Copyright 2016 by dougsimonARCHITECTURE
All rights reserved
dsimon@dougsimonarchitecture.com
"Enjoy life....Build more often!"
HOMEOWNER FAQs
I'm not sure what I'm allowed to build or how much I can afford. Where do I start?
Part of an architect's first task is to help clients discover the potential of their property, determine their specific needs for
the project, and to sketch out rough ideas for how the project might take shape . These preliminary tasks are described on
our Architectural Services page and usually include the Pre-Design and Schematic Design Phases of work.
What other people will be involved in planning my project?
DSA uses only highly qualified, licensed and insured consultants as required for each project.  Typically this includes  
structural engineers, energy efficiency experts, professional land surveyors and geological/soils engineers. As a cost-
saving measure, consultants are hired directly by the clients.
Can I build a Granny Flat or Guest Quarters on my property?
The good news is that building a Granny Flat (designated as a "Companion Unit" by the Building Department) or Guest  
Quarters is getting easier over time. Many of the stumbling blocks previously set out by local regulations have been  
removed. The bad news is that high fees required to get these types of structures permitted are making them untenable for  
most residenctial property owners. For homeowners wanting separate living quarters on thier single-family property, clever  
planning of their existing home to allow for separate entrances and privacy for guests, relatives or boarders remains  
perhaps the least restrictive planning approach.
Do I need to get building permits for my project?
Your local building departement will have information regarding permit requirements. Projects within San Diego's city limits,  
and some areas beyond, fall under the jurisdiction of San Diego's Department of Development Services. Excluding small  
jobs like painting and some fencebuilding projects, Development Services genrally requires permits for construction.  
Equipment upgrades, such as water heater, electrical work etc.also require permits though these and other smaller  
projects can often be permitted on-line. San Diego Development Services' website is a valuable resource for anyone  
planning a construction project, and their information sheet concerning permit requirements can be found at:  
http://www.sandiego.gov/development-services/homeownr/hometips.shtml#whendo <http://www.sandiego.gov/development-
services/homeownr/hometips.shtml>
Who applies for the building permits, and how much do they cost?
Typically the architect prepares all the documentation, drawings and other information required by the City for permit  
application. Once the project has been submitted it is the architect's responsibility to respond to the City's questions or  
their requests for changes to the project.  Permit and plan check fees are estimated by the City and paid by the Owner  
when the project is submitted for review. Fee information is available at: http://www.sandiego.gov/development-
services/industry/pdf/infobulletin/ib501.pdf
How long does the permitting process take?
Once plans are submitted, the City can take about 4-6 weeks for their review. This will vary depending on the complexity of  
the project and the types of reviews required. After the review, plans are returned with comments from the City which must  
be addressed by the architect and project team. Once the comments are addressed to the City's satisfaction, permits are  
issued. Addressing plan-check comments can add another couple of weeks to the process, depending on the size of the  
job.
Can my house support a second floor?
Due to stringent structural requirements, second story additions are usually designed to be self-supporting. The new  
supporting walls and columns are usually incorporated into the existing structure so that they blend together functionally  
and visually while remaining, for the most part, structurally independent.
Can I build a second unit, a "Granny Flat"or "Guest Quarters" on my property?  
Each property has a its own zoning designation which establishes the guidelines for it's use, density, height etc.. Currenly  
in San Diego "Companion Units" and "Guest Quarters" are permitted on some single-family lots, but this allowance comes  
with many restrictions.
The good news is that building a Granny Flat (designated as a "Companion Unit" by the Building Department) or Guest  
Quarters is getting easier over time. Many of the stumbling blocks previously set out by local regulations have been  
removed. The bad news is that high fees required to get these types of structures permitted are making them untenable for  
most residenctial property owners. For homeowners wanting separate living quarters on thier single-family property, clever  
planning of their existing home to allow for separate entrances and privacy for guests, relatives or boarders remains  
perhaps the least restrictive planning approach.
How much square footage can I add to my house?
Rules for determining maximum GFA (gross floor area) can be found in the local Municipal Code. Typically, it's calculated  
by multiplying the FAR (Floor Area Ratio) with the area of your lot. To determine how much you can add to your existing  
house, subtract your existing GFA from your allowable GFA . Your zoning designation determines the FAR. To find the  
zoning designation of your San Diego property: http://apps.sandiego.gov/siteinfoweb/begin.do. (hint: Before determining  
GFA be sure to read Rules for Calculations & Measurement carefully. Garages count!)
I live in an old house in an historical neighborhood. Am I allowed to make changes to my house?
The practice of altering historically significant properties has a long contentious history.  In San Diego, the exterior  
alteration of any structure greater than 45 years old requires a preliminary review by the City. There is also a large number  
of specific buildings, streets, and districts that are already designated as historical, which require supplemental review for  
alteration. Determining a property's historical status is a critical first step taken during the Pre-Design Phase of work.  
Knowing the historical status, and all it's ramifications early in the project will reduce the chances of delay, costly  
changes, and possible project termination down the road.
I live near the beach and want to rebuild my property, but I've heard that it can be difficult. What do I need to  
know?
First, you need to know if your property lies in the Coastal Overlay Zone. This can be determined by the architect or the  
homeowner by requesting a Parcel Information Checklist from the City or by checking a current Coastal Zone Map. If your  
property falls within the Coastal Zone then your project will be required to follow Coastal regulations in addition to the  
standard rules for construction and may need to be reviewed by the Coastal Commission. Some projects may avoid review  
if they qualify for an exemption. It is the responsibility of the architect to advise the owner on how to qualify for the  
exemption. Avoiding Coastal Review will save the owner many months of delay and thousands of dollars in planning costs.