San Jose Building Permit Processes

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San Jose Permitting

Guiding Through Building Permits in San Jose

This is for any person or stakeholder involved in the construction process in San Jose. When it comes to permitting, there is a lot of information that most of us don’t think about when dealing with a Tenant Improvement, New Construction, or simple signage permit, for example. This guide will keep you on track on a reasonable timeline.


San Jose New Construction

New Construction will generally be required to go through the entitlement process and/or Change of Use. If you have a new construction project in San Jose, contact Burnham and we will help get you set up for success and in contact with the correct parties at the city to organize a smooth strategy for permitting through all required city authorities

Burnham has pioneered the use of phased permitting which allows construction to run continuously rather than waiting for all the plans to be completed.

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Tenant Improvement Permit Process

This process is the most standard and common commercial permit process reviewed in the City of San Jose. Prior to the COVID shutdown there were additional options to complete the reviews, however at this time every TI project is submitted electronically and follows the standard intake review process.

You will first need to ask yourself the following questions: Does this project include a change of use? Is there Exterior Work? What is the construction cost? Will there be structural work? Does my project include a scope of work needing Health Review? Once you have your questions answered.

Follow this Permit Review Checklist:

  • Project Drawings
  • Building Permit Application
  • Building Occupancy Classification Form
  • Accessibility Compliance Form
  • Industrial Use Designation Form
  • General Contractor needed to have permit issued and requires Workman’s Comp
  • Certificate of Insurance (COI)
  • If Health Review required, plans will need to be submitted to Santa Clara County Dept. of Environmental Health separately from the City of San Jose. 

The average timeline for a Tenant Improvement application takes 4-8 weeks for the first review, and can take up to 4-5 months for permit to be fully approved and issued. With the help of one of our Project Managers that time can possibly be decreased significantly.

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Exterior Work or Change of Use

Exterior Work or Change of Use will generally take additional time in order for the Planning Department to review and approve the project. If the project requires a Change of Use process, expect approximately 8-10 months to achieve the approval prior to submitting to the Building Department.

If the project doesn’t require a full change of use review, but there is exterior work being done, it may need to go through the Major/Minor Permit to Alter process through Planning. Contact Burnham to assist with coordination with the Planning Department to get the process started and to determine the exact requirements and may trigger different review types.

Whether your project requires standard Building review or any Planning reviews, your plans will then need approval from the City in the following departments:

  • Architecture and Accessibility
  • Electrical
  • Fire
  • Mechanical
  • Plumbing
  • Structural
  • Planning/Zoning
  • Public Works
  • Health (only if applicable)

The average timeline for a Minor Permit to Alter through the Planning Dept. may add an additional 1-2 weeks for first review to the standard Building Permit process described above. For a Major Permit to Alter, the extent of the work will determine the approximate review timeline and can be anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months for the 1st review of the project through Planning.

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