Division IV. Administration

Chapter 15.70


15.70.010    General provisions.

15.70.020    Preapplication conference.

15.70.030    Decision-making authority.

15.70.040    Acceptance of applications.

15.70.050    Combined applications.

15.70.060    Action by decision-making authority.

15.70.070    Public hearings.

15.70.080    Appeals and calls for review.

15.70.010 General provisions.

A. Purpose. This chapter sets out the general procedures for processing all discretionary applications, including all of the various types of amendments and permits, such as site development permits, conditional use permits, general plan amendments, zone changes, and others.

B. Applicable State Law. The provisions of this chapter are intended to be consistent and in full compliance with the Permit Streamlining Act, California Government Code Section 65920 et seq. as amended or superseded.

C. Application Filing. Applications shall be filed with the planning department on forms prescribed by the planning director, together with: (1) all maps, plans, documents and other materials required by the director, and (2) all required fees and deposits per Chapter 15.90 AVMC. The director shall provide the necessary forms plus written filing instructions specifying all application materials required to any requesting person at no charge. [Ord. 2010-126 § 1 (Exh. A); Ord. 2010-123 § 3 (Exh. A)].

15.70.020 Preapplication conference.

Prior to the submission of a formal application, the applicant may submit to the planning department maps, plans, and other information concerning the proposal. At the request of the applicant, the director shall thereupon schedule one or more pre-filing conferences to provide information regarding the proposal, city requirements, the review process and related matters. Such pre-filing conferences are optional to the applicant and shall not be a prerequisite to filing a formal application. A fee or deposit may be required in advance of such conferences in order to defray city costs. [Ord. 2010-126 § 1 (Exh. A); Ord. 2010-123 § 3 (Exh. A)].

15.70.030 Decision-making authority.

A. Table Showing Decision-Making Authority. Table 15.70.030 of this section identifies the decision-making authority for each of the various actions described in this code. A “PH,” “D” or “A” means that the official or body at the top of the column has decision-making authority for the application. A “D” by itself means that no public hearing is required. A “PH” means that a public hearing is required before action is taken. An “A” means that the application is reviewed administratively by the planning director without a public hearing unless another decision-making authority or process is identified in this code. An “M” means that the permit review is “ministerial.” That is, the action is taken using fixed standards, with little or no personal judgment or discretion regarding approval or denial.


TABLE 15.70.030:


R = Recommending body

D = Decision-making authority

PH = Public hearing required

A = Administrative review by director

M = Ministerial review by director

Type of Application


Planning Director

City Council

Amendments, Agreements and Specific Plans

General Plan Amendment



Zoning Code Amendment



Zone Change



Specific Plan



Development Agreement



Discretionary and Other Permits

Site Development Permit



* The director shall determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether the public interest would be better served by review of the project administratively or by referral to the city council and, if reviewed by the city council, whether a public hearing is required.

Coastal Development Permit



Conditional Use Permit



Variance Permit



Exception Permit



Administrative Use Permit



Temporary Use Permit



Sign Permit



Sign Program



Review of Land Use Not Listed



Guest Houses



Development Review Permit



Permits in Specific Plan Areas

Per each specific plan text

Grading Permit

Per city grading code


Per city subdivision code

Environmental Review

Per city’s environmental review procedures

B. Administrative Actions. Actions to be taken administratively, as identified in Table 15.70.030 and elsewhere in this code, are those which are relatively minor in nature and with relatively little potential for adverse impacts on the surrounding community or the environment. A public hearing or public notification is not required for administrative actions, although the director may notify residents or property owners near the subject property if the director determines on a case-by-case basis that the public interest would be served by such notification. Further, the director may refer the application to the city council if the director determines on a case-by-case basis that the public interest would be served by such referral. Administrative actions may be appealed pursuant to AVMC 15.70.080.

C. Public Hearings. Public hearings shall be noticed and held pursuant to AVMC 15.70.070 for those applications shown in Table 15.70.030 as requiring a hearing. [Ord. 2019-209 § 4; Ord. 2017-192 § 8; Ord. 2017-187 § 7; Ord. 2013-150 § 3 (Exh. A); Ord. 2012-146 § 3 (Exh. A); Ord. 2012-141 § 23; Ord. 2012-140 § 3 (Exh. A); Ord. 2010-126 § 1 (Exh. A); Ord. 2010-123 § 3 (Exh. A)].

Cross-references: grading and excavation code, Chapter 13.08 AVMC; subdivisions, AVMC Title 14; environmental review, AVMC 15.82.030.

15.70.040 Acceptance of applications.

A. Application Forms and Materials. Application forms for all discretionary permits and other actions shall be made available at the public counter, along with a list of necessary supporting information and materials required for a completed application.

B. Acceptance of Applications as Complete. Within 30 days of receipt of an application, the planning director shall determine whether the application is complete and shall transmit such determination to the applicant. If the application is determined not to be complete, the director shall specify in writing those parts of the application which are incomplete and shall indicate the manner in which they can be made complete.

C. Lapse of Application. Applications determined incomplete shall be deemed to have lapsed after 180 days from the notice of incompleteness by the director unless the applicant responds within that time with the requested additional information or with a request for additional time to submit the information. Such lapsed applications shall be deemed null and void and any remaining balance in the deposit account shall be refunded to the applicant.

D. Withdrawal of Application. At the request or with the concurrence of the applicant, any application may be withdrawn. When an application is withdrawn, such action is effective immediately and is not subject to appeal. Thereafter, such application shall be null and void and the property shall have the same status as if no application had been filed.

E. Preparation of Environmental Documents. When it is determined that an environmental impact report or a negative declaration is required for a proposal, the director shall determine the amount of funds required to be deposited for the preparation of an environmental impact report or negative declaration and shall advise the applicant of that amount within 30 days after the application is filed. The application for the proposal shall not be deemed complete until the applicant has deposited with the city sufficient funds to pay for the cost of completion of the environmental impact report or negative declaration. [Ord. 2010-126 § 1 (Exh. A); Ord. 2010-123 § 3 (Exh. A)].

15.70.050 Combined applications.

A. Director’s Discretion. At the discretion of the planning director, applications for different types of actions may be combined and processed concurrently in one application with one fee deposit so long as all applicable processing requirements are satisfied. The following rules shall apply to such combined applications:

1. When an application requiring a public hearing is combined with one not requiring a public hearing, the combined application shall require a public hearing.

2. The final decision on the combined application shall be made by the highest applicable decision-making authority pursuant to Table 15.70.030. For example, the decision on an application combining a zone change and an administrative use permit shall be made by the city council.

3. Applicable fee(s) or deposit(s) shall be collected in accordance with Chapter 15.90 AVMC. [Ord. 2010-126 § 1 (Exh. A); Ord. 2010-123 § 3 (Exh. A)].

15.70.060 Action by decision-making authority.

A. Possible Actions. The decision-making authority may take one of the following actions on each application:

1. Approval. Simple approval of an application means that no conditions or requirements other than those specified by the application are imposed. After the action’s effective date defined in subsection (C) of this section, the proposed land use or development may be established in compliance with all applicable regulations and the approved project plans and specifications.

2. Conditional Approval. Any application may be approved subject to compliance with conditions. Conditions may require dedication of land, installation of improvements, the posting of financial security to guarantee performance, design modifications or other conditions necessary to achieve the objectives of the general plan and this title and to preserve the public health, safety and general welfare. For discretionary permits, after the action’s effective date as defined in subsection (C) of this section, the proposed land use or development may be established in compliance with all applicable regulations, the approved project plans and specifications, and the requirements of the conditions of approval.

3. Denial. When an application for a discretionary permit is denied, the decision-making authority shall indicate the reasons for denial. In addition, when a conditional use permit or site development permit application is denied, an application for the same or a similar use on the same property shall not thereafter be accepted for a period of one year from the date of final determination, except that the decision-making authority may specify that this time limitation shall not apply. This time limitation on resubmittal of applications is not applicable to other discretionary actions.

B. Action in Writing. The decision on each application, including any required findings, plus all conditions of approval shall be in writing. A copy of the written determination shall be forwarded to the applicant following the date of final determination and shall be made available at no cost to any person requesting such a copy.

C. Effective Date.

1. Actions by City Council. Decisions by the city council are final and shall become effective immediately except as otherwise provided in the approving action and except for actions by ordinance.

2. Actions by Planning Director. Decisions by the planning director shall become effective 10 calendar days after the date the decision is made and after all appeals, if any, have been acted on pursuant to AVMC 15.70.080.

D. Tie Votes.

1. Tie Means Defeat of Motion. If a motion for action on a discretionary application results in a tie vote by the decision-making authority, it shall constitute defeat of the motion.

2. Appeals. When all members of a decision-making authority are present, a tie vote on an appeal shall be considered a denial of the appeal. The original action shall then stand. If a tie vote occurs when less than all members of the decision-making authority are present, the matter shall automatically be continued to the next regular meeting unless otherwise ordered by majority vote of the members present.

E. Use of More Restrictive Standards. In conjunction with approval of a discretionary permit, the decision-making authority may impose more restrictive standards than set out in this code in order to make the required findings for each type of permit as specified in Chapter 15.74 AVMC.

F. Approvals Run with Land. All rights granted by the approval of a discretionary action run with the affected property, and all entitlements, conditions and requirements of a discretionary permit are passed on to the new property owner when there is a change of ownership.

G. Enforceability of Provisions. All conditions, requirements and standards specified either in writing or graphically as part of any approval granted by authority of this chapter shall have the same force and effect as this title. Any land use or development established as a result of an approval which is not in compliance with all such conditions, requirements or standards shall be in violation of this chapter and the enforcement provisions of the municipal code shall be applicable. [Ord. 2012-141 § 24; Ord. 2011-136 § 27; Ord. 2010-126 § 1 (Exh. A); Ord. 2010-123 § 3 (Exh. A)].

15.70.070 Public hearings.

A. Applicable State Law. Public hearings required for development review actions shall be carried out in accordance with the procedures set out in this section. It is intended that the provisions of this section shall be fully consistent and in full compliance with California Government Code Section 65090 et seq., as amended or superseded, and that such provisions shall be so construed.

B. Failure to Receive Notice. Pursuant to California Government Code Section 65093, as amended or superseded, the failure of any person to receive notice shall not constitute grounds for any court to invalidate the action of the decision-making authority.

C. Conduct of Hearings. Public hearings shall be noticed in accordance with subsection (D) of this section and shall then be held by the decision-making authority prior to action on the relevant application. At the public hearing, the decision-making authority may take action on the application, continue the application to a specified date, or take the application under submission. An application taken under submission may later be taken out of submission for the purpose of taking action on the application without scheduling a new public hearing provided no additional testimony is heard and no further evidence is presented. Further testimony may be heard and further evidence may be presented regarding an application taken under submission only if a new public hearing is noticed and held in compliance with this section.

D. Noticing Requirements. Not less than 10 calendar days prior to the hearing, the city shall:

1. Mail or deliver a public notice, which includes the date, time and place of the hearing, the application number, the applicant’s name, the location of the property affected, and a description of the land use, development, or other action proposed, to:

a. The owner of the subject real property.

b. The project applicant.

c. All owners of real property as shown on the last equalized assessment roll within 300 feet of the subject real property. If the number of owners to whom notice would be mailed is greater than 1,000, the city may instead place a display advertisement of at least one-eighth page in a newspaper of general circulation at least 10 days prior to the hearing; and

2. Publish a legal notice in a newspaper of general circulation or, if there is no newspaper of general circulation, post a notice at three public places within the city.

3. The city shall also provide any other notice required by law. In addition, the planning director may require that additional notice be given by enlarging the notification radius or by other means if the director determines on a case-by-case basis that the public interest would be served by such additional notice. [Ord. 2012-140 § 3 (Exh. A); Ord. 2010-126 § 1 (Exh. A); Ord. 2010-123 § 3 (Exh. A)].

15.70.080 Appeals and calls for review.

A. Purpose and Time Periods.

1. Purpose. This section establishes procedures for the appeal and call-up review of administrative decisions made by the planning director pursuant to the provisions of AVMC 15.70.030.

2. Time Periods. When the last day of an appeal period identified in this section falls on a day that the Aliso Viejo city offices are closed, the appeal period shall be extended to the first succeeding day that the city offices are open.

B. Determinations of Planning Director. Unless otherwise provided in this code, any action taken by the planning director pursuant to AVMC 15.70.030 shall be issued in writing and shall include any required findings. The written administrative action of the director shall be either hand delivered or mailed to the person requesting such action. The administrative action taken by the planning director shall be final unless timely appealed to the city council in accordance with subsection (C) of this section or timely called up for review in accordance with subsection (D)(2) of this section.

C. Appeal to City Council. Unless otherwise provided in this code, any determination, interpretation, decision or similar action taken by the planning director under the provisions of this title may be appealed to the city council within 10 calendar days of the date the written determination, interpretation, decision or similar action is sent for delivery or mailed to the person requesting such determination, interpretation, decision or similar action, unless a different time period is specified in this code for a particular type of action. When a timely appeal is filed, the appeal shall be considered by the city council at the next available city council meeting, taking into account the council’s meeting schedule and notice requirements. The decision of the city council shall be in writing and shall be final.

D. City Council Call for Review

1. Right to Call for Review. Any decision that may be appealed under this section may be called up for review and consideration by any member of the city council or by the council itself, in accordance with subsection (D)(3) of this section.

2. Time Limits for Calling for Review. A call for review by the city council shall be made by the later of: (a) the end of the appeal period under subsection (C) of this section and (b) the time that the city council receives and files the official transmittal of the decision on an application (through minutes, action memorandum, or otherwise) by the planning director.

3. Methods of Calling for Review.

a. An individual member of city council initiates a call for review by notifying the city clerk orally or in writing that the member wishes to bring the lower decision before the entire body for review and additional consideration. No argument or other explanation should be offered by the member when calling for review. If notification of the call for review is oral, the city clerk should make a contemporaneous written record of the notification.

b. The city council as a body may also initiate a call for review by majority vote.

4. No Fee. No fee is required for a call for review.

5. Similar to Appeal. A call for review is treated as an appeal under this section except as this section otherwise provides.

E. Hearing Requirements.

1. De Novo. An appeal or call for review under this section results in a hearing de novo.

a. The city council considers the application anew, and the council may take any action that the planning director might legally have been taken in the first instance.

b. In addition to testimony and evidence presented at the appeal or review hearing, the council may consider information in the record of the hearing from which the appeal or review is taken.

c. The council may continue its hearing on the matter from time to time to a date certain and may refer the matter to the planning director for additional input before making its final determination.

2. Tie Vote. As a hearing de novo, an appeal or call for review under this section, once decided, completely takes the place of and nullifies the former determination of the matter. To take any action or issue any approval, the city council must act by majority vote. A tie vote by the council results in a denial of the application, even if the former determination initially resulted in an approval.

3. At the close of the public hearing, the city council shall either approve or conditionally approve the application by majority vote or deny the application by majority or tie vote.

F. Filing and Fee.

1. Filing Location and Fee. An appeal to the city council under this section shall be filed with the city clerk on forms provided by the city clerk together with an appeal fee established by ordinance or resolution of the city council.

2. Joining an Appeal. Only those persons who file an appeal in compliance with this section shall be considered appellants of the matter under appeal. Persons may join an appeal as follows:

a. Any person who wishes to join an appeal shall follow the same procedures for an appellant in compliance with this section except that no additional filing fee shall be required.

b. No person shall be allowed to join an appeal after the end of the 10-calendar-day appeal period.

c. Only one hearing shall be held on a decision that is appealed to or called up for review by the city council, regardless of the number of persons involved with an appeal.

G. Effect of Initiating an Appeal or Call for Review.

1. Effect on Underlying Approval. If the planning director approves an application and the approval is appealed or called up for review under this section, then the approval has no effect and is not valid unless the appeal or review is withdrawn before the public hearing closes.

2. Effect on Multiple Approvals. If an appeal is filed or a call for review is initiated regarding a decision on one of multiple city approvals concurrently granted for a single project (for example, the approval of a use permit is appealed on a project for which a negative declaration was approved at the same time), then all concurrently granted city approvals for the project are automatically appealed or called up and shall be considered and acted on in compliance with this section. [Ord. 2016-178 § 2; Ord. 2012-141 § 25; Ord. 2012-140 § 3 (Exh. A); Ord. 2011-136 § 28; Ord. 2010-126 § 1 (Exh. A); Ord. 2010-123 § 3 (Exh. A)].

Cross-references: appeal procedures generally, Chapter 1.10 AVMC; city council as subdivision appeal body, AVMC 14.02.080.


Cross-reference: violations and penalties generally, Chapter 1.06 AVMC.