PCE at the DC
How Can We Assist You?
Members of the Planning and Community Environment (PCE) Department work at the City’s Development Center (the DC) to assist in the design and development process. The PCE staff members at the DC are committed to helping the development community, property owners and residents to understand the process and application requirements for planning entitlements, which precede the building permit process. We are available to discuss the review and approval processes, and planning application requirements.
What We Do
The Planning staff that work at the Development Center counter typically assist with general planning/zoning related questions, certificates of Use and Occupancy, and Over the Counter permits. They also accept planning entitlement applications (by appointment only), perform zoning compliance plan checks on single-story single-family building permit applications, review discretionary sign applications, and administer the City’s Construction and Demolition Debris (C&D) Program.
For more information on other Planning and Community Environment topics such as code enforcement, historic preservation, pending and approved projects, and other planning resources, please visit the larger PCE Department website.
Have a question? We can help.
If you are just getting started with a project or you have general questions about the development review process, we have Planning staff available to assist you. To speak to a planner in person, please feel free to drop in to the Development Center public service counter between the hours of 9:00am to 4:00pm (Monday through Friday) at 285 Hamilton Avenue. If you’re not able to drop in, you can also reach a planner by calling or emailing the “Planner on Duty”. The contact number is 650-617-3117 and our email is Planner@CityofPaloAlto.org.
How do I learn more about a specific property?
If you need general information about a particular property please check out our Parcel Reports to download a PDF file that includes the assessor parcel number as well as information on the parcel’s lot size, zoning, Comprehensive Plan land use designation, flood zone, parking district, historic status, traffic impact district, and any known public easements. For single family lots parcel reports include the items above as well as a lot’s maximum allowable floor area, maximum allowable lot coverage, maximum height, special setbacks, and minimum front, side, and rear yard setbacks. If you are looking for the permit history of a particular property you will need to come into the Development Center to use the self-help terminal to review archived documents.
Over the Counter Permits
Minor changes to the exterior of a commercial or multifamily property are subject to architectural review but are sometimes able to be handled as an “Over the Counter” permit. For a detailed list of items that are generally able to be approved “over the counter” please see the eligible projects list below. In order for us to track and archive these approvals, an application form must be filled out. There is currently no fee for this review.
To ensure that staff is able to review your item over the counter, you must provide complete and detailed information of the proposed change to your site at the time of application. No appointment is required for an Over the Counter permit. Please note that not all items will be approved over the counter. Staff shall have the discretion to elevate your project to a higher level of review such as staff level Architectural review that will require a formal application submittal via an appointment.
Single Family Homes
If you would like to add onto or build a new single-family home, please review the Forms and Applications page linked below.
In order to better assist you, we have compiled a list of frequently missed items and issues that commonly arise in project plans. Please review the list to ensure that your permit is not delayed due to any of these issues.
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)
Are you interested in building a new ADU? Please view our ADU webpage.
Sign applications are minor staff level architectural Review (AR) applications that are typically handled by the planning staff at the Development Center. The following information links are provided to assist you with your application.
- Application Form
- Architectural Review (Minor) Process Handout
- Architectural Review (Sign) Submittal Checklist
- Sign Code
- El Camino Real Sign Guidelines
Ready to submit your application?
Appointments are required for all Planning application submittals. Applications are submitted at the Development Center located at 285 Hamilton Avenue. Please call 650-329-2442 to set up an application intake appointment. Please be sure to carefully review the application submittal checklists found on the Forms and Applications web page to be sure you are ready to submit your application. Incomplete applications may not be accepted.
Construction and Demolition (C&D) Debris Program
The City of Palo Alto’s construction and demolition (C&D) debris diversion requirements are located within Palo Alto Municipal Code (PAMC) Chapter 16.14 and are based on the California Green Building Code. All demolition permits (whole structure and interior non-structural) and all building permits with a valuation of $25,000 or greater are subject to the requirements. A minimum 80% construction waste reduction is required for all covered residential projects and commercial projects.
- C&D webpage
- Green Halo Systems (debris tracking website)
- Construction and Demolition (C&D) Debris Diversion Program Handout
- Description of Construction and Demolition (C&D) Debris Material Types
Planning and Community Environment Main Webpage
Please visit the main PCE website for details on the Department’s roles and responsibilities beyond those at the Development Center.