Activities Requiring Permit Approval

To be approved, a project must meet the standards of state law, be consistent with any applicable court decisions and conform with the Commission's plans and policies. Following are brief summaries of the principal provisions that the Commission uses in considering applications for Bay fill, shoreline development, and work in the Suisun Marsh. This summary information is for general guidance only. The specific language in the relevant laws, plans and regulations govern the Commission's decisions.

Work on a project needing Commission authorization cannot begin until the necessary approval has been secured.

Commission Jurisdiction

It is necessary to obtain Commission approval before undertaking any of the activities listed above in any of the following areas:

San Francisco Bay, which includes Suisun, San Pablo, Honker, Richardson, San Rafael, San Leandro and Grizzly Bays and the Carquinez Strait.

Certain waterways that flow into the Bay.

Salt ponds or managed wetlands around the Bay.

The Commission's shoreline band jurisdiction which extends 100 feet inland from the Bay.

The primary management area of the Suisun Marsh.

For specific information on BCDC's jurisdiction see section 66610 of The McAteer-Petris Act

It is necessary to obtain BCDC approval prior to undertaking any of the following activities:


Placing solid material, building pile-supported or cantilevered structures, disposing of material or permanently mooring vessels in the Bay or in certain tributaries of the Bay.

If no on-land site is available for the project, if the fill is the minimum amount necessary to carry out the project, and if the public benefits of the fill clearly exceed the public detriment from the loss of water area, the Commission can approve some fill in San Francisco Bay for:

Port facilities that are consistent with the San Francisco Bay Area Seaport Plan.

Industries that require access to the Bay to import or export raw material or products.

Water-related recreational uses, such as shoreline parks, marinas, fishing piers, beaches, and trails.

Airport terminals and runways if the growth in air traffic cannot be accommodated in any other way.

Bridges, if there is no other feasible way of handling the traffic congestion.

Improving the appearance of the shoreline or increasing public access to the Bay through minor amounts of fill.

Bay-related commercial recreational and public assembly facilities on privately-owned parts of the Bay.

The replacement of deteriorated piers with Bay-related commercial recreational and public assembly facilities on publicly-owned parts of the Bay where consistent with a Commission-adopted special area plan.

The Commission cannot generally authorize fill for residences, offices, roads, general commercial buildings or industrial structures that do not need a waterfront location. When the Commission approves a fill project, a mitigation program is often required to reduce the adverse environmental impacts of the fill or to replace the natural resources that are destroyed by the fill.

Dredging and Dredged Sediment Disposal

Extraction of sand, mud, or other materials from San Francisco Bay, its tributaries, the delta, or coastal state waters. Disposal of dredged sediment extracted from the Bay.

Use McAteer Petris 66664.4 & 66664.3

Shoreline Projects

Nearly all work, including grading, on the land within 100 feet of the Bay shoreline.

The Commission considers only two factors in determining whether to issue a permit for work within its 100-foot shoreline band jurisdiction:

Within priority use areas (those parts of the shoreline that the Commission has reserved for ports, water-related industries, airports, wildlife refuges and water-related recreation), the Commission can authorize only either the use for which the area has been reserved or an interim use that will not preclude the site from being converted to the priority use. Maximum feasible public access to the shoreline must be provided as part of the project. 

Outside of the priority use areas the Commission can authorize any use if the project provides the maximum feasible public access to the Bay consistent with the project. Applications for projects anywhere along the Bay shoreline can be denied if the required public access is not provided as part of the project. [Government Code section 66632.4]

Suisun Marsh Projects

Nearly all work, including land divisions, in the portion of the Suisun Marsh below the ten-foot contour level.

Within the primary management area of the Suisun Marsh, the Commission authorizes development that is consistent with the applicable certified local protection program or, in the absence of a certified program, with the provisions of the Suisun Marsh Preservation Act and the policies of the Suisun Marsh Protection Plan. These acts, plan and programs require that:

Existing land and water uses should continue and be protected and managed to enhance the quality and diversity of aquatic and wildlife habitat.

Agricultural uses should be compatible with the maintenance and improvement of wildlife habitat. [Public Resources Code section 29501 et seq].

The Commission generally cannot authorize urban uses, such as houses, industries, roads, businesses and offices within the Suisun Marsh.

Other Projects

Any filling, new construction, major remodeling, substantial change in use, and many land subdivisions in the Bay, along the shoreline, in salt ponds, duck hunting preserves or other managed wetlands adjacent to the Bay.

Federal Projects

In addition to carrying out its regulatory authority under state law, the federal Coastal Zone Management Act allows the Commission to review federal projects and projects that require federal approval or are supported with federal funds. The Commission carries out its "federal consistency" responsibilities by reviewing federal projects much like it does permit applications. However, the Commission cannot require federal agencies to submit permit applications. Nevertheless, federal agencies and applicants for federal approvals must provide the project details, data and other material required by the form to assure that the Commission has the information it needs to evaluate federal projects.