The Encroachment Permit Process

To understand when an encroachment permit is needed, you should first know more about encroachments and how they can occur on a property. An encroachment is any kind of pipe, fence, pole, pipeline, building, structure, or object that’s located under, over, or in a portion of a right-of-way that’s owned by a city or state. If a property that you’ve recently purchased is situated on or nearby a right-of-way, you may be required to seek an encroachment permit before you’re able to legally construct a building or perform any kind of improvements on the property in question.

An encroachment permit gives you the ability to perform construction or a similar activity on a state right-of-way. Keep in mind that an encroachment isn’t the same as an easement. While easements can be transferred when you sell your property, encroachments are unable to be transferred in the same way.

Let’s say that you obtain an encroachment permit that allows you to construct a driveway on a right-of-way that’s owned by the state. If you decide to sell your property at some point in the future, the permit for the driveway that you’ve built would not be transferred to the new owner. In the event that the new owner wants to continue using and maintaining the driveway, they will need to apply for another encroachment permit. Keep in mind that some cities and states refer to encroachment permits as excavation permits. There are numerous reasons why a permit is necessary, the primary of which is that it ensures the safety of highway workers, employees, and the traveling public.

This article offers an in-depth guide on the process of applying for an encroachment permit.

When is an Encroachment Permit Needed?

An encroachment permit is necessary when you want to use part of a public right-of-way that’s owned by the city or state in which your property is situated. A public right-of-way can be a street or sidewalk that’s located on or around your property. Whether you want to install a bike rack on a public right-of-way or would like to place scaffolding over a sidewalk, an encroachment permit might be required before the project could begin.

The California Department of Transportation requires that encroachment permits are obtained for these projects in order to:

  • Make sure that the investment in the right-of-way by the public and state is protected
  • Make sure that the encroachment is fully compatible with the primary use of the right-of-way
  • Make sure that any highway workers, permittees, and members of the public remain safe when using the right-of-way
  • Ensure that any temporary uses of the right-of-way for filming or special events are performed safely and don’t significantly inconvenience the traveling public
  • Maintain, protect, and further enhance the right-of-way while it’s being used for permitted work

The Standard Encroachment Permit Application

If you believe that an encroachment permit is necessary for the project that you want to complete, you can find the application for the permit at this link. The application can be filled out and submitted online alongside any additional documents that are required for approval. The need for additional documentation depends largely on the size and scope of the project. Some of the extra documents that you might need to submit with the application include traffic control plans, construction plans, a letter of authorization, environmental documentation, surety bonds, a storm water permit, and liability insurance.

Make sure that every blank space within the application is filled out before you submit the document. Any space that doesn’t apply to your construction or activity on the right-of-way should be filled in with N/A. By providing extensive details when filling out the application, the time it takes for the application to be approved or denied should be reduced. When you have completed the application and have gathered all of the necessary documentation, you can submit the application to the encroachment permits office in Los Angeles.

If you are thinking about constructing a building or other structure on your property that may require the use of a right-of-way, a copy of the building permit that you obtain for the project should be submitted alongside your application. For larger construction projects, the additional documents that you will likely need to provide include:

  • Location map
  • Site plan
  • Grading plan, which could include a contour-grading plan and super-elevation plan
  • Street improvement plan
  • Drainage plan
  • Structural plan and accompanying calculations
  • Hydrology map
  • Utility plan
  • Environmental documentation
  • Contingency plans for dealing with hazardous waste
  • Electrical plans
  • Data on the impact that the project will have on traffic

If a building plan is necessary for your application, you can find more information about how to create one of these plans at this link. You may notice that a construction submittal is needed for your project before work can begin. A submittal requires much of the same documentation that needs to be provided during the encroachment permit process.

The main difference between the two is that a submittal is required on the vast majority of construction projects and will need to be formally approved by the design team and general contractor to ensure that the design of the project matches the specifications for the building permit. As for encroachment permits, they are only necessary when the project takes place on a public right-of-way.

Application Process of an Encroachment Permit

The application process for an encroachment permit is relatively simple and straightforward. First, it’s important that you understand how much a permit will cost before you send in your application. While most of the permits that need to be obtained before you can construct a building or structure have a set fee, the fees for an encroachment permit can vary significantly. These fees are based on the time it takes for the approval process to be completed, how much field work needs to be done by the department, and the time it takes to inspect the completed work. The inspection fee is combined with the application fee.

Since fees for an encroachment permit are based on a variety of factors, you can expect to be charged an hourly rate. The exact rate that you will be charged changes yearly. When you submit your permit application, you will need to pay an initial deposit unless your permit is exempt from certain fees. The deposit may not be enough to cover the full expenses for the permit in the event that the approval process takes a long time to be completed. As such, additional fees might need to be paid before your permit can be issued.

Encroachment permits aren’t necessarily difficult to obtain and can be applied for by many different entities. Applicants for an encroachment permit can include:

  • Utility companies
  • Individuals
  • Corporations
  • Counties
  • Cities
  • Contractors
  • Governmental agencies

Activities that May Require an Encroachment Permit

If you are about to begin work on a project and are still unsure if a permit is needed, these permits are typically required for:

  • Miscellaneous activities like excavation, mowing, and grading
  • Special events like marathons, sidewalk festivals, and parades
  • The installation of a utility
  • Commercial filming
  • Frontage improvements, which can include drainage facilities, driveways, road intersections, fencing, and sidewalks
  • Advertising displays, banners, signs, and holiday decorations
  • Various types of landscaping

Encroachment permits are essential for cities and states to make sure that anyone who uses a right-of-way will be safe even when the right-of-way is being used for some other purpose. It’s also important to understand that a permit is necessary because the city or state that issues the permit wants to be certain that the right-of-way will remain in great condition during and after it’s used for another purpose.

The time it takes for you to receive an encroachment permit depends on several distinct factors. If you submit the proper documentation immediately alongside the application, you may receive your permit in as little as two weeks. However, this process can take longer than one month to be completed if your project is larger in scope or if delays occur.

Even though seeking this type of permit can delay your construction project, it’s very important that you don’t attempt to circumvent this requirement and complete the project without approval. In this situation, you could be fined by the city. It’s also likely that any work that you’ve completed would be torn down, which would cost you a substantial sum of money. Now that you understand the encroachment permit process, you should have all of the information you require to fill out and submit an application that will be approved without issue or delay.

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