Permit Process

Complete Application

TRPA staff will review an application for completeness within 30 days from the date of submittal. If additional items are needed or checklist items are lacking, a notice will be sent to you and/or your representative indicating what additional information is needed to make the application complete. If the application is determined to be complete, a notice will be sent to you or your representative confirming this determination. Once complete, your application is ready to be reviewed by TRPA staff for conformance with TRPA rules and regulations. A complete application notice is not a conceptual approval of your application, nor is it a determination that the information submitted for review is accurate or approvable. TRPA cannot hold incomplete projects for an indefinite period of time.
If your project application addresses all items on the checklist, your application will be accepted by TRPA.

Request for Additional Information

Once review of your application has begun, additional information may still be required. TRPA staff attempts to identify all information needed to review a project at the “complete application” stage, however, some items cannot be identified until the review of the application has commenced. If additional information is required, you and/or your representative will be notified of a timeline to provide the needed information.

Project Review

The amount of time to process an individual application depends on the complexity of the project and the number of applications submitted to TRPA or the local jurisdiction for review. Submitting a clear and accurate application with explanation of the applicable findings to be made can speed the processing time through TRPA or the local building department. The time of year you submit your application can also influence the processing time. Submittal of project applications usually peak during the summer building season. This tends to lengthen the processing time for an individual application. During winter, the presence of snow on the ground may limit TRPA’s ability to evaluate the site if necessary. You are strongly encouraged to submit your application(s) well in advance of the building season. If possible, it’s ideal to submit your application the summer prior to the year in which you plan to build.

Local Jurisdiction Review: If your permit is reviewed for TRPA standards by a local jurisdiction (e.g., the City of South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County, Placer County, or Washoe County), please contact the appropriate building department for its permit process. Typically, local jurisdictions do not issue conditional permits. Instead, they issue a correction notice outlining the required changes to your plans, if any. A permit is issued once plans received by the local building department meet all applicable TRPA standards. In many cases, the local jurisdiction may be able to review your plans concurrently for local requirements.

TRPA Review: TRPA has three review levels for projects; staff level, Hearings Officer and Governing Board. The large majority of residential projects can be reviewed at staff level. The TRPA Hearings Officer or Governing Board typically only review residential projects identified as a “Special Use” in the applicable Plan Area Statement. The Governing Board meets monthly and projects are scheduled for the next available Governing Board hearing once the review of the project has been completed. The TRPA Hearings Officer meets twice per month as needed.

Conditional Permit Issued

A conditional permit is an approval of your project subject to specific conditions. The conditional permit is based on the application and information submitted to TRPA for review. The conditional permit is valid for three years. Within the three-year time period, you must demonstrate that you’ve met all the conditions of approval, pay any required fees, acknowledge the permit (by signature), provide a project security to TRPA, schedule and complete a TRPA pregrade (pre-construction) inspection and begin construction. Your project must be completed within two years from the date of the TRPA pregrade inspection.

Final Permit Acknowledgment

Once all the conditions of the permit have been met, TRPA will provide the final acknowledgment of the permit and stamp the submitted plans. Schedule an appointment with the TRPA planner who issued the permit to acknowledge your permit and stamp your plans. Your permit will not be acknowledged unless you have met all of the special conditions outlined on your conditional permit. Payment of mitigation fees, if any, is also due at the time of Final Acknowledgment. The possible mitigation fees are explained below and the current amount of each mitigation fee is listed in the TRPA Mitigation Fee Schedule.

Water quality: Water quality mitigation fees are based on the amount of new land coverage being created by your project. These fees are non-refundable. Water quality mitigation fees are not used by TRPA. The funds are passed on to the local jurisdiction in which they were collected to be used for restoration projects that improve water quality improvement.

Air quality: An air quality mitigation fee is required for any new residential unit (e.g., a new home or guest house) and for increases in vehicle trips generated by changes in a business operation. This money is passed on the local jurisdiction in which they were collected to be used for transit and transportation projects that improve air quality.

Off-site land coverage: Off-site coverage mitigation fees are based on the amount of land coverage created in the public right-of-way as a result of your project. This fee is calculated by a formula that considers the cost per square foot of land coverage in your hydrologic area. As with the water quality fees, this money is passed on to the local jurisdiction in which it was collected for erosion control, stormwater infiltration and water quality improvement projects.

Excess land coverage: Excess land coverage is the amount of legally created land coverage existing within your project area that exceeds the base allowable land coverage. Not all parcels will have excess land coverage. Excess land coverage can be mitigated several ways: through a mitigation fee, by reducing land coverage on or off site, or by expanding the project area. The mitigation fee is based on the amount of excess land coverage on your parcel and the estimated construction cost of your project. The minimum excess land coverage mitigation fee is $200 per project. Got to the Excess Coverage Mitigation Fee Worksheet for more information.

Once you have received your acknowledged TRPA permit and stamped plans, review by your local jurisdiction will still be required for structural standards and other local requirements. Please check with your local building and planning departments for their processing requirements.


A project security will be collected by the reviewing jurisdiction. In most cases, the project security will be based on 110% of the cost of all required Best Management Practices (BMPs). Securities may also be required to insure compliance with specific conditions of project approval. A security can be posted in several ways: a certificate of deposit, a hold on a personal savings account, a letter of credit, an assignment of personal savings account, a bond (only if security is estimated over $10,000), or cash. A non-refundable security administration fee is required for all securities. The security plus any interest accrued will be returned upon a final inspection of the completed project. Contact the jurisdiction that issued your permit to schedule a final inspection. Review Attachment J for an explanation of Security procedures.

Plan Revisions

You may revise your original approval by requesting a plan revision. An approved plan revision, however, will be tied to the original permit expiration date and the conditions of the original approval. A minor plan revision generally involves small changes that do not include modifications to land coverage or the exterior dimensions of a structure. A major plan revision generally includes changes to land coverage or height calculations. Check the TRPA Filing Fee Schedule for the appropriate fee amount.

Pregrade or Pre-Construction Inspections

Before you begin construction of your project, you must arrange a pre-grade inspection. If a local jurisdiction completed your TRPA review, contact the appropriate local building department to arrange an inspection. If TRPA issued your permit, contact the Executive Assistant in the TRPA Environmental Compliance Division to arrange a pre-grade inspection appointment. In some cases, the pre-grade inspection may be done via telephone. Prior to scheduling your inspection, you must have obtained all necessary TRPA and local approvals. To obtain a pre-grade inspection you must have:

  • Temporary BMPs and vegetation protection in place as listed on the plans
  • Site address posted (the house number on the house is acceptable)
  • The foundation footprint staked, if called for
  • The original stamped plans and all permits onsite
  • An appointment for the inspection scheduled at least 48 hours in advance–Contact Us

Intermediate inspections may be performed during the construction process as well. Intermediate inspections insure the permit conditions are being followed, temporary BMPs are still in place and functional, sites are properly winterized (between October 15 and May 1), and the project is progressing as approved. Also, if a complaint is made, a TRPA inspector will follow up on the complaint and verify whether or not any unauthorized activity is occurring.

Final Inspection

A final inspection is made towards the completion of the project to make sure all work was completed properly and to return any security deposit. Once you have fulfilled all the conditions of the permit, Contact Us for a security return inspection. The security plus any interest accrued will be returned upon successful final inspection of the completed project.