Chapter 18.45


18.45.010    General provisions.

18.45.015    Construction site management.

18.45.020    Definitions.

18.45.030    General grading permit requirements.

18.45.035    Specific application requirements.

18.45.040    Winter (rainy season) grading restrictions.

18.45.050    Emergency work.

18.45.060    Grading fees.

18.45.070    Bonds.

18.45.080    Cuts and fills.

18.45.090    Setbacks.

18.45.100    Drainage and terracing.

18.45.110    Erosion control.

18.45.115    Dust control.

18.45.120    Grading inspection.

18.45.130    Completion of work.

18.45.140    Transfer of authority.

18.45.150    Violations.


(1)    Purpose. The purpose of this chapter is to detail the technical regulations of grading and excavation and in conjunction with Chapter 24.14. (Environmental Resource Management) of this code, to safeguard life, health, safety and the public welfare; to protect fish and wildlife, and riparian corridors and habitats, domestic and industrial water supplies, private and public property, and to otherwise protect the environment from the effects of flooding, accelerated erosion and/or siltation by establishing minimum requirements for clearing, excavation, cuts, fills, earth moving, grading operations (including cumulative grading), water runoff and sediment control.

(2)    Scope. This chapter sets forth guidelines, rules, regulations and minimum standards to control excavation, grading, erosion, and earthwork construction, including cut-and-fill embankments; establishes administrative, procedures for issuance of permits; and provides for approval of plans and inspections during construction and subsequent maintenance.

(3)    Relationship to Zoning Ordinance. The technical regulations set forth in this chapter shall be used in conjunction with Sections 24.14.050 (Drainage Control), 24.14.060 (Erosion Hazard Areas) and 24.14.070 (Seismic Hazards) of the Santa Cruz Municipal Code.

(Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).


(1)    The city’s mandatory Best Management Practices (BMP’s), as published by the city’s public works department and/or planning department, shall be maintained in full force and effect for the duration of any permitted grading project.

(2)    Erosion and sediment control BMP’s shall be in place and implemented, as appropriate under Section 18.45.110, prior to commencing grading or vegetation removal. Such measures shall be maintained on all disturbed areas in order to prevent a net increase of sediment load in a site’s storm water discharge relative to pre-construction levels.

(3)    During the rainy season, erosion control measures must also be located at all appropriate locations along the site’s perimeter and at all inlets to the storm drain system. Effective methods to protect storm drain inlets include sand bag barriers, heavy rubber mats to cover and seal the inlet, and approved sediment traps or basins.

(4)    All on-site erosion control measures and structural devices, both temporary and permanent, shall be properly installed and maintained. If damaged during construction, they shall be promptly repaired or reinstalled.

(5)    Unless granted a specific exemption grading operations shall be conducted in phases in order to reduce the amount of disturbed areas and exposed soil at any one time. Unless specifically approved on the project’s Erosion Control Plan, clearing, excavation, and grading shall not be conducted during rainy weather. All rainy season grading must be in accordance with Section 18.45.040 of this chapter. An exception may be granted for minor clearing or grading that does not present a hazard and is approved by the building official.

(6)    Clearing limits, easements, setbacks, sensitive or critical areas, trees, drainage courses, and buffer zones must be delineated to prevent excessive or unnecessary disturbances and exposure prior to construction.

(7)    Use one or more of the following to reduce the erosion potential from bare, exposed, or disturbed soil: filter fabric, erosion control blankets, geo-textiles, mulching, seeding, vegetation planting, or other appropriate cover material. If vegetative cover is used, a uniform vegetative cover with a minimum of seventy percent coverage must be established.

(8)    Access roads and entrances must be constructed to minimize the tracking of soil, mud, or hazardous materials into the roadway or into storm drains. Shaker roads and/or wash down facilities for construction vehicles must be installed on any site greater than one acre and on a case-by-case basis for smaller sites. Shaker road design and maintenance must be approved by either city public works or inspection services staff prior to installation. Mud, dirt, gravel, sand and other materials tracked or dropped on city streets must be cleaned up to prevent washing into storm drains. Heavy equipment that is not rubber wheeled or smooth-tracked, must be off-loaded on the construction site, not in the street.

(9)    Cleared vegetation may not be disposed of in a creek, gully or waterway.

(10)    Sediment or pollutant laden water may not be discharged into the storm drain system. De-watering operations must be pre-approved by the city public works department (and county environmental health department if containing hazardous contaminants).

(11)    Leaks, spills and drips of hazardous materials and chemicals must be contained and cleaned up as quickly as possible to minimize run off or soak in. This includes fuel and motor oil, hydraulic fluid, and glycol based anti-freeze from vehicles. Encountered abandoned fuel/oil tanks (and their contents) must be removed in a manner consistent with methodology approved by both the city of Santa Cruz and county environmental health department.

(12)    Paint and paint thinner may never be discharged into the storm drain system. Paint brushes, paint spray guns, paint trays or containers, and paint cans may not be cleaned or rinsed into the street or storm drain system.

(13)    Concrete, cement, and masonry products may never be discharged into the storm drain system. Concrete, cement, and masonry mixing containers and tools may not be washed or rinsed into the street or storm drain system. If a concrete transit mixer is used, a suitable washout box, excavation or self-washing mixer able to contain the waste material shall be provided on-site.

(14)    Store materials, including stockpiles and excavation spoils, under cover and protected from wind, rain, and runoff. Stockpiles may never be stored on a street or alley. Paints, chemicals, solvents, and other hazardous materials must be stored inside or within a shed with double containment.

(15)    Discarded building materials and demolition wastes must never be left in a street, gully, or waterway. Dispose of all wastes properly including leftover paint and chemicals. When the job is completed, collect and properly dispose of all unused or waste materials. Never leave or abandon materials or excavation spoils onsite. Usable leftover materials should be recycled or donated as appropriate and appropriately separated from unusable/non-recyclable garbage and debris. Ensure that nothing has “drifted” towards the street, gutter, or catch basin.

(Ord. 2004-13 § 2, 2004).

18.45.020 DEFINITIONS.

As used in this chapter:

(1)    “Accelerated erosion” means rapid erosion caused by artificially induced alteration of the vegetation, land surface topography or runoff patterns. Evidence of accelerated erosion is indicated by exposed soils, active gullies, rills, sediment deposits, or slope failures caused by such artificial activities.

(2)    “Access and building area envelope” means an area delineated on the site plan within which all grading, land clearing, and other disturbances for construction of access and/or building will be confined.

(3)    “Bedrock” means in-place solid rock.

(4)    “Bench” means a relatively level step excavated into earth material designed to receive fill and prevent its movement downhill, or to level a portion or portions of a sloping surface for the purpose of a construction pad or other usable level area.

(5)    “Borrow” means and is synonymous with “import”: earth fill material acquired from an off-site location for use in grading on a site.

(6)    “Clearing” means and is synonymous with “scarify”: the removal of vegetation and debris down to bare soil by any method.

(7)    “Civil engineer” means a professional engineer registered in the state of California to practice in the field of civil works.

(8)    “Compaction” means the densification of earth and solids or fill by mechanical means.

(9)    “Cumulative grading” means total combined grading, including both excavation and fill, accomplished over a ten-year period.

(10)    “Drainage course” means a well-defined, natural or artificial channel which conveys stormwater either year round or intermittently.

(11)    “Earth material” means any rock, natural soil or fill, or any combination thereof.

(12)    “Engineering geologist” means a geologist experienced and knowledgeable in engineering geology and registered as such in the state of California.

(13)    “Engineering geology” means the application of geologic knowledge and principles in the investigation and evaluation of naturally occurring rock and soil for use in the design of civil works.

(14)    “Erosion” means the wearing away of the ground surface by the actions of water, wind, ice, gravity, or a combination thereof.

(15)    “Erosion control specialist” means and shall be synonymous with soils engineer, geotechnical engineer, engineering geologist, civil engineer, or other such individual, licensed by the state of California as an engineer or architect and who holds him/herself as capable and qualified in the field of grading, drainage and erosion control.

(16)    “Erosion hazard” means the susceptibility of a site to erosion, based on soils, conditions and steepness of a slope, rock type, vegetation, and other site factors.

(17)    “Excavation” means the mechanical removal of earth material.

(18)    “Fill” means the deposit of earth materials by artificial means.

(19)    Geotechnical Engineer. See “Soils Engineer.”

(20)    “Grade” means the vertical location of a point or elevation on a site. (Refer to “Slope” for the angle of the ground surface expressed as a ratio or percentage in relation to level ground.)

(a)    “Existing grade” means the grade prior to grading.

(b)    “Rough grade” means the stage where the approximate elevation(s) of the ground surface match the approved plans.

(c)    “Finished grade” means the final grade of the site which conforms to the approved plans.

(21)    “Grading” means any excavation, filling, leveling or combination thereof which qualifies either as regular or engineering grading under the terms of this chapter.

(22)    “Key” means a designed compacted fill placed in a trench excavated in earth material beneath the toe of a proposed fill slope.

(23)    “Land disturbance” means any clearing, excavation, grading or manipulation of the natural terrain which exposes soils to erosion hazards or alters the natural condition of the site. Land disturbances, in relation to previously existing conditions, may be classified as:


bearing little or no evidence of alteration;


bearing only minor changes in appearance or drainage patterns;


bearing definite differences in topography and/or drainage patterns, potentially affecting habitats which would require mitigation;


bearing major changes in topography, drainage patterns and/or habitats where extensive mitigation would be required to maintain the area ecology.

The degree of severity of such land disturbance and/or exposure shall be determined by the building official in conjunction with the provisions of Chapter 24.14 (Environmental Resource Management) of the zoning code.

(24)    “Lateral support” means and refers to the support that the land or soil receives from other land or soil around it. Support is lateral when the supported and supporting lands are divided by a vertical plane. At common law, an owner of land has the right to lateral support of his/her land from the adjoining parcels.

(25)    “Professional inspection” means inspections shall be performed by the civil engineer, soils engineer or engineering geologist or other erosion control specialist. Such inspections include those performed by persons supervised by such engineers or geologists and shall be sufficient to form an opinion relating to the conduct of the work. (See Special Inspectors, Section 18.45.120(5) of this chapter.)

(26)    “Runoff” means the movement of surface water over ground surface.

(27)    “Sediment” means eroded earth material that is carried by water, wind, gravity or ice and deposited into channels, lakes, rivers and other areas.

(28)    “Setback” means the distance from the toe or top of a slope, structure or property line where grading is to occur.

(29)    “Site” means any lot or parcel of land or contiguous combination thereof, under the same ownership, where grading is performed or permitted.

(30)    “Slope” means an inclined ground surface, the inclination of which is expressed as a ratio of horizontal distance to vertical distance. Slope is termed positive or negative depending on whether it rises or falls respectively from the point of observation. Percentage of slope is defined in one of three ways:


% slope = 100(y/x)


x = the horizontal axis

y = the vertical axis


% slope = 100(TAN theta)



% slope = difference in elevation in inches over a horizontal distance of 100 inches. (i.e.: a 30" rise in 100" = an average of 30% slope.)


(31)    “Soil” means naturally occurring superficial deposits overlying bedrock.

(32)    “Soils engineer (geotechnical engineer)” means an engineer, licensed by the state of California, who is experienced and knowledgeable in the practice of soils engineering.

(33)    “Soil engineering” means the application of the principles of soil mechanics in the investigation, evaluation and design of civil works involving the use of earth materials and the inspection and testing of the construction thereof.

(34)    “Stream (riparian corridor)” means any watercourse as designated by a solid line or a dash and three dots symbol shown on the largest scale of United States Geological Survey map most recently published, or shown in the general plan or as designated as part of the environmental review process.

(a)    “Perennial stream” means a stream or watercourse which runs generally year round.

(b)    “Intermittent stream” means a stream or watercourse which runs generally only during the wet season and tends to dry up between seasons.

(35)    “Ten-year storm” means a storm with such intensity and duration that its magnitude would only be exceeded, on the average, once every ten years. A one-hundred-year storm compares similarly, in that its intensity and duration is on a magnitude which would only be exceeded, on the average, once every one hundred years.

(36)    “Terrace” means a relatively level step constructed in the face of a graded slope surface for erosion control, drainage and maintenance purposes.

(37)    “Topsoil” means the first eight to sixteen inches of loose, friable, organic and fertile earth materials on top of a soil profile, usually referred to as the “A horizons.”

(38)    “Waterbreak” means a ditch, dike, dip, or combination thereof, constructed to effectively divert and/or slow water as an aid to erosion control.

(Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).


No person shall do any excavation, filling, clearing and/or erosion control work without first having obtained a permit from the city, except as exempted in subsection (1)(a) through (i), below. Cumulative grading as defined in Section 18.45.020 shall be taken into account when considering which type of grading permit (regular or engineering) to issue or if an exemption is appropriate. A separate grading permit shall be obtained for each site and may cover both excavations and fills.

(1)    Exemptions. A grading permit is not required for the following:

(a)    An excavation below finished grade from basements and footings of a building, retaining wall or other structure authorized by a valid building permit. This shall not exempt any fill containing material from such excavation or exempt any excavation having an unsupported height greater than five feet after completion of such structure.

This shall also not exempt any person from the requirements under Section 832 of the Civil Code requiring lateral and subjacent support to which each coterminous owner is entitled.

(b)    Building pads and driveways for which a valid building: permit has been issued.

However, while a separate grading permit is generally not required for driveways, the design standards as set forth in this title shall be adhered to:

Driveway design standards:

(i)    Driveways shall be designed incorporating existing contours to the maximum extent feasible.

(ii)    Driveways shall enter public/private streets in such a manner as to maintain adequate line of sight. In all cases, the public works director or his/her designee shall make final ruling on driveways entering public ways; the building official or his/her designee shall make final ruling on driveways entering private ways.

(iii)    Driveways may have a maximum grade of twenty-five percent of grade, except for the first ten feet from any right-of-way and any parking pad or entrance to a garage, which shall not exceed ten percent. The maximum transition between differing grades for any portion of a driveway shall not exceed fifteen percent over a ten-foot section. A pad not exceeding five percent slope may be established at the entrance to any garage or carport for a distance of ten feet. Approaches shall be designed as per public works standards when entering public ways. (Accompanying illustration is on file with Ord. 94-48 in the office of the city clerk.)

(c)    Individual cemetery graves.

(d)    Refuse disposal sites controlled by the city and excavations for individual sewage disposal systems made pursuant to the health agency permits.

(e)    Excavations for wells, tunnels or utilities when regulated by other authorities.

(f)    Exploratory excavations performed under the direction of a soils engineer or engineering geologist. Test bores shall be protected to prevent small children or animals from falling in, and no excavation shall be left unattended unless adequately shored to prevent failure or relieved to a maximum slope of one and one-half horizontal to one vertical. All such sites shall be returned to their original condition within forty-five days unless extended under agreement with the building official. Test or monitoring wells established on occupied sites shall be protected by appropriate fencing or enclosure as determined by the building official.

(g)    An excavation which:

(i)    Is less than two feet in depth, or

(ii)    Does not create a cut slope greater than five feet in height measured vertically from toe to top of slope and steeper than one and one-half horizontal to one vertical, or

(iii)    Comprises less than fifty cubic yards on any one lot.

(h)    A fill less than one foot in 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 fifty cubic yards on any one lot, and does not obstruct any drainage course.

(i)    When approved by the building official, minor grading in an isolated, self-contained area, if there is no danger to private or public property, except riparian corridors or other protected natural areas where permits are required for all grading operations.

Exemption from the permit requirements of this chapter shall not be deemed to grant authorization for any work to be done in any manner in violation of the provisions of this chapter or any other laws or ordinances of this jurisdiction.

No exemption shall be allowed within ten feet of any slope exceeding thirty percent, including clearing (scarifying), which would tend to increase erosion potential and reduce average slope.

(2)    Application. The provisions of Section 302 of the Uniform Building Code as adopted by this title are applicable to grading. The application shall also state the estimated quantities of material to be moved or placed, including import, export and on-site reuse of materials.

(3)    Prohibited Grading Areas. No grading permit shall be issued for a project located in a protected natural resource area, including species-protected area, archaeologically sensitive area, riparian corridor, or on slopes of thirty percent or greater unless an appropriate zoning permit for the special area is first obtained. No grading permit shall be issued within twenty feet of any thirty percent or greater slope, unless a variance granting such slope modification is first obtained within the Coastal Zone or a slope development permit pursuant to part 9 is obtained outside the Coastal Zone.

(Ord. 2022-08 § 1, 2022; Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).


Grading in excess of five thousand cubic yards shall be performed in accordance with the approved plan of an erosion control specialist and shall be designated as “engineered grading.” Grading involving less than five thousand cubic yards shall be designated as “regular grading,” unless the permittee chooses to have the grading performed as engineered grading, or the building official determines that special conditions or unusual hazards exist, in which case grading shall conform to the requirements for engineered grading.

(1)    Engineered Grading Requirements. Application for a grading permit shall be accompanied by a minimum of three sets of plans, two sets of specifications, and supporting data consisting of an engineering soils report and engineering geology report. Log borings shall be as specified by the engineer. The building official may require additional borings in questionable soils. The plans and specifications shall be prepared and signed by an individual licensed by the state of California to prepare such plans or specifications.

Specifications shall contain information covering construction and material requirements. Log borings may be cross-referenced to scale plans as to actual site location; however, a detail of each boring taken shall be contained in the report.

Plans shall be drawn to scale in either blueprint or photocopy form and shall be suitable for the purpose intended, sufficient in clarity to indicate the nature and extent of the work proposed, and show in detail that they will conform to the provisions of this chapter and all relevant laws, ordinances, rules and regulations. The first sheet of each set of plans shall give the location of the work, the name and address of the owner, and the person by whom they were prepared, as indicated by their affixed registration seal and original (wet) signature.

The plans shall include the following information:

(a)    General vicinity of the proposed work site;

(b)    Property limits, delineated by length and bearing, accurate contours of existing ground, and details of terrain and area drainage. Properties within one thousand feet of a riparian corridor and draining thereto shall indicate the presence of such corridor in relation to the property;

(c)    Limiting dimensions, elevations or finish contours to be achieved by the grading, and proposed drainage channels and related construction. Such details shall be clearly distinguishable from existing contour indications. Contours shall be normally detailed in two-foot increments, except for very large areas, which may use five-foot major contours. (Only the five-foot lines need be labeled if intermediate contour lines are also used.) Smaller details, such as building pads, roadways and driveways, shall be contoured as necessary using one-foot increments. In all cases, topography shall be indicated at least twenty feet from any proposed structure, even if such contours appear on an adjoining parcel.

Elevations shall be detailed in actual feet above sea level. A basis of bearings and elevations shall accompany each plan set;

(d)    Detailed plans of all surface and subsurface drainage devices, walls, cribbing, dams and other protective devices to be constructed with, or as a part of, the proposed work, together with a map showing the drainage area and the estimated runoff of the area served by any drains;

(e)    Location of any buildings or structures on the property where the work is to be performed, and the location of any buildings or structures on land of adjacent owners which are within fifteen feet of the property or which may be affected by the proposed grading operations;

(f)    Recommendations included in the soils engineering report and/or the engineering geology report shall be incorporated in the grading plans or specifications. When approved by the building official, specific recommendations contained in the soils engineering report and the engineering geology report, which are applicable to grading, may be included by reference;

(g)    The dates of the soils engineering and engineering geology reports, together with the names, addresses and phone numbers of the firms or individuals who prepared the reports.

(2)    Soils Engineering and Engineering Geology Report. The soils engineering report required by subsection (1) shall include data regarding the nature, distribution and strength of existing soils, conclusions and recommendations for grading procedures, and design criteria for corrective measures, including buttress fills, when necessary, and an opinion on the adequacy for the intended use of sites to be developed by the proposed grading as affected by soils engineering factors, including the stability of slopes.

The engineering geology report required by subsection (1)(g) shall include an adequate description of the geology of the site, conclusions and recommendations regarding the effect of geologic conditions on the proposed development, and an opinion on the adequacy for the intended use of sites to be developed by the proposed grading as affected by geologic factors.

(3)    Regular Grading Requirements. Each application for a grading permit shall be accompanied by a plan in sufficient clarity to indicate the nature and extent of the work. The plans shall give the location of the work, the name of the owner and the name of the person who prepared the plan. The plan shall include the following information:

(a)    General vicinity of the proposed site;

(b)    Limiting dimensions and depth of cut and fill;

(c)    Location of any buildings or structures where work is to be performed and the location of any buildings or structures within fifteen feet of the proposed grading;

(d)    Location of construction best management practices (BMPs) as required by the city’s mandatory storm water BMP manual, as published by the city’s public works department.

The provisions of Section 303 of the Uniform Building Code are applicable to grading permits. The building official may require that grading operations and project designs be modified if delays occur which incur weather-generated problems not considered at the time the permit was issued.

The building official may require professional inspection and testing by an approved special inspector. When the building official has reason to believe that geologic factors may be involved, the grading will be required to conform to engineered grading standards.

(Ord. 2014-07 § 1, 2014: Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).


The rainy season shall be generally considered to occur between October 15th and April 1st of each year in the city of Santa Cruz.

(1)    Grading shall not occur during the rainy season on or within ten feet of any slope greater than thirty percent.

(2)    Grading on slopes between ten percent and thirty percent may be approved throughout the rainy season provided an erosion control system approved by an erosion-control specialist is in place and the project does not present a hazard. No such grading may take place if precluded by the conditions of any discretionary zoning permit.

(3)    Grading may be allowed on slopes of less than ten percent during winter months, provided positive erosion-control methods are placed to prevent off-site movement of materials.

(4)    All grading or other land disturbance, regardless of the time of year or weather conditions, shall employ best management practices (BMP’s) as prescribed in this chapter.

(Ord. 2005-11 § 1, 2005: Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).


Emergency work necessary to preserve life or property under imminent threat of excessive erosion, slope failure or flooding, performed under this section, may occur as required, provided the person rendering such service reports all pertinent facts to the building official as soon as possible and no later than fifteen days after commencement of the work. Persons performing such emergency work shall thereafter obtain a permit pursuant to Section 18.45.030. Any such work as may be deemed reasonably necessary to correct any erosion or conditions with a potential to cause erosion as a result of such emergency work shall be performed as expeditiously as possible. An imminent threat shall not be construed to include ongoing erosion problems and is intended to refer to a sudden and unexpected alteration to slope stability or ponding due to natural occurrences such as heavy rain, earthquake, or other unusual circumstances.

(Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).

18.45.060 GRADING FEES.

The chief building official shall charge and receive such fees for services, inspections and permits relating to any work subject to this chapter as set forth in the fee schedule established by city council resolution.

(Ord. 2010-04 § 5, 2010: Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).

18.45.070 BONDS.

The building official may require bonds in sufficient amounts as may be deemed necessary to assure that the work, if not completed in accordance with the approved plans and specifications, will be corrected to eliminate hazardous conditions. Bonds shall be cash bonds or a letter of credit (interest payable to the person or firm required to supply such bond) from a regionally local banking institution, payable to the city of Santa Cruz upon a finding of default by the city council. Default shall be determined in one of two ways:

(1)    The project was not completed within the time specified in the conditions of a design permit approved for the project; or

(2)    The project constitutes an erosion hazard and the specified time has elapsed in a notice from the building official to complete said work without satisfactory performance on the property.

(Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).

18.45.080 CUTS AND FILLS.

(1)    General. Unless otherwise recommended in the approved soils engineering or engineering geology report, cuts and fills shall conform to the provisions of this section.

Minor cuts and fills not intended to support structures or other surcharges may be approved in the absence of an approved soils report or have additional provisions waived by the building official on a case-by-case basis.

(2)    Cut Slopes. The slope of cut surfaces shall be no steeper than is safe for the intended use and shall be no steeper than two horizontal to one vertical, unless the permittee furnishes a soils engineer or an engineering geology report, or both, stating the site has been investigated and giving an opinion that a cut at a steeper slope will be stable and not create a hazard to public or private property.

(3)    Retained Cuts. As provided in Section 301(b)5 of the Uniform Building Code, retaining walls not over four feet in height measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall are exempt from permit requirements. If such a wall is subjected to a surcharge, such as a structure or vehicle load, sufficient engineering shall be provided to demonstrate the adequacy of such a retaining wall to perform the function as designed and either an inclusive grading permit or building permit must be obtained depending upon the amount and depth of soil moved.

Cuts, regardless of height, which tend to alter the natural drainage of property and accelerate erosion, concentrate runoff, or otherwise create a hazardous condition, shall be reviewed by an engineer and permits obtained as provided for in this chapter.

(4)    Fill Slopes. Fill slopes shall not be constructed on natural slopes steeper than 2 to 1. The ground surface shall be prepared to receive fill by removing vegetation, noncomplying fill, topsoil and other unsuitable materials, scarifying to provide a bond with the new fill and, where slopes are steeper than 2 to 1 and the height is greater than five feet, by benching into sound bedrock or other competent material as determined by the soils engineer. The bench under the toe of a fill on a slope steeper than 5 to 1 shall be at least ten feet wide. The area beyond the toe of the fill shall be sloped for sheet overflow or a paved drain shall be provided. Such drains shall be constructed with energy dissipaters and shall discharge into an approved area. When fill is to be placed over a cut, the bench under the toe of fill shall be at least ten feet wide, but the cut shall be made before placing the fill and acceptance by the soils engineer or engineering geologist or both as a suitable foundation for fill.

(5)    Fill Material. Detrimental amounts of organic material shall not be permitted in fills. Except as permitted by the building official, no rock, broken concrete, asphalt, or similar irreducible materials with a maximum dimension greater than twelve inches shall be buried or placed in fills. In areas where leaching of oil may be detrimental to the quality of the water table, permission shall first be obtained from the water department before placing any asphaltic materials. No soils containing hazardous or toxic material of any kind may be used as fill within the city limits.

Exception. The building official may permit placement of larger rock when the soils engineer devises a method of placement and continuously inspects its placement and approves the fill stability. The following shall also apply:

(a)    Prior to issuance of a grading permit, provisions shall be made to separate organic materials, such as tree stumps and brush, as well as large rocks. An area for stockpiling shall be delineated on the grading plans as well as provisions for their disposition.

(b)    Rock greater than twelve inches in size may be placed a minimum of ten feet under the surface of the finish grade. Soils shall be compacted in short lifts around such materials to assure adequate filling around the large rock and preventing voids.

(6)    Compaction. All fills shall be compacted to a minimum relative density of 90%. The top eighteen inches may be excepted when no load is expected, and the slope does not exceed 2 horizontal to 1 vertical.

(7)    Slope. The maximum slope of fill surfaces shall not exceed 2 horizontal to 1 vertical or steeper than is safe, whatever occurs first. Batter walls using only large aggregate may be excepted with proper engineering.

(Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).

18.45.090 SETBACKS.

(1)    General. Cut-and-fill slopes shall be set back from site boundaries in accordance with this section. Setback dimensions shall be horizontal distances measured perpendicular to the site boundary. Setback dimensions shall be as shown in the accompanying figure (on file in the office of the city clerk).

(2)    Top of Cut Slope. The top of cut slopes shall not be made nearer to a site boundary line than one-fifth of the vertical height of the cut, with a minimum of two feet and a maximum of ten feet. The setback may need to be increased for any required interceptor drains.

(3)    Toe of Fill Slope. The toe of a fill slope shall be made not nearer to the site boundary line than one-half the height of the slope, with a minimum of two feet and a maximum of twenty feet. Where a fill slope is to be located near the site boundary and the adjacent off-site property is developed, special precautions shall be incorporated in the work as the building official deems necessary to protect the adjoining property from damage as a result of such grading. These precautions may include, but are not limited to:

(a)    Additional setbacks;

(b)    Provision for retaining or slough walls;

(c)    Mechanical or chemical treatment of the fill slope to minimize erosion;

(d)    Provisions for the control of both surface water and subsurface water, such as springs, which may exert undesirable pressures on the fill slope.

(4)    Modification of Slope Location. The building official may approve alternative setbacks. The building official may require an investigation and recommendation by a qualified engineer or engineering geologist to demonstrate that the intent of this section has been satisfied.

(Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).


Drainage plans shall be prepared as provided in Section 24.14.050 of this code.

(1)    Terraces. Terraces at least six feet in width shall be established at not more than thirty-foot intervals on all cut or fill slopes to control surface drainage and debris, except that where only one terrace is required, it shall be at mid-height. For cut or fill slopes greater than sixty feet and up to one hundred and twenty feet in vertical height, one terrace at approximately mid-height shall be twelve feet in width. Terrace widths and spacing for cut-and-fill slopes greater than one hundred and twenty feet in height shall be designated by the civil engineer and approved by the building official. Suitable access shall be provided to permit proper cleaning and maintenance.

Swales or ditches on terraces shall have a minimum gradient of 5% and must be paved with reinforced concrete not less than three inches in thickness or an approved equal paving. They shall have a minimum depth at the deepest point of one foot and a minimum paved area of five feet.

A single run of swale or ditch shall not collect runoff from a tributary area exceeding thirteen thousand five hundred square feet (projected horizontally) without discharging into a down drain.

(2)    Subsurface Drainage. Cut-and-fill slopes shall be provided with subsurface drainage as necessary for stability.

(3)    Disposal of Drainage. All drainage facilities shall be designed to carry waters to the nearest practicable drainage way approved by the appropriate jurisdiction as a safe place to deposit such waters. Erosion of ground in the area of discharge shall be prevented by installation of nonerosive down drains and other devices.

Building pads shall have a drainage gradient of 2% minimum toward approved drainage facilities unless waived by the building official.

Exception. The gradient from the building pad may be 1% if all of the following conditions exist throughout the permit boundary area:

(a)    No proposed fill area greater than ten feet in maximum depth;

(b)    No proposed finish cut or fill slope faces have a vertical height in excess of ten feet;

(c)    No existing slope faces, which have a slope face steeper than 10 horizontal to 1 vertical have a vertical height in excess of ten feet.

(4)    Interceptor Drains. Paved interceptor drains shall be installed along the top of all cut slopes where the tributary drainage area above the slopes toward the cut has a drainage path greater than forty feet measured horizontally. Interceptor drains shall be paved with a minimum of three inches of concrete or gunite and reinforced. They shall have a minimum depth of twelve inches and a minimum paved width of thirty inches, measured horizontally across the drain. The slope of drain shall be approved by the building official.

(5)    Oil Separators. Interceptor drains receiving runoff from paved areas likely to be fouled with motor oil or grease shall be equipped with approved-type oil separators prior to discharge into any waterway.

(Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).


In addition to the erosion control requirements outlined in Section 24.14.060 (Erosion hazard areas), the following shall apply to all cut-and-fill slopes:

The faces of cut-and-fill slopes shall be prepared and maintained to control against erosion. This control may consist of effective planting, use of armor rock, terracing, water breaks, check dams, cribbing, rip rap, or combinations thereof. The protection for the slopes shall be installed as soon as practicable and prior to calling for final inspection. During the approach of the rainy season, the contractor performing the work shall be prepared to install temporary measures as required to protect exposed areas until permanent measures can be taken. Where cut slopes are not subject to erosion, due to the erosion resistant character of the materials, such protection may be omitted with the permission of the building official.

(Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).

18.45.115 DUST CONTROL.

Contractors performing grading operations within the city where dry conditions or dry admixtures are encountered shall adequately and effectively control dust to prevent spread off-site or onto existing structures on-site. Prior to commencement of grading operations, the contractor shall furnish details of proposed dust control measures to the building official for approval. Failure to control dust shall result in suspension of grading operations until adequate measures are in place to allow continuance.

(Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).


(1)    General. Grading operations for which a permit is required shall be subject to inspection by the building official. Professional inspection of grading operations shall be provided by the civil, soils and/or geological engineer(s) of record and retained to provide such services when requested by the building official as provided for in subsections (2) through (4) below.

(2)    Civil Engineer. Upon request of the building official, the civil engineer shall provide professional inspection within such engineer’s area of technical specialty, which shall consist of observation and review as to the establishment of line, grade and surface drainage of the development area. If revised plans are required during the course of the work, they shall be prepared under the supervision of the civil engineer.

(3)    Soils Engineer. Upon request of the building official, the soils engineer shall provide professional inspection within such engineer’s area of technical specialty, which shall include observation during grading and testing for required compaction. The soils engineer shall provide sufficient observation during the preparation of the natural ground, and placement and compaction of the fill, to verify that such work is being performed in accordance with the conditions of the approved plan and the appropriate requirements of this chapter. Revised recommendations relating to conditions differing from the approved soils engineering and engineering geology reports shall be submitted to the permittee, the building official and the civil engineer.

(4)    Engineering Geologist. Upon request of the building official, the engineering geologist shall provide professional inspection within such engineer’s area of technical specialty, which shall include professional inspection of the bedrock excavation to determine if conditions encountered are in conformance with the approved report. Revised recommendations relating to conditions differing from the approved engineering geology report shall be submitted to the soils engineer.

(5)    Special Inspectors. Special inspectors may be employed by the owner upon approval by the building official or may be required by the building official. A special inspector may not be employed by the contractor or engineer of record. Each special inspector shall be qualified in the particular field of expertise and shall meet eligibility criteria as established by the building official.

Only qualified laboratory facilities shall be employed for soil sampling and testing outside of the design engineer. Each laboratory and/or test facility shall meet the requirements established under the guidelines as approved jointly by the East Bay, Peninsula and Monterey Bay Chapters of the International Conference of building officials. Each qualified laboratory or special inspection agency shall be required to sign a contract of responsibilities with the City, unless waived by the building official.

(6)    Permittee. The permittee shall be responsible for the work to be performed in accordance with the approved plans and specifications and in conformance with the provisions of this chapter, and the permittee shall engage consultants, if required by the building official, to provide professional inspections on a timely basis. The permittee shall act as a coordinator between the consultants, the contractor and the building official. In the event of changed conditions, the permittee shall be responsible for informing the building official of such changes, and shall provide revised plans for the approval.

(7)    Building Official. The building official shall inspect the project at various stages of work requiring approval to determine that adequate control is being exercised by the professional consultants.

(8)    Notification of Noncompliance. If, in the course of fulfilling their respective duties under this chapter, the civil, soils or geological engineer finds that the work is not being done in conformance with this chapter or the approved grading plans, the discrepancies shall be reported immediately in writing to both the permittee and the building official.

(9)    Archeological Discovery. If in the course of any grading operation, any artifacts, human remains, or substantial fossils are discovered, all grading operations shall cease, and the discovery site suitably marked and protected from further damage. A report of such findings shall be as outlined in Section 24.12.430 of the Zoning Ordinance; specifically, if human remains are discovered, the sheriff-coroner and planning director shall be notified. If no human remains are discovered, but artifacts or significant fossils are discovered, the planning director shall be notified.

(Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).


(1)    Final Reports. Upon completion of the rough grading work and at the final completion of the work, the following reports and drawings and supplements thereto are required for engineered grading, or when professional inspection is performed for regular grading, as required:

(a)    An as-built grading plan prepared by the civil engineer retained to provide such services in accordance with Section 18.45.120 showing original ground surface elevations, as-graded ground surface elevations, lot drainage patterns and the locations and elevations of surface drainage facilities and the outlets of subsurface drains. As-constructed locations, elevations and details of subsurface drains shall be shown as reported by the soils engineer.

Civil engineers shall state that, to the best of their knowledge, the work within their area of responsibility was done in accordance with the final approved grading plan.

(b)    A report prepared by the soils engineer retained to provide such services in accordance with Section 18.45.120, including locations and elevations of field density tests, summaries of field and laboratory tests, other substantiating data and comments on any changes made during grading and their effect on the recommendations made in the approved soils engineering investigative report. Soils engineers shall submit a statement that, to the best of their knowledge, the work within their areas of responsibility is in accordance with the approved soils engineering report and applicable provisions of this chapter.

(c)    A report prepared by the engineering geologist retained to provide such services in accordance with Section 18.45.120, including a final description of the geology of the site and any new information disclosed during grading, and the effect of same on recommendations incorporated in the approved grading plan. Engineering geologists shall submit a statement that, to the best of their knowledge, the work within their area of responsibility is in accordance with the approved engineering geologist’s report and applicable provisions of this chapter.

(d)    The grading contractor shall submit in writing, upon their business letterhead, a statement of conformance to said as-built plan and specifications.

(2)    Notification of Completion. The permittee shall notify the building official when the grading operation is ready for final inspection. Final approval shall not be given until all work, including installation of all drainage facilities and their protective devices, and all erosion-control measures have been completed in accordance with the final approved grading plan, all debris and waste has been properly removed from the site, and the required reports have been submitted.

(Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).


From time to time, the building official may transfer authority to enforce the provisions of this chapter to other qualified city inspection staff such as public works or water department engineering staff for such projects as the development of subdivision infrastructure involving streets, roads and sidewalks or other infrastructure work to be dedicated in the public way, and development of city-constructed and/or maintained facilities.

The building official may also transfer authority to the civil, soils or geologic engineer of record to make specified inspections for suitability and placement of materials, verification of grades, etc. A special inspector, as described in Section 18.45.120(5) of this chapter shall be employed when required by the building official.

Should the engineer of record change during grading, work shall be stopped until the replacement has agreed in writing to accept responsibility for the work within the area of their technical competence to the satisfaction of the building official.

It shall be the responsibility of the permittee to notify the building official in writing of such change prior to recommencement of grading operations.

(Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).

18.45.150 VIOLATIONS.

(1)    Work Stoppage. Whenever the building official determines that the work does not comply with the terms of the permit or of this chapter, he or she may order the immediate cessation of all work thereunder until such corrective measures have been completed.

(2)    Right of Entry. Whenever the building official has reasonable and/or probable cause to believe that there exists accelerated erosion, and/or a violation of this chapter, he/she may enter such site at all reasonable times to inspect the same, to perform any duty imposed upon him/her by this chapter; providing that, if such premises are occupied, he/she shall first present proper credentials and request entry, and if the premises are found to be unoccupied, he/she shall first make a reasonable effort to locate the owner or other person having charge or control of said premises and request entry. If such entry is refused, the building official shall have recourse to every remedy provided by law to secure entry.

(3)    Notification of Violation. Any person found to be in violation of the provisions of this chapter shall be required to correct the problem upon written notification from the building official. Such written notification may require that certain conditions be adhered to in the correction of the problem. These may include, but are not limited to, the following:

(a)    Use of specific erosion-control techniques;

(b)    Submittal of plans and specifications to be approved by the community development department, and any other department affected by such work, prior to the commencement of corrective work;

(c)    Completion of corrective work within a specified time period.

(4)    Abatement of Violation. If the responsible party fails to act in response to written notification of the building official, the violation may be declared a public nuisance and be abated as required to restore the site to its original condition. Where there is an emergency condition of erosion or sediment damaging a waterway, marsh, or other body of water, or significant habitat or archeological site, the building official may have the necessary corrective work done and bill the property owner or lien the property for repayment.

(5)    Penalties.

(a)    Any person, whether as principal, agent, employee or otherwise, violating, or causing or permitting the violation of any of the provisions of this chapter shall be deemed guilty as follows:

(i)    Violations of the requirement for regular grading permits shall be infractions, punishable as set forth in the Santa Cruz County Uniform Bail Schedule;

(ii)    Violations of the requirement for engineering grading permits shall be misdemeanors, punishable as set forth in the Santa Cruz County Uniform Bail Schedule;

(iii)    Any person, firm or corporation who shall place upon a slope greater than thirty percent or within one hundred fifty feet of the high-water mark of a riparian corridor any fill, debris, spoils or other deleterious material exceeding fifty cubic yards, without an approved grading permit shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable as set forth in the Santa Cruz County Uniform Bail Schedule.

(b)    Each separate day or portion thereof during which any violation occurs or continues without a good-faith effort by the responsible person to correct the violation shall be deemed to constitute a separate offense.

(c)    In addition to the above-noted penalties, the building official is hereby authorized to attach an investigation fee, equal to twice the grading permit fee, to any such permit issued for corrective action.

(6)    Enforcement. The building official and/or his/her designated subordinate(s) is hereby authorized and directed to enforce all the provisions of this chapter. For such purpose, the building official shall have the powers of a law enforcement officer.

(7)    Appeals. Any person who believes the chief building official has erred in the technical application of this chapter may appeal such action to the board of building appeals as provided in Chapter 18.41 of the Municipal Code.

(Ord. 95-25 § 8, 1995: Ord. 94-48 § 1 (part), 1994).