Hotel Building Permits

Pre-Submittal Planning Process

For large projects such as as hotels, the planning process actually begins months, or sometimes even years, before the actual building permit process begins. Hotels have many layers to the project that mean they are more complicated to get approved and therefore more lengthy. Applicants should be aware that this can be a very extensive process, especially if building from the ground-up. Let’s start with a  general overview of what is involved in the pre-submittal planning process and then we’ll move on to the building permit process.

Ground Up:

A major consideration for hotel development is whether the project will be built from the ground-up or if an existing building will be renovated (this is called a tenant improvement). If a brand new hotel will be constructed from the ground up, the pre-submittal planning process is more elaborate. The process will likely involve the following measures:

• Traffic Impact Studies: Applicants will often need to present a traffic impact study to the planning commission. These studies, prepared by outside transportation engineers, offer insight regarding the number of new trips that will be generated as a result of the project. They also include information on how the increased traffic will impact local roads and intersections as well as increase the potential risk of traffic incidents.

• Reviews of Exterior Lighting: Applicants will typically need to provide the assigned planner with cut/spec sheets on the proposed exterior lighting systems. The planner will review the exterior lighting plan for details to ensure that the hotel’s lighting will not significantly increase light pollution and skyglow.

• Design Reviews: A design review will be required for the construction of a ground-up hotel. Design reviews are a process whereby a design review committee looks at the proposed building design, landscaping, and exterior materials to ensure that the proposed new development is compatible with the physical settings of the surrounding areas. The overall design of the hotel is approved based on the discretion of the committee.

• Planning Commission Meetings: Planning commission meetings or hearings involve presentations from staff planner(s) and applicant(s) regarding the proposed project. The purpose of the meetings are to allow planning commissioners to determine if the proposed project adheres to the jurisdiction’s codes. Planning commission meetings are open to the public and allow potentially affected parties to weigh in and present a case for or against the proposed project. For a project as extensive as a ground-up hotel, there may be several planning commission meetings and/or city council hearings. Once all required information is presented to the commission, the commissioners will vote for or against the project. Oftentimes, when the commissioners vote to approve a project, there are detailed conditions that the applicant must adhere to in order to move forward.

Tenant Improvement:

Now that we’ve touched on some of the processes involved in ground-up hotels, let’s discuss tenant improvements. As we mentioned, tenant improvement projects are far less extensive than ground-up projects.

• Conditional Use Permit: During a tenant improvement project for a hotel, the applicant will need to determine the occupancy group of the existing building. Occupancy groups tell us what the intended use of the building is. Different zones have different occupancy groups that are allowed. Hotel applicants completing tenant improvements often need to acquire a conditional use permit (CUP) allowing planning staff to establish “Conditions of Approval” in which the building can operate. Depending on the jurisdiction, obtaining a CUP may require planning commission or city council approval.

• Design Review: If the applicant intents to make any exterior alterations to the existing building during the tenant improvement process, the project will likely need to undergo a design review.

• Historic Status: Applicants will need to determine if the existing structure is considered historic. If the structure is historic, there are specific criteria and guidelines that must be followed. The guidelines vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and there is typically a historic committee that oversees these projects.

Building Permit Process

Once the pre-submittal process is complete, the applicant will begin applying for permits. The types of permits that are required for the project vary based on the scope of work and the specific jurisdiction, however here is an overview of what types of permits and reviews to expect:

  • Building PermitsBuilding permits provide applicants with the legal authority to complete construction work. They are in place to help the government ensure that a structure is legal, safe, and meets code. Building permits help certify that fire hazards, structural failures, and harmful errors are avoided.
  • MEP Permits– Separate permits for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing permits will likely be required. Mechanical permits pertain to any work such as heating, duct-work, cooling, and ventilation. Electrical permits will encompass work like electrical wiring, lighting, and transformers. Finally, plumbing will pertain to any piping such as sinks, toilets, and drains.
  • Title 24 Reviews– In the state of California, Title 24 reviews must be conducted by a city reviewer to certify that buildings are compliant with energy efficiency standards. These standards ensure that builders use equipment and appliances that conserve electricity, natural gas, and water.
  • ADA Compliance– The American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that public accommodations and commercial facilities be accessible to persons of all mobilities . While there are many specifications that go into ADA compliance, the general factors include offering wheel-chair accessible ramps, restrooms, parking, elevators or lifts,  as well as providing large enough openings/doorways for wheelchair clearance.
  • Health Department Review– Restaurants and food service operations are vital to many hotels. Visitors want to take a break and sit down for a coffee or a continental breakfast. Health department reviews by the  Environmental Health and Industrial Waste Departments will be required to make sure that the restaurant space is up to par with health standards.
  • Fire Department Review– Fire Department reviews encompass egress (exit paths), fire alarms, sprinkler systems, flammable materials, and more.
  • Grading Permits–  If you have demolished an existing structure in preparation of building a new one, grading permits must be considered. Grading refers to cutting or filling earth to create a smooth surface for building. Permits for grading are required when certain amounts of dirt or hardscape are moved, typically measured in cubic yards. Local jurisdictions will outline what quantity and size of earthwork will require a permit.

Where Does Permit Advisors Come In?

At Permit Advisors, we support a wide range of markets and trades, including hotels and hospitality groups. We offer services from due diligence and records research to complete project management. Our team of more than twenty project managers have backgrounds in planning, design, architecture, and construction project management. We have worked in countless jurisdictions throughout the nation and have developed relationships with city representatives in almost every major jurisdiction. Our depth of experience allows us to better support clients throughout the planning and permitting stages of a hotel’s development. To learn more about our services related to the hotel and hospitality industry, visit our dedicated web page.