Inspecting and Obtaining Copies of Building Permits and Building Plans in California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

I have been to multiple City Halls lately inspecting permits and plans, and obtaining copies of permits from local public agencies.  Here is a primer on using the California Public Records Act to inspect building permits and plans, and to receive copies of permits.

As we have discussed before, the California Public Records Act is a way to inspect and obtain copies of documents.  This works for permits, as well.  Some forward-thinking cities have their permit systems online for anyone to inspect.  Others require you to take the trip to City Hall to look at the physical files, either because there is no online system, or because some cities are not as resident-friendly as others.

Every city I have ever dealt allows the public to inspect permits without any prior notice, and without the necessity of sending them to the City Attorney’s Office.  Likewise, getting copies of permits is easy, without the bureaucratic review process seen with many other Public Records Act Requests.

Health and Safety Code section19851 says that plans are open to inspection on premises of the building department as a public record.  No copy of the plans may be duplicated in whole or part except:

with the written permission, which permission shall not be unreasonably withheld as specified in subdivision (f), of the certified, licensed or registered professional or his or her successor, if any, who signed the original documents and the written permission of the original or current owner of the building, or, if the building is part of a common interest development, with the written permission of the board of directors or governing body of the association established to manage the common interest development, or (2) by order of a proper court or upon the request of any state agency.  California Health and Safety Code section 19851(a)(1).

There is also an argument that the plans are exempt from duplication pursuant to Government Code section 6254(k), the exemption part of the California Public Records Act that states: “(k) Records, the disclosure of which is exempted or prohibited pursuant to federal or state law, including, but not limited to, provisions of the Evidence Code relating to privilege.”    The idea is that since federal law, 17 United States Code section 102(a)(8) protects architectural works, and “architectural works” is defined as “the design of a building as embodied in any tangible medium of expression, including a building, architectural plans, or drawings. The work includes the overall form as well as the arrangement and composition of spaces and elements in the design, but does not include individual standard features.”  17 U.S.C. section 101.  I think that argument fails (as to inspection, not copying) because I don’t think it is among the bundle of rights associated with copyright specifically 17 U.S.C. section 106.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Address : 300 E. State St. #517
Redlands, CA 92373
Telephone: (909) 296-6708

Finding a building permit (or lack thereof) in the City of San Bernardino

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Someone came to my blog searching for McDonalds Second Street.  I found out why when I drove past the McDonalds at 699 W. Second Street in San Bernardino yesterday and it was being demolished.  I was surprised because even though the In-N-Out Burger on Second Street is moving to Fifth Street because of the widening of the 215 Freeway, it is still open.   Let’s say you want to find a permit from the City of San Bernardino to see what is happening at a particular property.  The City uses an online service called Velocity Hall.  You can search for City permits on any particular property.  The link is accessible through the City’s website or http://www.velocityhall.com

I used Google to find the street address, 699 W. Second Street.  I looked at the permit marked “Demo” for demolition.  When I was a Deputy City Attorney, I was familiar with the demolition permit process, because when Code Enforcement demolished a building pursuant to Hearing Order and a demolition warrant from the San Bernardino Superior Court, Code Enforcement would obtain a demolition permit in conjunction with a contractor who would demolish a building.  Perhaps the most difficult was the years-long saga of demolishing the Ice House at 300-340 North I Street for a variety of reasons.

Here is the permit for the demolition of the McDonalds:

Case / Application / Permit Number                 D1100002
Type / Classification                 DEMO
DCOM: Demo Commercial
BLDG: Building
Address                 699 W 2ND ST
SAN BERNARDINO, CA
Parcel Number                 0134341240000
File Date                 2011-02-14
Status                 ISSUED
Status Date                 N/A
Valuation                 $17,000.00
Fees                 $583.42
Payments                 $583.42
Balance                 $0.00
Description                 Demo of existing McDonalds Restaurant

So, you can see that this is a demolition of the McDonalds Restaurant at 699 W. 2nd Street, San Bernardino County Assessor’s Parcel Number 0134-341-24, that it was issued on February 14, 2011 (I saw the demolition yesterday evening on April 15, 2011, and that it cost $583.42.

Other than a demolition, what is happening at the property?  On April 14, 2011, the applicant applied for a temporary meter pole.

Detail

Inspections    Status    Payment History

Case / Application / Permit Number                 B1100931
Type / Classification                 BLDG
E: ELECTRICAL ONLY
BLDG: Building
Address                 699 W 2ND ST
SAN BERNARDINO, CA
Parcel Number                 0134341240000
File Date                 2011-04-14
Status                 APPLIED
Status Date                 N/A
Valuation                 $0.00
Fees                 $0.00
Payments                 $0.00
Balance                 $0.00
Description                 INSTALL OF A TEMP METER POLE AND A 50 AMP PANEL ON A SECOND POLE.

View Map (Click the “Back” button on the browser to return to Permit Manager.)

Contacts

Name                 JUNE A GROTHE CONSTRUCTION INC
Business                 N/A
Relationship                 APPLICANT
Phone                 N/A
Name                 JUNE A GROTHE CONSTRUCTION INC
Business                 N/A
Relationship                 CONTRACTOR
Phone                 N/A
We see that June A Grothe Construction Inc is the contractor.  Usually, during construction, a contractor gets a temporary power pole to aid in the construction of the power.  JG Construction is a Chino-based contractor, according to their website.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Copyright 2011 Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

A: 300 E. State St. #517 Redlands CA 92373-5235

T: (909) 296-6708

E: michael@michaelreiterlaw.com

W: http://michaelreiterlaw.com