Prescreen User Guide

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    A Prescreen is a preliminary review performed by PDS Land Development for applicants wishing to obtain approval of a grading plan or improvement plan. The Prescreen review ensures that the applicant has completed and submitted all the necessary documents in order to start the review process for their grading plan or improvement plan. It also gives County staff the opportunity to research the project, determine which County departments need to be involved in the review, and provide feedback to the applicant regarding their project. If your goal is the approval of a grading or improvement plan, the Prescreen is the first step in the process.


    A Prescreen review is required for all grading and improvement plans that are processed through PDS Land Development. The following is a summary of all plan types that will require a Prescreen review:

    • Major Grading Plan
    • Minor Grading Plan
    • Temporary Stockpile Grading Plan
    • Major Subdivision Improvement Plan (based on a Tentative Map)
    • Minor Subdivision Improvement Plan (based on a Tentative Parcel Map)
    • Public Improvement Plan

    Applicants should use the Prescreen Checklist provided by PDS Land Development in order to ensure that all the necessary documents are included with the Prescreen submittal. The required documents may slightly vary depending on the type of project, but all Prescreen submittals should include at least the following:


    Following the Prescreen drop-off appointment, the submittal package will be routed to PDS Land Development for review. Once the Prescreen package has been routed to the PDS Land Development reviewer, the review will be completed within 10 business days. Once the review is complete, the reviewer will reach out to the applicant to let them know the Prescreen review has been completed. 


    In addition to the grading ordinance, there are several other ordinances that a proposed grading permit may need to comply with.  Below is a list and link to some of the common ordinances that apply to grading permits:


    In addition to the Ordinances listed above, grading permit applications must conform with adopted County design manuals and standards.  The most common design manuals and standards are listed below:


    During the Prescreen review process, PDS Land Development will make a determination on which County departments (i.e. Internal and facilitated through the County review) will need to review the project during the 1st review.  Based on the proposed project impacts, other jurisdictional agency (i.e. external and not facilitated through the County review) approval(s) can also be required. Other jurisdictional agency approval will be determined after the 1st review, not during the Prescreen review, and must be coordinated by the applicant or Engineer-of-Work. Some examples of County departments (internal) and jurisdictions (external) 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 Grading Permit 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.




    After the Prescreen review is completed, the reviewer from PDS Land Development will reach out to the applicant to let them know the status of their review. The reviewer will give clear instructions to the applicant on how to resubmit for an official 1st review of their project. A Prescreen review summary letter will be given to the applicant that clearly summarizes the following:

    • What to resubmit to the Land Development Counter for a complete 1st submittal.
    • Which County departments will be reviewing the plans.
    • Any project-specific requirements.
    • Any formatting revisions needed to the grading or improvement plans.

    Once the applicant has received confirmation that the Prescreen review is complete, the 1st review is a walk-in in-person resubmittal with the Land Development Counter.


    In the event that the Prescreen submittal contains insufficient information, the review may be deemed incomplete by the PDS Land Development reviewer. Key reasons for an incomplete submittal are summarized below:

    • The grading or improvement plans do not contain the necessary design information for Final Engineering or Constructability review.
    • Does not follow the required grading and improvement plan formatting.
    • The information and documents required on the Prescreen Checklist are not provided with the Prescreen submittal package.

    If the Prescreen review is deemed incomplete, the applicant will be informed by the PDS Land Development reviewer within the 10-business day review period. The applicant will then need to coordinate with the Land Development reviewer to resubmit the prescreen, once the package is no longer incomplete.

    The intention behind this procedure is to ensure that the applicant has all the required documents for a complete 1st submittal. This ensures efficiency with the overall permit process.  

How Do I Submit a Prescreen?

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 grading 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, or submit the complete application by email to the LD Permit Counter.  Complete all required forms, plans, documents, and studies as required by the prescreen checklist. 

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

Submittal Requirement's Introduction

Applicants should use the Prescreen Checklist provided by PDS Land Development in order to ensure that all the necessary documents are included with the Prescreen submittal. The required documents may slightly vary depending on the type of project, but all Prescreen submittals should include at least the following:


For in-person submittals, please make a submittal appointment through our website. 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).  Appointments are available Monday – Friday at 9:00 a.m. or 10:0 a.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.

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



Agricultural Minor Grading



Agricultural Major Grading



Building Major Grading*

Plan Check $967 /Permit $720


Minor Residential Grading Self-Certification*

Plan Check $440 /Permit $699


Minor Grading



Major Grading



Stockpile Permit



Public Improvement Plan



Major Improvement Plan



Minor Improvement Plan



*All grading processed through the Building Division will need to complete that application and for Self-Certification see that site for requirements (here)
  • Any Project that is on Septic will pay a Flat fee of $482 for the Department of Environmental Health and Quality (DEHQ) review.
  • If the project is being submitted to address a Code Compliance case, the applicant must pay an additional $600 deposit in addition to the deposits and fees listed above and the owner/applicant must obtain the required stamps from their Code Compliance Officer prior to submittal.
  • 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.
  • Fees are one-time only payments to cover staff review of the application.   
  • For all grading processed through the Building Division, the above fee’s are for reference only. For all fee’s associated with this permit please contact the Building Division Hotline (858) 565-5920.

Prescreen Submittal Checklist

Once the applicant has a complete Prescreen submittal package, per the direction above, they may submit the documents to the Land Development Counter on the 1st floor of 5510 Overland Avenue, San Diego, CA 92123. Please note that an appointment must be made with the Land Development Counter to schedule the Prescreen review drop-off. This is so the Land Development Counter can create a record ID for the project and intake all of the applicable documents. 

For an application to be accepted, the forms and documents listed above must be submitted along with the required deposit or fee listed in the Fee and Deposit Schedule.  Please place a checkmark below for each form being submitted and bring this page with you when you submit your application.  

    Type of application being submitted: _______________