I want to build a deck on my property. What do I need to do?

Since the deck that is proposed may create land coverage, the activity may be a project that requires a TRPA permit before it can be constructed. Before a project application is submitted, TRPA needs to verify two important things: the land capability of the property and the amount of existing land coverage. This information can be obtained from two sources:

  • Existing records available from the TRPA
  • By submitting a site assessment application to TRPA

A site assessment will verify your land capability, which determines the amount of allowable land coverage on the parcel, and your existing land coverage on the parcel. These amounts may then be compared to determine if coverage is available to build a deck. If the existing coverage exceeds the allowable amount, the TRPA cannot approve the deck since it increases land coverage on the parcel. If the existing coverage is less than that allowable then the remaining potential land coverage may be allocated to the deck and a TRPA permit may be issued. A permit may also be issued if it is possible to relocate existing coverage on the parcel to be used for the deck.

Land Coverage Exemptions for Residential Improvements

Special incentives are now available to homeowners through the updated Code of Ordinances that may exempt certain structures from land coverage calculations for certain properties that have installed water quality Best Management Practices (BMPs). To know if the exemptions can be applied to your home improvement project, open the information packet below.

Land Coverage Exemptions for Residential Improvements

What is my IPES Score, and what does it mean?

If your parcel was developed prior to 1987, you do not have or need an Individual Parcel Evaluation System (IPES) score. IPES scores can easily be found by using the IPES search tool. Note: If your parcel is developed, it will not have received an IPES score.

IPES was adopted in 1987 as a more parcel sensitive method to determine development eligibility and allowable coverage for residential parcels. IPES scores applied only on vacant residential parcels. In 1987 and 1988, vacant residential parcels in the Tahoe Basin were evaluated and scored based on the following eight elements:

  • Relative erosion hazard
  • Runoff potential
  • Access
  • Stream environment zones
  • Condition of local watershed
  • Ability to revegetate
  • Need for water quality improvements in the vicinity of the parcel distance from Lake Tahoe

Each parcel was given an IPES score ranging from 0 to 1017. Parcels with an IPES score of 726 (the “cutoff” line) or higher were deemed to be equivalent to the Bailey system capabilities of 4–7 and considered “buildable.” Annually, TRPA evaluates how each jurisdiction in the basin has worked towards protecting environmental quality; based on these studies, staff may lower the IPES “cutoff” line, thus increasing the number of parcels that are “buildable.”

Currently, if a parcel has an IPES score of 726 or greater in Placer county, or 1 or greater in any other jurisdiction, it is above the “cutoff” line. For residential parcels in El Dorado, Washoe and Douglas counties, or in the City of South Lake Tahoe, all parcels with a score greater than 0 are eligible to apply for an allocation. TRPA has been able to adjust the eligibility line in those jurisdictions because the total inventory of non-sensitive vacant parcels has surpassed the inventory of sensitive parcels. Circumstances in Placer County have kept that tally from reaching a similar ratio, so TRPA has prioritized resolving this issue in Placer County following the Regional Plan Update in 2013.

Land Coverage allowed pursuant to IPES
Base allowable coverage on IPES parcels is determined by the first two of the above mentioned elements: Relative erosion hazard and runoff potential.Because only two of the eight elements determine coverage, two parcels may have identical IPES scores, but different percentages of allowable coverage. When a parcel is scored, only 1/3 of an acre (14,520 sq. feet) is evaluated. For parcels larger than 1/3 acre, a Determination of Allowable Coverage application is needed for TRPA to determine if the whole parcel is “similar and contiguous” to the original 1/3 acre evaluated. If a parcel is at least 25,410 sq. feet an owner may apply for an alternative building site evaluation for the parcel. The alternative building site may not overlap the original building site by more than 25 percent.

What documentation or past permits are available for my property?

TRPA staff can complete a records search for past or current approvals or other files related to a specific property. The process is more efficient if the Assessor’s Parcel Number (APN) is known and will be most thorough if previous APNs are known as well (parcel numbers may have changed for various reasons).

TRPA strives to obtain records within five working days, however in some cases, the retrieval of records may exceed the five–day target. Once records are obtained, they may be made available for public viewing at the TRPA front counter. File contents can be reproduced for a nominal cost. Blueprint reproductions are done out of the office at a reasonable cost as well.

How long will it take to get a TRPA permit?

The review time required of a project application is largely dependant upon two factors:

  • The complexity of the project
  • The current workload of the project review staff

Once an application is determined to be complete, TRPA strives to act on the application within 120 days. In some cases, review time may exceed 120 days where additional information is required to review the project has not been received. Currently, the staff workload is high, and average review time for a project is approximately 90 days.

You can reduce the review time required by submitting a complete application which includes original signatures, legible documents, and accurate information. Your patience is greatly appreciated. The project review staff receives an abundant number of calls, which may alleviate the concern of a permittee with respect to their project’s review progress, but actually slows review time. Thank you for your help and understanding.

Applications & Forms

What are the steps in the permit process?

Please review all the FAQs for more information. In general, a property owner or their agent must submit a project application with a filing fee and the associated application materials. This usually includes project plans and possibly building elevations.

The application is initially checked for completeness relative to intake, and then assessed again for completeness relative to review of the project. If the project is determined to be incomplete, a letter is sent to the applicant requesting the additional information needed. Once deemed complete, the project may require a site visit, and then is subsequently assigned to a project review planner.

Once reviewed and if appropriate, a staff level conditional permit may be issued. The applicant is required to sign the permit and fulfill any special conditions the permit may require, including but not limited to the payment of mitigation fees and the posting of a security deposit. Once all special conditions required to “acknowledge” (or final) a permit have been fulfilled, the permit can be signed by TRPA and any associated plans stamped “approved”. In most cases, the permittee then must proceed with their TRPA approval to the local jurisdiction for final approval, usually to meet required local planning, building, and safety ordinances.

Once local approval has been obtained, the permittee may be required to make arrangements to complete a TRPA pregrade inspection. This inspection may be necessary to insure that required project conditions of approval are adhered to, and to make sure that the owner and/or contractor understands all permit requirements. Once a project is completed, a security return inspection may be required. This final inspection determines if the project substantially conforms to the project conditions. If determined to be in conformance, any posted security would be released back to the person who posted the security deposit.

In some cases, projects must be approved by the TRPA Hearings Officer which meets bi–monthly as needed, or the TRPA Governing Board, which meets monthly. In these cases, the project is heard at the appropriate hearing which is open to public discussion. Ultimately, the Hearings Officer or the Governing Board will approve, deny, or continue a project.

How much are mitigation fees and how are they used?

There are several types of mitigation fees that are collected by TRPA from project applicants that receive permits for development at Lake Tahoe. These mitigation fees are not used to pay staff salaries or overhead administration, but go directly to projects and programs designed to mitigate the effects of development in the Lake Tahoe Basin. A brief summary of each mitigation fee is described below. Not every project requires that mitigation fees be submitted. Some projects may require that only one type of mitigation fee be paid while others may require several different types of mitigation fees.

Mitigation Fees

List of Current Mitigation Fees

Water Quality Mitigation

Water quality mitigation fees are based on the amount of new land coverage being created by your project. Water quality mitigation fees are put into accounts set aside for each local jurisdiction. For example, if your project is located in El Dorado County and you paid a $500.00 water quality mitigation fee to TRPA, that money is set aside for Environmental Improvement Projects (EIP) in El Dorado County aimed at improving water quality. Examples of water quality projects include placing rock slope protection and planting vegetation along roadways to reduce erosion from barren slopes. Curb and gutters are also being installed on main roadways to help control storm water runoff and protect water quality.

Air Quality Mitigation

An air quality mitigation fee is required for any new residential units (e.g., a new guest house) and for increases in vehicle trips generated by changes in a business operation. These fees are also put into accounts for each local jurisdiction in which the project is located. These fees are set aside for Environmental Improvement Projects that help reduce traffic and improve air quality. Examples include the construction of new bike trails and improvements to public transportation systems.

Offsite Coverage Fees

Offsite coverage fees are collected when new land coverage is being created in the public right–of–way. Typically, offsite coverage is created when a new driveway apron extends between the property boundary and the paved roadway. The mitigation fees for new offsite land coverage are calculated by the cost–per–square–foot of land coverage in your hydrologic area. The current land appraisal values are listed in the Excess Coverage Worksheet below. These fees are forwarded to public agencies in each state where an equivalent amount of land coverage is purchased with the mitigation fees and permanently removed.

Excess Coverage Mitigation

Excess coverage mitigation fees are collected when a project is approved on a property that has “excess” land coverage. All properties within the Lake Tahoe Basin are allowed a certain amount of land coverage. Many properties were developed before the land coverage limitations were established (February 10, 1972) and therefore some of these properties have legally existing excess land coverage if the land coverage created on the property exceeds what would currently be allowed.

Property owners that are proposing projects where excess land coverage exists have an option of submitting an excess coverage mitigation fee or removing a certain amount of coverage onsite in lieu of paying the mitigation fee. These fees are forwarded to land conservation agencies where an equivalent amount of land coverage is purchased with the mitigation fees and permanently removed. This way the same amount of coverage is reduced elsewhere in the same hydrological area that the mitigation fee was paid. Excess coverage mitigation fees are calculated using a formula based on the amount excess coverage that exists and the estimated project construction cost. Small projects with lower construction costs pay a smaller excess coverage mitigation fee than do larger projects.

Excess Coverage Mitigation Fee Worksheet

In many cases, no mitigation fees are required at all. Please contact TRPA front counter staff to discuss what types of fees may be required as a part of your project approval.

What does it cost to submit a project application to TRPA?

The TRPA has established an application fee schedule for each project application type.

Filing Fee Schedule

To enhance customer service, an information technologies surcharge fee is added to all application submittals. The current surcharge varies with the type of project application and is listed in the filing fee schedule above. The fees are used to support the following project–related activities or information and technology systems:

  • Maintenance of automated Geographic Information System (GIS) permit system
  • File scanning (data archives)
  • Assessor’s Parcel data maintenance
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Information Technology (IT) hardware maintenance and upgrades
  • Records Management software upgrades
  • File and document production and replication

Please be sure to include the surcharge when calculating your application fees.

Do I have to go through TRPA to get a TRPA permit?

Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) are agreements between local jurisdictions, public utility districts and other entities that allow certain projects to be exempted from TRPA review or reviewed at a local jurisdiction building department. They can affect your project by eliminating a step in the permitting process. For example, most new single family dwelling projects and projects involving additions to single family dwellings can be permitted by your local building department without having to also submit a project application to TRPA. Except in Douglas County, TRPA and the local jurisdictions have established a partnership that allows the local building department to conduct the TRPA review process as a part of issuing a building permit for a project. In most cases this partnership allows for permits to be issued quicker and provides for “one stop shopping” when it comes to getting information about your project. Please note that if your new single family dwelling or addition project is located on a property that is visible from Lake Tahoe, a highway or Pioneer Trail, your project will likely have to be submitted to TRPA. Please contact your local building department or TRPA to discuss where to submit your project.

How do I get a permit to remove trees?

If you need a tree removal permit, follow the procedure below:

In Douglas, Washoe and El Dorado counties, a tree removal permit for the purpose of creating defensible space can be obtained by arranging for a defensible space inspection by the local fire protection districts.

In Washoe County, call the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District (NLTFPD) at (775) 831–0351.

In Douglas County, call the Tahoe-Douglas FPD at (775)588–3591 x 227.

In El Dorado County, except for areas within the City of South Lake Tahoe and north of Emerald Bay, call the Lake Valley FPD at (530) 577–2447.

You can also inquire about free chipping programs to incorporate defensible space work with BMPs.

Tree removal permits elsewhere in the basin, or for a reason other than defensible space in Washoe County, can be obtained through TRPA.

Download the TRPA Tree Removal Application

Tree Removal Permit Application

Call 775–589–5266 and leave name and either mailing address or fax number

Complete application and submit (mail or in person, no faxes) with application fee. If the application is incomplete, you will receive a letter stating what information is required along with the application and application fee. Make the corrections and resubmit the application and application fee. Applications are not processed until the application is complete. Once the application is processed, site visits to inspect the trees are usually performed within 3 weeks. You will receive a permit, denial or request for more information after this site visit occurs. Staff flexibility to meet with homeowners is limited due to high demand, especially between May 1 and Oct 15. Trees are marked all year. However, snow does delay inspections. Sign permit at bottom and post in a highly visible location when the work is being performed. There is no need to return a signed copy to TRPA.

Permits are good for 3 years and are non–renewable. If the permit expires, you will need to reapply.

Do I need a permit to remove, trim or damage a live or dead tree?

See the Tree Removal Guidelines page.

Pre-Grade FAQs

Do I need a Pre–Grade meeting prior to commencement of construction?

Yes, if it is not an Exempt or Qualified Exempt Activity. It may also be referred to as a pre–construction meeting. This is not a meeting where everyone gathers to discuss the project. This is a meeting where the inspector goes over the permit and the temporary BMPs. Once this inspection is passed, construction and digging, also called grading, can commence.

Who do I call to perform the inspection?

The TRPA inspector assigned to your project is listed in the final notice of

  • If at the TRPA office on Lower Kingsbury, call Louise at (775) 588–4547 x 267
  • If at 1900 Lake Tahoe Blvd (corner of 50 and Tata, just past the Y), call the CSLT Bldg. Dept., 530–542–6017
  • If at 3368 Lake Tahoe Blvd, Ste 302, call the El Dorado Co. Bldg. Dept., 530–573–3330
  • If at 865 Tahoe Blvd, call the Washoe Co. Bldg. Dept. 775–832–4140
  • If at 565 West Lake, call the Placer Co. Bldg. Dept. 530–581–6205
  • All Douglas County permits are done by TRPA

How do I prepare for the inspection?

The only things you are allowed to do prior to a Pre–grade inspection are:

  • Demolitions – if approved for prior to Pre–grade.
  • Have the address posted.
  • Install all temporary erosion control (BMP) measures and vegetation protection fencing per approved plans.
  • Have all acknowledged permits and all approved plans on site.
  • If you are removing trees that would interfere with the BMP’s or vegetation protection fencing, call to see if it is ok to put those items up AFTER the tree has been removed.

When do I call for a final security return inspection?

When the vegetation has grown in and all standard and special conditions of the permit have been met.

What are the vegetation requirements for the return of the security?

These requirements may differ from project to project. Your project permit should describe the details for your particular requirement.

What is the grading season and what are the exceptions?

May 1 – Oct 15. This never changes. However, you cannot grade, at any time, when the soil is wet. (Wet soil is saturated soil or soil in a muddy condition, soil that can be tracked offsite.) The only exceptions are granted for water quality and public health and safety reasons.

To request an exception:

  1. Request it as soon as possible
  2. It must be in writing
  3. The letter must state:
  1. why the exception is needed
  2. detailed description of the work to be done
  3. location of the grading
  4. amount of material to be excavated
  5. where the excavated material will go
  6. number of days needed for the exception
  7. Assessor’s Parcel Number
  8. physical address
  9. TRPA file number (if applicable)

Exceptions are granted only if the appropriate findings are made

Can I request inspections over the Internet?

  • Inspections by local jurisdictions – depends on local jurisdiction
  • Security Return Inspections – yes, via e–mail
  • Security Return Re–Inspections – no
  • Tree Removal – no
  • Pre–grade – no
  • Other visit by compliance inspector – yes, via e–mail
  • Winterization – yes, via email

Do I have to pay the security return inspection fee prior to being put on the list for an inspection?


What happens if I don’t pass my final inspection?

  • A letter will be sent to you stating what needs to be fixed.
  • Comply with the instructions of the letter.
  • Submit request for re–inspection with fee.
  • Property will be re–inspected.
  • If passes, security released.
  • If fails, you will receive a letter outlining the steps you need to take, then re–apply and pay fee.

Winterization Questions.

    Site must be winterized by Oct 15.

Download the Site Winterization Requirements.

How do I know if I shouldwork with TRPA or an MOU Partner (local jurisdictions) for my residential permit process?

  • TRPA area – all of Douglas County or in other jurisdictions only if it can be seen from lake or SR28, SR89, SR207, US HWY50, SR 267, Pioneer Trail or mapped scenic recreation areas (ex. Sand Harbor).
  • If in other area of CSLT not covered by above – CSLT
  • If in other area of El Dorado Co not covered by above – El Dorado Co
  • If in other area of Washoe Co not covered by above – Washoe Co
  • If in other area of Placer Co not covered by above – Placer Co