San Diego initiates new instant permit program for residential solar

By SDCN Editor

San Diego, CA–San Diego residents can apply online and instantly receive permits for residential solar and battery storage projects.

The city’s Development Services Department has launched a new residential solar instant permitting process – the latest in a series of enhancements meant to help reduce the city’s permitting processing times while supporting the community-wide goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2035.  

“This is just the latest in a series of moves we’re making to streamline our permitting process so we can get things done faster,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “More and more San Diegans are wanting to put rooftop solar on their homes, and I’m thrilled that the City of San Diego is now helping them accomplish this by granting them instant permit approval for installation.”  

The instant permit – made possible through a new self-certification process that allows residents to bypass City review of their installation plans by certifying a project’s compliance with building codes, standards, and ordinances – is available to residents applying for solar photovoltaic permits and battery-storage projects up to 38.4 kilowatts for single-family homes and duplexes.  

The city is launching the program nearly two months ahead of the state-mandated deadline created by Senate Bill 379, which requires cities and counties to issue permits in real time for a residential solar energy system and provide an annual report to the California Energy Commission on the number of issued permits. Previously, the process to apply for and obtain a permit took seven to 10 days on average.   

“DSD handles about 12,000 applications for photovoltaic permits every year,” said Development Services Department Director Elyse Lowe. “Customers will love the expanded threshold for automatic permits for solar and battery installations in homes. This will save customers time and increase staff productivity overall with the new automated permit process.”  

The new process comes as Mayor Gloria has directed the Development Services Department to cut permitting times – evidenced by the executive order to speed processing times for affordable housing he signed in January. It is part of #DigitalDSD, an initiative to modernize all Development Services Department workplace systems and cost-effectively leverage technology.  

In July, the department expanded its No-Plan Building Permit program to include applications for kitchen and bathroom remodels as well as door and window replacements. It is currently in the process of rolling out a new professional certification for office tenant improvements. This will allow design professionals to bypass plan review by certifying that the proposed design meets all codes and standards. The intent of the program is to issue building permits for office tenant improvements without requiring a plan review.  

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