Chapter 17.60
Grading Permit Requirements and Procedures


17.60.010    Title and Purpose

17.60.020    Applicability of Grading Regulations

17.60.030    Grading Permit Requirements

17.60.040    Grading Permit Application Filing and Processing

17.60.050    Grading Permit Approval and Issuance

17.60.060    Grading Permit Time Limits and Extensions

17.60.070    Security for Performance

17.60.080    Grading Operations and Inspections

17.60.090    Completion of Work

17.60.010 - Title and Purpose

This Chapter and Chapter 17.62 (Grading, Erosion, and Sediment Control Standards) are and may be cited as the City of Fort Bragg Grading Ordinance. These provisions are enacted for the purpose of regulating grading within the City, and establish standards for grading, including filling and excavation activities, to:

A.    Minimize hazards to life and property;

B.    Protect against soil erosion, and the pollution of watercourses with nutrients, sediments, or other earthen materials generated on or caused by surface runoff on or across an area of approved grading;

C.    Protect the safety, use and stability of public rights of way and drainage channels;

D.    Protect fish and wildlife habitats, and promote the retention and restoration of riparian vegetation;

E.    Protect the scenic character and value of the City; and

F.    Ensure that the intended use of a graded site is consistent with the General Plan and any applicable specific plan.

17.60.020 - Applicability of Grading Regulations

A.    Compliance required. The provisions of this Chapter and Chapter 17.62 (Grading, Erosion, and Sediment Control Standards) apply to all excavation, fill, or other grading activities occurring within the City, unless exempted from permit requirements by Section 17.60.030 (Grading Permit Requirements). The grading standards in Chapter 17.62 apply to all grading activities regardless of whether a permit is required. It shall be unlawful and a violation of this Development Code for any person to:

1.    Cause, conduct, allow, or furnish equipment or any labor for any grading activities without first obtaining any planning permit required by this Development Code, and a grading permit when required by Section 17.60.030 (Grading Permit Requirements), and without complying with all applicable grading standards of Chapter 17.62 (Grading, Erosion, and Sediment Control Standards); or

2.    Violate or fail to comply with any term or condition of the approval of any grading permit issued in compliance with this Chapter.

B.    Prior project approval required. No grading permit shall be issued and no grading shall occur unless a development project has been first authorized on the site in compliance with Article 7 (Planning Permit Procedures), or Article 8 (Subdivision Regulations and Procedures).

C.    Liability. Nothing in this Chapter, or the issuance of a grading permit, compliance with the provisions of this Chapter or with any permit conditions shall relieve any person from responsibility for damage to other persons or property, nor impose any liability upon the City, its officers, agents or employees, for damage to other persons or property.

D.    Hazards. Whenever the City Engineer determines that excavations, embankments, or fills on private property constitute a hazard to public safety, endanger property, or adversely affect the safety, use or stability of adjacent property, an overhead or underground utility, or a public way, watercourse, or drainage channel, or could adversely affect the water quality or any water bodies or watercourses, the owner or other person in control of the subject property shall be contacted and advised of the problem. Upon receipt of written notice from the City Engineer, the property owner shall repair or eliminate the excavation, embankment or fill so as to eliminate the hazard and conform to the requirements of this Chapter and Chapter 17.62 (Grading, Erosion, and Sediment Control Standards) within a reasonably prescribed time period. Any grading performed in violation of this Section shall be deemed a public nuisance and a misdemeanor, and full abatement and restoration may be required and an assessment of cost may be levied in compliance with Chapter 17.98 (Enforcement and Penalties).

E.    Definitions. Definitions of the technical terms and phrases used in this Chapter are in Article 10 (Glossary & Index) under “grading.”

17.60.030 - Grading Permit Requirements

A.    Permit required. A grading permit shall be required for any of the following grading activities, except where exempted from permit requirements by Subsection C.

1.    Any excavation or fill;

2.    Dredging activities involving wetlands or riparian areas;

3.    Earthwork, paving, surfacing or other construction that alters an existing drainage pattern of surface water leaving the site, including any change in the direction, velocity or volume of flow;

4.    Grading within the Coastal Zone; or

5.    Any other grading activity that causes quantities of dirt, soil, rock, debris, or other material substantially in excess of natural levels to be washed, eroded, or otherwise moved from the site, except in compliance with a grading permit.

B.    Grading designation. Grading in excess of 5,000 cubic yards shall be performed in compliance with an approved grading plan prepared by a California registered civil engineer, and shall be designated “engineered grading.” Grading involving less than 5,000 cubic yards shall be designated “regular grading” unless the permittee chooses to have the grading performed as engineered grading, or the City Engineer determines that special conditions or unusual hazards exist, in which case grading shall conform to the requirements for engineered grading.

C.    Exemptions from permit requirements. Except when located within the Coastal Zone, the following grading activities are exempt from the provisions of this Section and may be conducted without first obtaining a grading permit; provided that all grading shall still be subject to the grading standards of Chapter 17.62 (Grading, Erosion, and Sediment Control Standards), and no exempt grading shall occur until the property owner has obtained a written exemption from the Department.

1.    Basements and footings. Where authorized by a valid building permit, excavations below existing or finish grade for basements, and footings of a building, retaining walls or other structures; provided that this shall not exempt any fill using material from the excavation, nor exempt any excavation where the natural slope of the site exceeds 20 percent, or any excavation with an unsupported height greater than five feet after the completion of the structure.

2.    Cemeteries. Routine excavations and fills for graves.

3.    Conservation project. Grading that is a soil or water conservation project regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service, or the California Department of Water Resources.

4.    Cultivation. Agricultural cultivation activities where allowed by Article 2 (Zoning Districts and Allowable Land Uses) including preparation of land for cultivation, other than grading for roadwork or pads for structures, and not including any tree removal, where the cultivation activities do not create an excavation greater than two feet in depth, or more than one foot of fill.

5.    Exploratory excavation. An exploratory excavation for the purpose of investigating subsurface geology, soil bearing capacity, etc., affecting or disturbing an area on a single parcel of less than 10,000 square feet and involving the movement of less than 50 cubic yards, under the direction of a soil engineer or engineering geologist.

6.    Minor excavation. An excavation less than two feet in total depth; or that does not create a cut slope greater than five feet in height and steeper than one and one half horizontal to one vertical, and is:

a.    Not proposed where the natural slope of the site exceeds 20 percent;

b.    Less than 50 cubic yards; and

c.    Not less than 100 feet from any drainage course.

7.    Minor fill. A fill less than one foot in total depth and placed on natural terrain with a slope flatter than five horizontal to one vertical, or less than three feet in depth, not intended to support structures, which does not exceed 50 cubic yards, and is not less than 100 feet from any drainage course.

8.    Public project. Excavations or fill for a public project conducted, or approved and inspected by the City Engineer.

9.    Road maintenance. The grading or resurfacing of an existing approved road for maintenance purposes, where neither the width nor length of the road, nor the height of cuts or the depth of fills is increased.

10.    Wells, pipelines and utilities. Excavations for wells and tunnels; routine pipeline maintenance practices disturbing areas less than 1,000 square feet; or installation, testing, placement in service, or the replacement of any necessary utility connection between an existing facility and an individual customer or approved development, for utilities regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, including electrical, water, sewage disposal or natural gas lines, on a single site or within a public right of way.

D.    Other permits may be required. Nothing in this Chapter shall eliminate the need for activities involving grading to also obtain any other planning or construction permits, subdivision approvals, or permits or authorizations required by the Municipal Code, other provisions of this Development Code, or required by State or Federal agencies.

E.    Issuance of other City permits. All City departments, officials and employees that are vested with the duty or responsibility to issue permits or licenses shall conform to the provisions of this Chapter and shall issue no permit or license for uses, structures or purposes where they would be in conflict with the provisions of this Chapter, or for a site where a violation of this Chapter exists.

F.    Underground service alert required. Any excavation or grading requires notification of Underground Service Alert (USA) 48 hours prior to commencement of work or documentation that which verifies all underground utility locations in the project area.

17.60.040 - Grading Permit Application Filing and Processing

A.    Preparation and filing. Grading permit applications shall be filed with the Department on a City application form, together with all fees, plans, maps, reports, and other information prepared as required by the Grading Permit Application Preparation and Contents instruction list provided by the Department. The plans and reports submitted with the application shall include, but not be limited to, the following, where required by the City Engineer.

1.    A grading plan.

2.    A drainage plan with hydrology and hydraulic calculations.

3.    A geotechnical investigation where the potential for seismically induced soil liquefaction and soil instability is present. When the following conditions are discovered during the course of an investigation, the geotechnical report shall address the potential for liquefaction:

a.    Shallow groundwater, 50 feet or less; and

b.    Unconsolidated sandy alluvium.

4.    A Runoff Mitigation Plan (see Section 17.64.040 (Stormwater Runoff Mitigation Plan Requirements));

5.    Any special reports (e.g., compaction, geotechnical, soils, etc.) required by the City Engineer.

    The preparation of Grading Permit applications shall also comply with the provisions of Sections 17.70.040 (Application Preparation and Filing), and 17.70.050 (Application Fees).

B.    Environmental review. As required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), all grading permit applications shall be subject to environmental review in compliance with this Section and Chapter 17.72, except the following types of applications:

1.    Categorically exempt projects. As provided by Section 15304, Title 14, California Code of Regulations, for Class 4 categorical exemptions, any grading on land with a slope of less than 10 percent that is not within 100 feet of a watercourse, wetland or environmentally sensitive habitat, or is not visible from Highway 1.

2.    Ministerial projects. It is the intent of the Council that the issuance of a permit for grading (Section 17.60.050 - Grading Permit Approval and Issuance) that would be categorically exempt as provided by Subsection B.1, and which also involves less than 1,500 cubic yards of earth moving on slopes less than 10 percent, shall be a ministerial act in compliance with Section 15268, Title 14, California Code of Regulations, and for these applications this Chapter shall be interpreted, administered and construed in light of this legislative intent.

3.    Previously reviewed projects. Proposed grading that has already been reviewed in compliance with CEQA as part of the approval of a planning permit required by this Development Code or a subdivision in compliance with Article 8 of this Development Code, shall not require environmental review.

Measures needed to mitigate potentially significant adverse environmental impacts shall be incorporated into the grading permit as conditions of approval.

C.    Referral to other agencies. Before approval of a grading permit application in compliance with Section 17.60.050 (Grading Permit Approval and Issuance) the City Engineer may refer an application to other interested public agencies for their comments and recommendations.

17.60.050 - Grading Permit Approval and Issuance

The approval of a grading permit application and issuance of a grading permit by the City Engineer shall occur as follows:

A.    Criteria for approval. The City Engineer may approve a grading permit application and issue a permit only when the following requirements are first satisfied:

1.    Ministerial projects. Ministerial grading projects as described in Section 17.60.040B shall be approved when the City Engineer determines that proposed grading will comply with the following:

a.    The proposed grading shall comply with all applicable provisions of Chapter 17.62 (Grading, Erosion, and Sediment Control Standards), 17.64 (Stormwater Runoff Pollution Control), and all other applicable provisions of this Development Code;

b.    The project for which the grading is intended shall first be authorized a planning permit as required for the proposed use by Article 2 (Zoning Districts and Allowable Land Uses); and

c.    Any permits required by State or Federal agencies for the proposed grading have been obtained (including streambed alteration permits from the California Department of Fish and Game and “Section 404" permits for grading within wetlands and certain watercourses from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), or are required by conditions of approval to be obtained before grading work is started.

d.    The proposed grading either will not adversely impact an existing public or private easement, or the applicant has obtained the written consent of the easement holder to perform the grading within the easement.

e.    Proposed grading that will disturb a surface area of one acre or more of soil shall require the filing of a Notice of Intent (NOI) with the State Water Resources Control Board for coverage under the State NPDES Construction Permit. A copy of the NOI and the receipt of notice from the State with a Waste Discharge Identification Number (WDID) shall be filed with the Department.

2.    Discretionary projects. Grading projects that are not ministerial or categorically exempt as provided by Section 17.60.040.B (Environmental review) may be approved only when the City Engineer first makes the following findings, in addition to determining that the proposed grading will satisfy the requirements of Subsection A.1, above:

a.    The proposed grading conforms to all applicable provisions of the General Plan, any applicable specific plan, and this Development Code;

b.    The extent and nature of proposed grading is appropriate to the use proposed, and will not create site disturbance to an extent greater than that required for the use;

c.    Proposed grading will not result in erosion, stream sediment, or other adverse off site effects or hazards to life or property; and

d.    The proposed grading will not create substantial adverse long term visual effects visible from off site.

B.    Permit conditions. In granting a grading permit for a discretionary grading project, the City Engineer may impose any condition determined to be necessary to protect public health, safety and welfare, to prevent the creation of hazards to property, and to ensure proper completion of grading. These conditions may include, but shall not be limited to requirements for:

1.    Bringing proposed grading into conformity with the provisions of this Development Code, including the findings required by Subsection A.;

2.    Mitigation of adverse environmental impacts identified through the environmental review process;

3.    Improvement of any existing grading on the site to comply with the standards of this Chapter;

4.    Fencing or other protection of grading that would otherwise be hazardous;

5.    The control of dust, erosion, sediment, noise, hours of operation and season of work, weather conditions, sequence of work, access roads and haul routes;

6.    Safeguarding both natural and constructed watercourses from excessive deposition of sediment or debris in quantities exceeding natural levels, and from the removal of riparian vegetation or the destruction of animal habitats or other sensitive environmental features;

7.    Safeguarding or abandoning any areas reserved for on-site sewage disposal;

8.    Assurance that any area of proposed grading where habitable structures are proposed is not subject to hazards of landslide, significant settlement or erosion, and that the hazards of flooding can be eliminated or adequately reduced;

9.    Safeguarding or abandoning existing water wells;

10.    Limitations on the commencement of grading until any permits required by State or Federal agencies are first obtained and copies are submitted to the City Engineer;

11.    The stockpiling and re-use of topsoil.

12.    An encroachment permit prior to any grading being performed within a public easement.

13.    Written notice to all easement holders in the event of grading within a private easement.

14.    Proposed grading activities that will disturb a surface area of one acre or more of soil shall obtain a valid Air Quality Management District permit for the grading activity.

C.    Effect of permit and approved plans.

1.    Compliance with plans required. All work shall be done in compliance with the approved plans. The grading plans and specifications approved by the issuance of a grading permit shall not be changed without the written approval of the City Engineer.

2.    Modifications. Proposed modifications shall be submitted to the City Engineer in writing, together with all necessary soils and geotechnical information and design details. A proposed modification shall be approved only if the City Engineer first determines that the modification is in compliance with all applicable subdivision and/or planning permit requirements.

D.    Distribution and use of approved plans. Two sets of approved plans and specifications shall be retained by the City Engineer and one or more sets of approved and dated plan and specifications shall be provided to the applicant or their engineer. One set of approved plans and the permit shall be retained on the site at all times during the work.

17.60.060 - Grading Permit Time Limits and Extensions

A.    Grading permit time limits. Approved grading shall be completed in compliance with an issued grading permit within 12 months from the effective date of the permit, or the permit shall expire, unless an extension has been granted in writing in compliance with Subsection B., below.

B.    Extension of grading permit. Any permittee holding an unexpired grading permit may apply for an extension of the time within which grading operations are to be begun or completed. The City Engineer may extend the expiration date of the permit for a period not exceeding 180 days per extension request, where the permittee has requested the extension in writing and has shown that circumstances beyond the control of the permittee have prevented grading from being started or completed, and any applicable permit has not expired.

17.60.070 - Security for Performance

Prior to issuance of a grading permit, the applicant shall provide improvement security in a manner satisfactory to the City, to ensure proper completion of grading in compliance with the permit, in the event of default on the part of the permittee. Security shall be required and administered in compliance with Section 17.76.060 (Performance Guarantees).

17.60.080 - Grading Operations and Inspections

All grading operations for which a permit is required shall be subject to inspection as required by the City Engineer to ensure compliance with the approved plans and any permit conditions.

A.    Preconstruction consultation. The City Engineer may require a preconstruction consultation meeting between the permittee and designated City staff to review the construction schedule and procedures before the commencement of work, where the City Engineer determines that the type or scale or grading operations necessitates this coordination.

B.    Site access. The permittee shall provide adequate access to the site for inspection by inspectors designated by the City Engineer during the performance of all work and for a minimum of one year after final inspection.

C.    Special inspections and certifications. The City Engineer may require special inspections or certifications as deemed necessary to ensure proper completion of grading work, and/or to mitigate or avoid environmental impacts, or hazards to property or the public.

1.    Type of inspections and certifications. Special inspections and certifications may include, but shall not be limited to requiring: the permittee to provide a private geotechnical engineer and/or other consultants approved by the City Engineer to perform continuous inspection of work in progress and to certify the proper completion of work; inspection and testing by an approved testing agency; and/or the submittal of periodic progress reports.

2.    Notification of noncompliance. Where the use of special inspectors, engineers or consultants is required, these personnel shall immediately report in writing to the City Engineer and permittee any instance of work not being done in compliance with this Development Code, other applicable codes, or the approved grading plans, and shall also provide recommendations for corrective measures, if determined by the inspector to be necessary.

3.    Transfer of responsibility for approval. If a required special inspector, engineer or consultant is changed during the course of work, the work shall be stopped until the replacement individual has notified the City Engineer in writing of their agreement to accept responsibility for approval of the completed work within the area of their technical competence.

D.    Inclement weather. The City Engineer may require that grading operations and project designs be modified if delays occur that result in weather-generated problems not considered at the time the permit was issued.

E.    Field changes. After the commencement of grading operations, no change to the extent, volume, or type of proposed grading shall occur without the prior written approval of the City Engineer, or the Planning Commission or City Council in the case of a project which received planning permit approval from the Planning Commission or City Council. In the event a permittee wishes to change the volume (cubic yards), cut or fill height of grading in the approved permit, an amendment to the permit shall be obtained. If the City Engineer determines that the changes are significant, the City Engineer may require that work shall stop, and an amendment to the approved permit shall be filed and approved before work is resumed.

F.    Stop work orders. The City Engineer may order that any grading operations performed contrary to the requirements of this Development Code, other applicable codes, the approved plans and specifications, or any permit conditions, or any grading operations that have otherwise become hazardous to property or the public, be immediately stopped. It shall be unlawful and a violation of this Development Code for any person to resume grading operations that were ordered to be stopped by the City Engineer, unless the City Engineer has first required and the permittee has agreed to any necessary corrective measures, and the City Engineer has authorized resumption of work in writing. A violation of a stop work order shall be punishable in compliance with Section 17.98.040(D) (Stop Work Orders).

G.    Other responsibilities of permittee. The permittee shall also be responsible for the following:

1.    Protection of utilities. The prevention of damage to any public utility facilities. As required by Government Code Section 4216.2, each permittee shall contact the Underground Service Alert (USA) prior to starting work. Contact shall occur at least two working days, but not more than fourteen calendar days before work starts. If feasible, the excavator shall delineate with white paint, or other suitable markings, the area to be excavated.

2.    Protection of adjacent property. The prevention of damage to adjacent property. No person shall excavate on land close enough to a property line to endanger any adjacent public street, sidewalk, alley, other public or private property, or easement, without supporting and protecting the property from any damage that might result from grading operations.

3.    Advance notice. The permittee shall notify the City Engineer at least 48 hours before starting any work under an approved permit where no preconstruction consultation was required in compliance with Subsection A. above.

4.    Erosion and sediment control. The permittee shall prevent discharge of sediment from the site in quantities greater than before the grading occurred, to any watercourse, drainage system, or adjacent property and to protect watercourses and adjacent properties from damage by erosion, flooding, or deposition that may result from the permitted grading.

17.60.090 - Completion of Work

A.    Final reports. Upon completion of rough grading and at the completion of finish grading work as determined by the City Engineer, the City Engineer may require the following plans and reports, supplements thereto, or other documentation deemed necessary by the City Engineer, prepared by the appropriate professionals in the format required by the City Engineer.

1.    As-built grading plan. A plan including original ground surface elevations, as- graded ground surface elevations, lot drainage patterns with directional arrows, and locations and elevations of all surface and subsurface drainage facilities.

2.    Testing records. A complete record of all field and laboratory tests, including the location and elevation of all field tests.

3.    Professional opinions. Professional opinions regarding slope stability, soil bearing capacity, and any other information pertinent to the adequacy of the site for its intended use.

4.    Development recommendations. Recommendations regarding foundation design, including soil bearing potential, and building restrictions or setbacks from the top or toe of slopes.

5.    Declarations about completed work. Declarations by the special inspectors, a civil engineer, geotechnical engineer, geologist, soils engineer, and other consultants required by the City Engineer in compliance with Section 17.60.080(C), that all work was done in substantial compliance with the recommendations contained in the soil or geology reports as approved, and in compliance with the approved plans and specifications.

B.    Final inspection. No permittee shall be deemed to have complied with the provisions of this Chapter until a final inspection of the work has been completed and approved by the City Engineer. The permittee shall notify the City Engineer when the grading operation is ready for final inspection. Final approval shall not be given until all work, including the installation of all drainage facilities and their protective devices, and all erosion and sediment control measures, have been completed in compliance with the approved plans and specifications, and all reports required by Subsection A. have been submitted.