Grading is the removal or deposition of earth material by artificial means. Earth material is defined as any rock or natural soil or combination thereof. Grading is generally a combination of excavation (cuts) and placement (fill) of soil. Common examples of grading include, but are not limited to, construction of driveways, building pads, site improvements or reservoirs, and restoration/stabilization of hillsides, slopes or stream banks. Grading does not include routine farming practices.
Grading permits are required in order to:
- Maintain standards for grading activities.
- Prevent and minimize hazards to life and property.
- Protect life and property from flooding and drainage hazards.
- Protect the safety, use, and stability of public rights-of-way and watercourses.
- Protect against the destruction of archeological and biotic resources.
- Protect against soil loss and pollution of watercourses.
- Protect streams, lakes, ponds, and wetlands.
A grading permit is required prior to commencing any grading or related work, including preparatory site clearing and soil disturbance, except where exempted from permit requirements by Sonoma County Code section 11.04.010.A. A grading permit is required when any of the following conditions apply:
- Cut or fill exceeding 50 cubic yards.
- Cut or fill greater than 3 feet in depth.
- Cut creating a cut slope greater than 5 feet in height and steeper than 2 units horizontal to 1 unit vertical.
- Fill intended to support a structure or surcharge greater than 1 foot in depth or placed on terrain with a natural slope steeper than 15 percent.
To assist you in determining whether your project requires a grading permit, you may fill out our GRD-002 Grading Permit Questionnaire (PDF: 716 kB).
A grading permit application may be filed by the property owner or easement holder of the project site (easement holder), an authorized agent of the property owner or easement holder, or any other person with the written consent of the property owner or easement holder. To apply for a grading permit, please submit the required application contents to Permit Sonoma.
Starting grading work, including preparatory site clearing and soil disturbance, prior to the issuance of a grading permit is a violation of county code and may subject the property owner to penalties and fines. Prior to the start of any grading or drainage work, the permittee shall have a pre-construction consultation with Permit Sonoma staff to discuss the scope of the project, permit conditions, required inspections, appropriate application of best management practices (BMPs) and any other construction issues. Work approved under an issued grading permit may begin after a pre-construction consultation is conducted. An issued grading permit is valid for a term of three years from the time the grading permit is approved and all outstanding permit fees are paid, unless otherwise determined by Permit Sonoma staff.