Difference Between Commercial Variance Permits and Change of Use Permits

variance permits permit advisors inc

Variance permits and change of use permits serve such similar functions it’s easy to confuse the two and not truly understand which permit you might need. In this article I am going to define and explain the difference between the two types of permits and when to use them. I submit to you that these specific types of permits are not for the faint of heart and recommend that you get an expert involved. Without further ado let’s get to it!

Change of use Permits

A change of use permit does exactly what the name implies: changes the use of a space. According to a city’s plan you can’t just change how you use a space without getting the city’s approval. The change of use permit is intended to verify compliance with the applicable codes for a new use and provide a Certificate of Occupancy for new businesses or uses where there is no significant work that would otherwise require a building permit.

Getting a change of use permit requires a visit to the planning department in a similar way as getting a variance permit or conditional use permit. Additionally you will be subject to reviews like: historical planning society, coastal commission if you reside near the ocean, city council, and the neighborhood council, just to name a few…But, the good news is once the change of use is obtained from that date forward the space will be use for that function. What I mean to say is, unlike conditional use permits, the use cannot be revoked with a change of use. If the use is a restaurant then when another restaurant wants to use the space it’s not problem they can proceed with the tenant improvement and obtain that building permit package.

Variance Permits

There are two broad categories of variances and The Practice of Local Government Planning, they are as follows:

“Area variance: It can be requested by a builder or landowner when an odd configuration of the land, or sometimes the physical improvements (structures) on the land, requires a relaxation of the applicable regulations to avoid denying the landowner the same rights and use the property enjoyed by owners of neighboring properties.” (The Practice of Local Government Planning (Third ed.))

For example, if an oddly shaped or sloped lot makes it difficult for the owner to comply with the legal setbacks specified by code then they can get an area variance. In this way the balance between hardship on the landowner and public safety is maintained.

Use variance: authorizes a land use not normally permitting by the zoning ordinance. Grant of a use variance also can be similar, in effect, to a zone change.” (The Practice of Local Government Planning (Third ed.))

These types of variances are very similar in process to a conditional use permit. Some municipalities prohibit these types of variances and because they require a complete change to the zoning codes of the city.


Permit Advisors Inc has the unique ability to get both types of permits for you and look forward to the opportunity to serve you.

About Permit Advisors: Permit Advisors Inc. is a complete permit, entitlement consulting, and expediting firm based out of Beverly Hills, Ca. We go beyond just submitting plans, as you may have experienced with previous expediters. We have established strong relationships with officials of many municipalities and have numerous time and cost saving strategies that we implement to efficiently complete projects. We aim to secure all permits as quickly as possible! We keep track of all the different aspects of the permitting process and make sure that the project is being given full attention by everyone on the team. We responsibly update clients and ensure that lines of communication are open between the Jurisdiction, the consultants and the client at all times. Contact us today for a consultation www.permitadvisors.com.

Mar 14, 2018 By admin