Frequently Asked Questions
What is BCDC?
BCDC is composed of a 27-member Commission and a small (approximately 45) person staff.
In general, what are the responsibilities of the Commission?
The Commission is charged with:
- Regulating all filling and dredging in San Francisco Bay (which includes San Pablo and Suisun Bays, sloughs and certain creeks and tributaries that are part of the Bay system, salt ponds and certain other areas that have been diked-off from the Bay);
- Protecting the Suisun Marsh, the largest remaining wetland in California, by administering the Suisun Marsh Preservation Act in cooperation with local governments;
- Regulating new development within the first 100 feet inland from the Bay to ensure that maximum feasible public access to the Bay is provided;
- Minimizing pressure to fill the Bay by ensuring that the limited amount of shoreline area suitable for high priority water-oriented uses is reserved for ports, water-related industries, water-oriented recreation, airports and wildlife areas.
- Pursuing an active planning program to study Bay issues to ensure that Commission plans and policies are based upon the best available current information.
- Leading regionwide adaptation planning in light of rising sea level;
- Administering the federal Coastal Zone Management Act within the San Francisco Bay segment of the California coastal zone to ensure that federal activities reflect Commission policies.
- Participating in the regionwide program to administer a Long Term Management Strategy (LTMS) to ensure appropriate dredging and dredged materials disposal in San Francisco Bay; and,
- Participating in California's oil spill prevention and response planning program.
Do I need a BCDC permit?
If you are planning to build or somehow pursue a project that touches San Francisco Bay or touches any point along the Bay shoreline in the following Bay Area counties you likely need to apply for, and receive, a permit from BCDC prior to commencing the project: Alameda; Contra Costa; Marin; Napa; San Francisco; San Mateo; Santa Clara; Solano; and, Sonoma.
Where is the Commission's jurisdiction?
Because the Commission’s jurisdiction includes the Bay and the first 100 feet inland from the shoreline around the Bay, a map that portrays that jurisdiction would change daily. However, here are five identifying characteristics of BCDC’s jurisdiction:
- The open water, marshes and mudflats of greater San Francisco Bay, including Suisun, San Pablo, Honker, Richardson, San Rafael, San Leandro and Grizzly Bays and the Carquinez Strait.
- The first 100 feet inland from the shoreline around San Francisco Bay.
- The portion of the Suisun Marsh, including levees, waterways, marshes and grasslands, below the ten-foot contour line.
- Portions of most creeks, rivers, sloughs and other tributaries that flow into San Francisco Bay.
- Salt ponds, duck hunting preserves, game refuges and other managed wetlands that have been diked off from San Francisco Bay.
BCDC’s jurisdiction extends to the mean high tide line in areas that do not contain tidal marsh and up to five feet above mean sea level in areas of tidal marsh. The 100-foot shoreline band extends inland for 100 feet from the shoreline of the Bay. In addition, BCDC has jurisdiction over certain waterways in the Bay.
What types of activity require a permit?
A BCDC permit must be obtained before any of the actions below occur within the Commission's jurisdiction, among others:
- Place solid material; dispose of material; build or repair docks, pile-supported, or cantilevered structures; or, moor a vessel for an extended period.
- Dredge or extract material from the Bay bottom.
- Substantially change the use of any structure or area.
- Construct, remodel or repair a structure.
- Subdivide property or grade land.
How do I apply for BCDC permit?
The first step in applying for a permit is to determine whether the project you propose is to be located within the Commission’s jurisdiction. It is usually best to contact BCDC at (415) 352-3600 to have an initial discussion with a BCDC staff member to determine BCDC’s jurisdiction and authority regarding the project. A BCDC permit requires the project proponent to complete an application form, of which there are three separate types. When submitted, an application fee must accompany the application form. The owner of the project site or the owner's representative (architect, attorney, contractor, etc.) must submit the application. BCDC staff prefers to discuss with an applicant the information required on the application prior to the application being submitted; such discussions generally shorten the period required for Commission consideration. In addition, BCDC requires an applicant to demonstrate his/her property interest prior to deeming an application complete and may request a survey of the property in question.
What are the differences among the three different types of applications?
There are 3 application forms:
- There is one application form used for major permits, administrative permits, and regionwide permits (PDF).
- There is another application form used for abbreviated regionwide permits (PDF), which is shorter and requests less information than the application referred to above.
- BCDC also accepts the Joint Aquatic Resource Permit Application (JARPA) in place of our regular application form for major permits, administrative permits, and regionwide permits. While the JARPA asks for the same information, it allows applicants to use one form to apply for permits from several agencies with regulatory authority over bodies of water.
How does the Dredged Materials Management Office (DMMO) application process work?
The Consolidated DMMO application form is to be used when applying for a permit for a project involving only dredging and/or dispose of dredged material in San Francisco Bay and can be used instead of filling out the individual application forms for each of the Bay regulatory agencies. For projects involving the placement of fill or other work in addition to dredging a regular BCDC permit application should be submitted.
How long does it take to process my application?
The Commission must grant or deny a complete application within 90 days unless the project proponent agrees to extend this period. Most applications are processed within five to eight weeks. Once complete, Abbreviated Regionwide Permits generally are processed within two weeks.
Where are application forms?
Application forms and instructions, information describing the Commission's permit review process, and other documents that may be helpful. Those same documents can be mailed upon request at no charge or can be picked up at the Commission's office. A staff member is always available to answer questions when the office is open.
What other permits will I need?
BCDC cannot deem your application as complete until the project has received all required discretionary local permits (e.g., variances, zoning changes, excavation or fill permits, planned unit development and tentative subdivision map approvals, and all other local approvals except ministerial permits, such as building permits). However, BCDC staff prefers that project proponents begin to work with BCDC staff during the project development stage to gain knowledge about, and ensure that the proposed project complies with, BCDC’s laws, policies, guidance, and precedents. BCDC staff may encourage applicants to file “draft applications” to advance the application process. In addition, BCDC may require an applicant to receive a certification from the Regional Water Quality Board and complete all necessary consultations and/or receive approvals from the appropriate wildlife and resources agencies
What happens if a project commences without receiving a BCDC permit?
BCDC operates an active enforcement program to detect and prosecute violators who carry out activities without obtaining required BCDC permits, who do not fulfill BCDC permit requirements, or who perform impermissible activities within BCDC‘s jurisdiction. Absent a BCDC permit, the owner of the property on which a violation takes place is legally responsible for the violation.
Some violations can be vacated by issuing an after-the-fact permit or permit amendment (at double the normal processing fee) if the unpermitted work otherwise complies with state law. A standardized fine may be assessed, which can range from $1,000 to $30,000 per violation.
Other violations can be subject to cease and desist orders, which can require that work be stopped, unpermitted structures be removed, and other remedies. Civil penalties not to exceed $30,000 per violation are usually involved. Serious violations are referred to the California Attorney General for prosecution. These violations are subject to a number of potential penalties, such as: civil penalties of up to $30,000; negligence violations of between $50 and $5,000 per day; knowing and intentional violations of up to between $100 and $10,000 per day; and, exemplary penalties in an amount determined by the court as necessary to deter further violation.
How do I report what I believe to be a violation of BCDC’s laws or policies?
To report a violation email us at email@example.com or call (415) 352-3600 and if possible provide the following:
- Detailed description of the site location, preferably an address or two cross streets and include the city and county names. If possible send a map with exact location.
- Detailed description of the problem, when it began, and whether it requires immediate action.
- Photographic evidence, if available.
- If a contractor is conducting the work, obtain the name and phone number of the firm.
- Identify your interest in the issue (public access user, property owner, contractor, neighbor).
It is extremely helpful to be able to contact you later so if it is important that your name and phone number remain anonymous, please let us know and we will be sure to accommodate your request.
How do I contact the Commission?
San Francisco Bay Conservation & Development Commission
375 Beale St., Suite 510
San Francisco, CA 94105