Grading Permit


The County of Marin Department of Public Works – Land Development Division issues grading permits in the unincorporated areas of Marin according to Marin County Code §23.08 Excavation, Grading and Filling. Grading means any excavation, stripping, cutting, filling, stockpiling, or any combination of these activities, which alters land or vegetation. Common examples of grading include, but are not limited to, construction of driveways, development or improvement of a roadway, new lot or parcel development, and restoration/stabilization of hillsides or watercourses. Grading permits are necessary to ensure public safety, preserve the natural beauty of the County’s land, watercourses, and shorelines and to reduce the risk of landslides, rockfalls, erosion and flooding.

Per MCC §23.08.025, a grading permit is required prior to commencing any grading or related work, including site clearing and soil disturbance, when any of the following conditions apply:

  1. Artificial movement of over two hundred fifty (250) cubic yards of earth, an amount equal to roughly 25 standard dump trucks full of earth;
  2. Artificial movement of earth which creates a roadway or access drive whose length exceeds two hundred fifty (250) feet or whose longitudinal slope exceeds twenty (20) percent;
  3. Artificial movement of earth leaving any cut bank over eight feet in vertical height, or any cut below a line sloping down at a grade of two horizontal to one vertical from the ground at any property line (refer to sketch below);
  4. Filling in the following manner:
    1. Artificial movement of earth leaving a fill earth bank over three feet in vertical height or filled earth over three feet deep (refer to sketch below);
    2. Artificial addition of earth over one foot in vertical height placed on terrain with a slope greater than five horizontal to one vertical (refer to sketch below);
    3. Artificial addition of earth above a line sloping up at a grade of two horizontal to one vertical from the ground at any property line (refer to sketch below);
  5. Movement of earth, within or along the banks of, any watercourse or within fifty feet from the top of any watercourse at locations within the ‘city-centered corridor’ or one hundred feet from the top of bank of any watercourse at locations within the ‘inland rural corridor’ as identified within the Marin countywide plan;
  6. Removal, plowing under, or burial of over ten thousand square feet of vegetation on slopes exceeding fifteen percent.



A grading permit application may be submitted by the property owner or an authorized agent of the property owner and must include the following items to be deemed complete:

  1. Three sets of plans and specifications prepared by an engineer licensed in the State of California that show the following:
    1. A vicinity sketch or other data which adequately indicates the site location, including locations of creeks, lakes, and wetlands.
    2. Property lines of the property on which the work is to be performed, and the limits of clearing and grading.
    3. Location of all buildings or structures in the vicinity of the proposed work.
    4. Accurate contours showing the topography of the existing ground.
    5. Elevations, dimensions, location, extent and the slopes of all proposed grading shown by contours and/or other means.
    6. Details of all drainage devices, walls or other protective devices to be constructed in connection with, or as a part of, the proposed work.
    7. A notation stating the amount and location of any material to be deposited in areas other than that shown on the plans.
    8. Nature and location of vegetation, including the location, trunk diameter and type of all existing trees in the proximity of the work area which have a trunk diameter of six inches or greater.
  2. An Erosion and Sediment Control Plan (ESCP) using the MCSTOPPP standard template per MCC §23.08.050(4)(e).
  3. Cost estimate for the proposed work prepared by a licensed engineer or construction estimator.
  4. Upon review of the above items, Land Development may determine that additional plans or reports, including but not limited to, a soils investigation report or geological report, may be required.

Applicants must be prepared to comply with all general provisions and any project specific special conditions established by the County of Marin and pass any inspections required to close out the permit.

Applicants are responsible for obtaining any permits required by other agencies.

Code MCC 23.08.030

Grading necessary for agricultural operations do not require a grading permit unless the grading will create a cut or fill that could endanger a structure, public road or result in the obstruction of a watercourse or drainage conduit (MCC §23.08.030). Grading within a creek is subject to an approved grading plan required for a creek permit (MCC §11.08).

Grading projects that would normally require a permit under MCC §23.08.025, but that are performed as emergency measure during natural disasters to safeguard life and property and/or public safety may be started immediately. The work should be reported to the Public Works Land Development Division within three business days; the property owner should be prepared to submit all necessary materials for a grading permit and comply with any requirements of the permit.

If proposed grading work will be performed as part of a project permitted by the County of Marin Community Development Agency, i.e., a building permit, a separate grading permit will not be issued.

The grading permit application fee is $550.00 and is non-refundable. Additional fees, including plan review, field inspection and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), will be determined after review of the proposed grading project.

The start of any grading work, including preparatory site clearing or soil disturbance, prior to the issuance of a grading permit is a violation of MCC §23.08 and may subject the property owner to fines MCC §23.08.130. Property owners are encouraged to contact Land Development to clarify requirements.

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