
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Zoning & Building Code Information

City of LA Zoning Information

Los Angeles Zoning information research.

Zoning plays a critical role in what can and cannot be built within certain parts of Los Angeles. As a commercial business, you’re looking for a commercially zoned location. These include: 

  • C1 – Limited Commercial: Local stores < 100,000 sq. ft., offices or businesses, hotels, hospitalities and/or clinics, parking areas, CR uses except for churches, schools, museums, R3 uses.
  • C1.5 – Limited Commercial: C1 uses – Retail, theaters, hotels, broadcasting studios, parking buildings, parks and playgrounds, R4 uses.
  • C2 Commercial: C1.5 uses; retail with limited manufacturing, service stations and garages, retail contract business, churches, schools, auto sales, and multiple dwelling uses.
  • C4 Commercial: C2 uses with limitation, multiple dwelling uses.
  • C5 Commercial: C2 uses, limited floor area for manufacturing of CM zone type, multiple dwelling uses.
Search the City of LA’s Zoning Information and Map Access System. 

City of Los Angeles Building Code

Building codes start at the state levels, establishing state-wide minimum requirements. Cities are then free to create and enforce their own amendments, establishing a City-specific code. 

L.A. adopted the City of Los Angeles Building Code in March of 2023. It includes 97 chapters. Following is a link to the full building code. 

The State of California adopted its building code in 2022. It made significant changes to the code in 2022. 

Access the Full State of California Code Here 

Los Angeles Permit Approval Timeframe

The time it takes to get permits approved in Los Angeles is dependent on a number of factors, including: application completeness, type of project, zoning requirements, comment response times and more. 

Permit Place maintains a database of permit review times for the top 100 cities in California. Click below to search for current Los Angeles timeframes. 

Speeding up the LA Permitting Process

To open on time, you need to get your permits approved on time. The City of LA doesn’t want to be a bottleneck, which is why they do offer a couple different express plan check options. In addition to these, working with an expeditor who understands the processes and professionals involved can also help speed up LA permit approvals. 

Express Plan Check Options

LADBS does offer expedited permitting options. However, these options are only available for certain types of projects. Learn about which projects qualify for LA Expedited Plan Check Reviews

Los Angeles Permit Expediting Services

For projects that don’t qualify for expedited plan check review or who want help streamlining the permitting process, permit expeditors can help save weeks. Connect with a Los Angeles Permit Expeditor here. 

Need help evaluating LA expeditors? This resource has details on what to look for and frequently asked questions. 

Why Permitting Experience Matters

In Los Angeles, a deep understanding of the building codes, zoning laws, application requirements, and plan check process can help save time and avoid costly delays. 

Frequently Asked Questions

A lot of companies working with the City of Los Angeles have the same questions. We’ve done our best to answer these questions below and link out to relevant resources.

Building codes tend to deal more with the type of construction and amenities being built rather than the function the building will serve. That said, some relevant codes to review include: 

Here’s a quick link to the full City of Los Angeles Building Code

It’s important to note upfront that the documents required for your Los Angeles commercial building projects will largely depend on the type of project. Some projects will only require the minimum documentation detailed in the linked resource, while others will be more involved. Click here for the full list of required documents

Well, no two permits are the same, as a result, permit costs can vary. Generally speaking, it’s very rare for building permits to cost less than $1,000 – and that’s for a very simple project. For more complex tenant improvement projects, you will spend $10,000 or more in plan check fees and permit fees. Restaurants can expect to spend more because these projects tend to be more involved.

Generally, three factors determine permitting cost:

  • Your overall scope of work.
  • Square footage.
  • Project valuation.


For more detail, check out our resource on City of Los Angeles permitting costs

Unfortunately, the answer is, it depends. Typical renovations and tenant improvements that trigger the need for a permit include:

  • Building a new storefront, particularly if it involves any structural work or alterations like replacing existing doors, windows, etc.
  • Accessibility compliance for access to the building.
  • Putting up signage requires a permit unless you’re working within the confines of the retail center’s Master Sign Plan (MSP).
  • Customizing the interior layout of the space, such as knocking down demising or interior walls, putting up new walls, or changing the spaces’s overall layout.
  • Redoing fire sprinklers or alarms will require a permit from LADBS, and you’ll also have to work with the fire department.
  • Making major changes to plumbing, electrical, or other mechanical systems, such as HVAC.
  • Updating the exterior with a new roof, drains, guttering, and rooftop HVAC units.
  • Installing storage racks over 5 ft. 9 in. As part of this, you’ll need to show a floor plan, structural plans, and calculations for the rack’s construction.


Read more in our complete guide to Los Angeles retail permits. 

At a high level, the permitting process includes the following eight steps: 

  1. Get entitlements
  2. Submit your plans to the LADBS for a pre-check.
  3. Get a pre-inspection for any signage.
  4. Submit a complete application and required documents for review. 
  5. Receive and address any comments and corrections. 
  6. Resubmit your updated documents for subsequent review. 
  7. Get a letter of approval. 
  8. Collect your building permits. 

The City of Los Angeles offers two types of expedited plan check services: 

  • Counter Plan Check: The CPC service allows for same-day, over-the-counter plan review and permit issuance for minor projects that can be checked in 45 minutes or less.
  • Expanded Counter Plan Check: The ECPC option provides over-the-counter or an appointment within 2 weeks for more extensive plan checks that can be completed in 2 hours or less.  


Check out this resource to get more details on Los Angeles Express Plan Check Options


The key contacts you’ll need to work with will be those plan check professionals assigned to your project. These professionals will be most familiar with your application and will most often have the answers you’re looking for. 

But, if you have specific questions before submitting your application, the City publishes a directory of departments with phone numbers. Click here for the phone directory and here is the employee directory

One issue that trips up a lot of businesses opening in Los Angeles is inspections. Los Angeles inspectors are very busy and want to be continually followed up with, not badgered but reminded. If you leave scheduling your inspection in their hands, you may experience a longer wait time than if you regularly follow up. 

Partner with your inspector, keep things professional and friendly. Remember they are overworked professionals so anything you can do without becoming a pest will work in your favor. 

LADBS is an acronym for Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. As you start working with the city, you’ll notice they use a number of different acronyms that may be a little confusing. We’ve created a list that defines and describes the most common LADBS acronyms

The City of LA has a good library of resources you can access through LADBS’s help section. In addition, their Zone Info Map Access System (ZIMAS) is a must use for any project. This tool makes it easy to find very important zoning and property information. If visiting LADBS’s website, the footer has quick links to a lot of valuable tools. 

Yes, in most cases you will need a permit for signage (except for malls). Los Angeles’ signage regulations encompass various factors, including size, location, and lighting, to ensure that signs contribute positively to the city’s aesthetic and do not pose safety risks.

  • Size Regulations: The city imposes restrictions on sign dimensions based on the zoning of the property and the sign’s proximity to residential areas.
  • Location Restrictions: Signs must be placed so they do not obstruct public right-of-way, interfere with traffic visibility, or encroach on public spaces. Visit for zoning information. 
  • Lighting Guidelines: Illuminated signs are subject to guidelines that prevent light pollution and disturbances to nearby residences.

Understanding these basic regulations is the first step in planning for compliant signage. Read through our resource on Los Angeles Sign Permitting for more information. 

Complete LA Permits Guide

Complete Los Angeles Retail Permitting Guide

We’ve consolidated our decades of experience expediting the building permit process for new Los Angeles retail locations. The whole process is outlined within this resource, from who’s involved to timelines to costs.

By the time you finish reading, you’ll have a clear understanding of your responsibilities as a tenant, the timeline and potential costs of obtaining your permit, and how to get the ball rolling. So let’s get into it.

Complete Los Angeles Restaurant Permitting Guide

As you begin to plan and prepare for the launch of your new restaurant, there are a number of things you need to know about working with the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County and the State of California when it comes to permits, approvals and timing.

We developed this guide to give you a thorough understanding of the restaurant permitting process and who you’ll be working with. We’ve also included tips we use to expedite the building permitting process, saving time and money.