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Retaining Walls

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This Guide is designed to help you through the permitting and construction processes associated with retaining walls. A retaining wall is defined as a wall resisting the lateral displacement of soil or other materials.

Retaining walls that are not over 3 feet in height measured from the top of the footing to the top of the wall, and not supporting a surcharge (building or vehicular surcharge.. etc) or impounding flammable liquids are exempt from building permit. Walls exempt from a building permit must still comply with applicable local and State building regulations and codes. Furthermore, the Chula Vista Zoning Ordinance applies to the use and location of all structures, including those not requiring a building permit. All new structures must therefore be reviewed by the Planning Division to ensure the structure meets the requirements of the zone. Please check with Planning staff (619-691-5101) to ensure your proposed structure meets all standards, such as setbacks from property lines and adjacent structures, allowable height, and lot coverage.

For masonry retaining walls, please see our handout/design specifications "MASONARY RETAINING WALLS", Form 4614. Form 4614 may be used in lieu of construction plans when attached to a properly prepared plot plan.

To apply for a retaining wall permit, you need to stop at our Building Counter in the Public Service Building at 276 Fourth Avenue across the street from the library (north-west corner of 4th and F, downtown Chula Vista.) For us to accept your permit application, you must provide us with a complete submittal package. A complete submittal package consists of the following:

  1. A completed “Residential Accessory Patio Cover, Pool, Wall Application” Form 4562B for walls on residential properties. For walls on commercial property, a completed "New Construction Worksheet", Form 4561.
  2. Four copies of a Plot/Site Plan showing the general layout of the site, slopes, location of buildings and driveways, and location of all new and existing retaining walls
  3. Four copies of construction plans and details, including any electrical plans for any lighting to be added.
  4. Two copies of soils report and structural calculations (not required when using "MASONARY RETAINING WALLS", Form 4614

During the permitting process you will be asked to pay two separate fees; Plan Check Fee and Permit Fee.
You are required to pay the Plan Check Fee before we can take in your application for plan check. As for the Permit Fee, you must pay it at time of permit issuance. Both fees are determined by the square footage of the wall. For additional information on fees, please see "Fee Information" web page.

After our Development Services Technicians (DST's) verify that the application package is complete, and you pay the Plan Check Fees, they will forward a set of plans/documents to each of the four departments/divisions; Building, Planning, Engineering and Fire. Approval from all four departments/divisions is required prior to permit issuance. To contact any of the departments/divisions, please see the contact list shown at the end of this document.

The plan check process is then tracked in our Automated Tracking System and the project is assigned a standard turn-around-time. For city standard walls "MASONARY RETAINING WALLS", Form 4614, plan check is performed over-the-counter and the permit may be issued the same day. For non-city standard walls, the standard turn-around-time for an initial review and follow-up reviews (rechecks) is 7 calendar days.

After you obtain all the required approvals and pay the Permit Fee, a DST will issue you a building permit. Now you can start construction. At certain stages of the construction, you must schedule for an inspection. The following list represents the sequence of required inspections for a typical masonry retaining wall (call us regarding required inspections for retaining walls other that masonry walls):

1. Foundation
2. Grout Lift, installation of drain and gravel.
3. Additional grout lifts if necessary.
4. Final Inspection.

City Dept. / Division
Phone Number
Fax Number

(Permits Section)


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