Improvement Plan Application User Guide

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    Improvement plans are engineering plans that are required when improvements are proposed within the public rights-of-way, easements dedicated to the County of San Diego, and certain private road improvements within private road easements.  Public rights-of-way, also considered easements, are usually located beyond your property line and contain things like streets and alleyways that contain public infrastructure.  These easements have been dedicated to the County and are typically reserved for public improvements like sewer lines, storm drains, and channels.  Private road easements are strips of land that have been granted by a property owner and reserved for private roads and infrastructure.  These easements are not publicly maintained, and are usually created with tentative maps and tentative parcel maps.

    Improvement plans must be prepared by a civil engineer licensed in the State of California.  They are usually submitted by applicants of privately initiated development projects conditioned to complete the improvements.  Typical examples of public improvements that require improvement plans are:

    • Installation of new storm drains
    • Installation of new sewer and water mains
    • Installation of new streets and street improvements
    • Roadway widenings and realignments
    • Channel improvements

    Typical examples of private road improvements that require improvement plans are new roadways and roadway widening associated with tentative maps and tentative parcel maps.

    PDS is committed to helping customers navigate the grading permit process and ensuring customer satisfaction. When issues arise, applicants can request a Project Issue Resolution (PIR) Conference at any time in the process to discuss issues with Executive Management and County project staff.


    The requirement for public improvement plans typically arises during the review and processing of development applications.  The requirement may come from conditions of approval associated with discretionary permit approvals like tentative maps and major use permits or centerline reviews associated with building permits.  Occasionally, the requirement may come from a property owner seeking to improve their frontage as a betterment to their development and/ or community.

    Whether or not improvement plans are required will depend on the type and extent of public improvements proposed.  For example, improvement plans may not be required for minor improvements when allowed by staff.  Examples of minor improvements include: 

    • Driveway & approaches
    • Streetlights
    • Striping
    • Storm & Sewer laterals
    • Curb & gutter replacement
    • Sidewalk installation
    • Handicap ramp construction
    • Installation of trees

    Sometimes, conditions of approval placed upon a development application (for example, a requirement to widen a street or provide public storm drain improvements) are in themselves enough to trigger the need for plans, and the requirement to submit an improvement plan is conditioned with development approval. 

    Land Use Regulation on Tribal Reservation Fee Lands – County regulatory authority and ordinances do not apply to Tribal Reservation Fee Lands.  Therefore, although not subject to County Centerline Ordinance, the County Department of Public Works (DPW) Director is delegated authority in the County Code to condition encroachment permits to protect public road right-of-way.  A Public Road Improvement Plan along with a Special Conditions Agreement detailing the performance and obligations for completion of improvements must been submitted and reviewed by County staff to allow the necessary right-of-way permits to be issued to construct and inspect any work performed within County public right-of-way.

    While improvement plans are usually required for work within a public easement, there are certain exceptions.  For example, a project proposing one single-family residence with a building permit may need to construct a concrete driveway within the public right-of-way.  In this instance, the driveway would need to meet certain design criteria, but may be considered a minor improvement that would not require an improvement plan prepared by a licensed civil engineer.  

    The determination on whether improvement plans are required for minor improvements is made by Planning & Development Services (PDS) staff at the Land Development Counter. They can be reached at (858) 694-2055. 


    There are three types of improvement plans. Each type of application has different submittal requirements, as explained later in this guide.  Below is a summary of the different types of improvement plans.  PDS staff is available to assist you in determining the correct application for your project.  To find out more information or determine which process is correct for your project, please call or visit the Land Development Counter.

    1. Public Improvement Plan – Prepared for public improvements within pubic rights-of-way and easements. 
    2. Major Improvement Plan – Prepared for private roads associated with tentative maps (more than four parcels).
    3. Minor Improvement Plan – Prepared for private roads associated with tentative parcel maps.
    4. Self-Certification Minor Improvement Plan - Prepared for private roads serving up but no more than 4 parcels. Please refer to the self-certification website for more details on requirements for this type of permit (click here)

    During intake, the Planning & Development Services Land Development counter will determine which resources must review the project based upon the type and location of the project. Depending upon the specifics of the project, outside agency approval can also be required. Some examples of other departments and jurisdictions that may be involved in the permit process include:



    • The Department of Public Works: Private Development Construction Inspection, Flood Control, Field Operations, Materials Lab, Special Districts for Private Road Districts (PRD), Wastewater Engineering, Traffic Engineering, Watershed Protection, and Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Divisions. 
    • Department of Environmental Health and Quality
    • Department of Parks and Recreation



    • Regional Water Quality Control Board
    • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
    • California Department of Fish and Wildlife
    • State Water Resources Control Board
    • Local Fire District
    • CalTrans
    • United States Fish and Wildlife Service



    PDS strives to process all permits efficiently to keep costs down and to work with the community and applicants to resolve issues. The cost and timeline for processing a Improvement Plan may vary based on technical studies and the complexity of the review.

    The timelines for permit issuance can vary based on the number of iteration reviews, as well as various factors, such as the resubmittal times of applicants, and the overall complexity of the project review.

    Our Final Engineering Permit Review and Cost Guide provides an estimate of the total costs required for the County to process a permit based on the scope of the specific project review. Applicants can also submit for an optional initial consultation meeting to obtain more detailed cost, scope, and time estimates.

How Do I Submit an Improvement Plan?

To identify what type of permit is required for your project, visit our Building Services Land Development Counter at 5510 Overland Ave, San Diego, CA 92123, call us at (858) 694-2055 or visit our website.

This step is Optional:

Submit a request for an Initial Consultation meeting. This process is available to and recommended for applicants wanting input on requirements, design, and cost and time estimates before submittal.          

Complete all required forms, plans, documents, and studies as  required by the improvement plan application checklist. 

Identify the required fee/deposit required for the application.

Make an appointment to submit the complete application and initial deposit in-person at the Land Development counter, located at 5510 Overland Avenue. Or submit the complete application via email to

A PDS Land Development Engineer will be assigned to the project and will contact you once the review is complete.

Submittal Requirement's Introduction

The tables below indicate the forms and deposits that must be submitted for each type of improvement plan application.  Please review this information and complete and submit the submittal checklist and required documents listed below.

 For in-person submittals, please bring the completed checklist, all completed forms and application materials, and a check for the correct amount Land Development Counter located at 5510 Overland Avenue, Suite 110 (First Floor).  Applications can be submitted Monday – Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Except County Holidays).

PDS is happy to assist you with any questions you may have on this process. Please call our Land Development Counter at (858) 694-2055 or email with any questions.

Part 1: Forms

This table indicates the required forms that must be submitted for each Improvement plan application type.

Application Type


Submittal Checklist

Stormwater Documents

Conditions of Approval or Covenant of Improvement

Covenant of Improvements for Private Road Improvement Plans

Centerline Review for Public Road Improvement Plans

Public Improvement








Major Improvement








Minor Improvement*








*The self-certification website for forms and fees

Additional documents and studies may be requested after the first review of the application. A project manager will be assigned to your application and will contact you early in the process to discuss additional studies or documents that may be required.  

Part 2: Fee and Deposit Schedule

The deposit or fees required for each type of Improvement Permit or Grading Permit application is below.  A copy of our complete fee ordinance can be found here.

Application Type



Public Improvement Plan



Major Improvement Plan



Minor Improvement Plan*



* Click here for the self-certification website for forms and fees     

Deposit accounts are charged based on the time staff spends reviewing the project.  Depending upon the staff time needed to review the project, an additional deposit may be required. 

Part 3: Improvement Plan Submittal Checklist

For an application to be accepted, the forms and documents listed in part one (forms) must be submitted along with the required deposit or fee listed in part 2 (fee and deposit schedule).  Please place a checkmark in each form being submitted and bring this page with you when you submit your application.    

    Type of application being submitted: _______________          

  • Land Development Application (PDS-811)
  • Fee/Deposit: ________________
  • Application Deposit Acknowledgement and Agreement (PDS-126)
  • Improvement plan
  • Improvement Plan Pre-Screen Submittal Checklist (PDS-820)
  • Improvement Plan Cost Estimate (2 copies)
  • Transmittal letter from EOW listing all items being submitted
  • Stormwater Intake form and stormwater  document (Standard or PDP SWQMP): Intake form and Standard Project SWQMP  or PDP SWQMP
  • The resolution of approval/ notice of decision and approved Discretionary Site Plan or Tentative Map, signed and approved by Project Planning (if applicable)
  • The recorded Covenant of Improvements for Private Road Improvement Plans or Centerline Review for Public Road Improvement Plans (if applicable)
  • Conditions of Approval
  • Drainage Study (2 copies)
  • USB Drive Containing PDF of each document listed in this checklist (PDS-839)