With a population close to four million and a landscape that covers 469 square miles, Los Angeles is easily the largest city in the state of California.
That means there are a lot of homes, and if you happen own one there’s a good chance you may want to do some renovations. Because Los Angeles is so hilly, there are plenty of scenic views to take advantage of, so it’s easy to see why building decks are popular.
Then there’s the population density, which means building fences are pretty common here, too. After all, privacy and security are are a comfort any home should offer. If you’re an Angelino looking to build a deck or a fence for your home, there are a lot of questions to address. Here’s what you’ll need to know.
L.A. or not L.A.?
Los Angeles is a city, of course, but it’s a county, too. From Atwater Village to Boyle Heights, there are countless neighborhoods that make up this region, and even some pockets aren’t considered LA. If you’re new here, you may not realize that Santa Monica isn’t LA, but its own city (and it’s one of many). There are a lot of other cities in LA County that have their own codes, so you need to know that permits are not a one size fits all. Before you even consider a fence or deck, make sure you’re actually living in LA proper.
Okay, you’ve established that you live in LA and want to build a deck. Great!
So what’s the deal with needing a permit? For better or worse, you’ll probably need one. It’s just safer to assume you do, and getting the right permit may depend on what type of property you have.
Is your home zoned for multiple families? What kind of construction codes does your home need to comply with? Learning these details will help narrow down specifics even before you get down to the nitty-gritty. The good news is you can get a straight answer by calling your local building department, but the code officer will have some questions for you, so make sure you do your homework first.
If you aren’t trying to build a deck but you do want to erect a fence, the permit deciding factor is this—is your fence going to be higher than six feet? If not, you might not need a permit, but if so, you’ll have to get one. Say your fence falls under the six feet mark. The next step is to talk to your local building department to verify if you’ll need a permit. It varies from jurisdiction, so unfortunately there’s not one straight answer.
Getting the permit
Permits are hassles. Even getting a straight answer about needing one can be a bit headache inducing, but here’s a shortcut for you. This link is for the permit application and it will ask for all the information you’ll need to provide. Some of the information may catch you off guard, but you’ll need to know all of this for your project anyway, so at the very least it will be located in one convenient place. The next step is to submit it to the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. Here is their website, or you can call them at (213) 473-3221.
What else to know
While it may seem easier to skip the permit process, there’s good reason not to. Sure, you may not get caught while doing the project, but that doesn’t mean it won’t cause problems down the road. If you eventually sell your place and there have been modifications done without the proper permit, you may have to tear it down or make expensive repairs. It’s also not a bad idea to look at the code of ordinance that lays out the specifics for permits in case you have other projects in mind. Title 26, Section 106.1 is a great resource for this.
Homeownership takes work and that’s especially true when taking on projects like adding a deck or building a fence. That’s why it’s important to find out as much as you can before starting it. While getting a permit might not be the fastest way to go about this, you’ll be glad you know what you’re walking into when it’s time to move forward.