Site Plan Design Review Checklist Exemptions


If your parcel is zoned with a “B” Community Design Review Special Area Designator, you may be required to obtain a Site Plan for the development you have planned. A Site Plan is a discretionary permit used to establish design and configuration of a proposed development in accordance with the County’s Zoning Ordinance and applicable Community Plan and Design Guidelines. Processing of a Site Plan can take anywhere from 3-12 months, and can cost an average of $20,000, depending on the complexity of the proposed project. The Design Review Checklist Exemption provides an alternative to this process. Projects found to be consistent with the applicable Community Design Review Checklist will be exempt from the Site Plan Permit process.

Benefits of the Design Review Checklist Exemption include:

  • Streamlined environmental review,
  • Clear standards,
  • Reduced cost, and
  • Reduced time for discretionary review.

Please note, however, that all projects must still comply with all applicable Federal, State, and Local policies and ordinances including but not limited to the County’s Watershed Protection, Landscape, Grading, and Centerline Ordinances.

Once you have determined that you are required to obtain a Site Plan Permit, complete the following steps:

  1. Determine if a Design Review Checklist is available for your parcel. Specifically, does your parcel have a “B” Special Area Designator, and is it located within a community which currently has an established Design Review Checklist? A list of current Design Review Checklists can be found below.
  2. Review the Site Plan Design Review Checklist Exemption Instructions and determine if your project meets all relevant prerequisites.
  3. Complete the applicable Design Review Checklist and confirm that your project meets all listed requirements, and gather all required submittal materials, including fees, plot plans, and a Preliminary Grading Plan. See the B Designator Design Review Checklist Exemption Application for required materials.
  4. Submit the completed application and associated fees to Planning & Development Services (PDS). Once submitted, PDS will supply the application materials to the relevant Design Review Board or Community Planning/Sponsor Group for a recommendation.

To learn more about Design Review Checklist Exemptions, please contact Denise Russell, Planning Manager, at (619) 694-9349 or

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can I determine which checklist I should use for my property?

The following communities have Design Review Checklists that can be used for a Checklist Exemption:

Is my project eligible for a Design Review Checklist Exemption?

Projects must meet all prerequisites listed below to qualify for a Design Review Checklist Exemption:

  • Parcel is zoned with a “B” Community Design Review Special Area Designator.
  • Project is consistent with General Plan, Zoning Ordinance, and applicable Community Plan.
  • Project is not governed by a pre-existing Site Plan Permit or other discretionary permit.
  • Project does not require approval of any other discretionary permits from the County of San Diego.
  • Project site does not have any unresolved code enforcement violations.
  • Subject parcel is not zoned with a

o “D” Design Review Special Area Designator,

o “H” Historic/Archeological Landmark Special Area Designator, or

o “V” Vernal Pool Special Area Designator.

  • Project does not propose to impact or disturb:

o Biological resources,

o Floodway or 100-year floodplain,

o Steep slopes in excess of 25%, and

o Significant or prominent natural features.

How do I apply for a Design Review Exemption?

Fill out the forms listed on the application sheet found here. Fill out the checklist for the corresponding community (see FAQ question 1 for list of communities). Submit the plans, the exemption checklist, all forms, and the required fee to the Zoning Counter at 5510 Overland Avenue, San Diego.

How do I get on the Design Review Board or Community Planning/Sponsor Group agenda for project review?

After you submit your project application, counter staff will send your project documents to the applicable community group. It is the applicant’s responsibility to contact the group, get on the agenda, and present the project for a recommendation from the group. Contact information for Design Review Boards can be found on the following link.