Alameda County General Ordinances
Chapter 15.36 Grading Erosion and Sediment Control

(Current as of Jan. 18, 2005)


Only selected sections of the grading ordinance are included below. The entire grading ordinance will be found at Alameda County Ordinances.


Article I. Purpose and Definitions
Section 15.36.010 Title
Section 15.36.020 Purpose
Section 15.36.030 Definitions

Article II. General Requirements
Section 15.36.040 Grading permit required
Section 15.36.050 Exemptions
Section 15.36.060 Grading
Section 15.36.070 Water obstruction
Section 15.36.080 Safeguarding of watercourses
Section 15.36.090 Levee work
Section 15.36.100 Construction in public rights-of-way
Section 15.36.110 Hazards
Section 15.36.120 Not retroactive
Section 15.36.130 Administration

Article III. Procedures
Section 15.36.140 Filing
Section 15.36.150 Compliance with CEQA
Section 15.36.160 Referral to other public agencies
Section 15.36.170 Permit conditions
Section 15.36.180 Permission of other agencies or owners
Section 15.36.190 Location of property lines
Section 15.36.200 Time limits
Section 15.36.210 Validity
Section 15.36.220 Appeals

Article IV. Plans and Specifications
Section 15.36.230 Application--Plans
Section 15.36.240 Preliminary grading plans
Section 15.36.250 Final grading plans--Engineer required
Section 15.36.260 Final grading plans--Engineer not required
Section 15.36.270 Modification of approved plans
Section 15.36.280 Seasonal requirements
Section 15.36.290 Distribution and use of approved plans

Article V. Permit Requirements
Section 15.36.300 General
Section 15.36.310 Fees
Section 15.36.320 Geotechnical investigation required
Section 15.36.330 Investigations
Section 15.36.340 Reports--General
Section 15.36.350 Soil/geologic investigation report
Section 15.36.360 Final report
Section 15.36.370 Changed conditions
Section 15.36.380 Special inspection
Section 15.36.390 Noncompliance notification by private geotechnical engineer
Section 15.36.400 Period progress reports by private geotechnical engineer
Section 15.36.410 Progress report by permittee
Section 15.36.420 Submit "as-built" plan
Section 15.36.430 Performance of work--Inspection
Section 15.36.440 Other responsibilities of permittee
Section 15.36.450 Transfer of permit

Article VI. Design Standards
Section 15.36.460 Excavation
Section 15.36.470 Excavation slope
Section 15.36.480 Fill placement
Section 15.36.490 Fill compaction
Section 15.36.500 Ground preparation for fill placement
Section 15.36.510 Fill slopes
Section 15.36.520 Adjacent structures protection
Section 15.36.530 Setbacks--General
Section 15.36.540 Drainage--General
Section 15.36.540 Drainage--General
Section 15.36.550 Drainage--Disposal requirements
Section 15.36.560 Drainage--Water accumulation
Section 15.36.570 Drainage protection of adjoining property
Section 15.36.580 Terrace drainage
Section 15.36.590 Subsurface drainage
Section 15.36.600 Erosion and sediment control
Section 15.36.610 Emergency conditions
Section 15.36.620 Erosion and sediment control plans
Section 15.36.630 Vehicular ways--General
Section 15.36.640 Vehicular ways--Cut slopes
Section 15.36.650 Vehicular ways--Drainage

Article VII. Improvement Security
Section 15.36.660 Security required

Article VIII. Enforcement
Section 15.36.670 Suspension and revocation of permit
Section 15.36.680 Abatement
Section 15.36.690 Injunction
Section 15.36.700 Nonexclusive remedies

Article IX. Additional Provisions
Section 15.36.710 Enforcement official
Section 15.36.720 Right of entry
Section 15.36.730 Stop work orders
Section 15.36.740 Liability
Section 15.36.750 Denial of other permits
Section 15.36.760 Notice to adjacent owners


Article I. Purpose and Definitions

Section 15.36.020 Purpose.

This chapter is enacted for the purpose of regulating grading on private property within the unincorporated area of the county to safeguard life, limb, health, property and public welfare; to avoid pollution of watercourses with nutrients, sediments, or other earthen materials generated on or caused by surface runoff on or across the permit area; and to ensure that the intended use of a graded site is consistent with the county general plan, any specific plans adopted thereto and applicable county ordinances including the zoning ordinance. (Prior gen. code 7-110.1)

Section 15.36.030 Definitions.

. . .

"Grading" means any land excavation, or filling or combination thereof, or the removal, plowing under or burial of vegetative groundcover.

. . .

"Watercourse" means any natural or manmade channel flowing continuously or intermittently in a definite direction and course or used for the holding, delay or storage of waters, which functions at any time to convey or store stormwater runoff. Natural channels shall generally be limited to those designated by a solid line or a dash and three dots as shown in blue on the most recent U.S. Geological Survey 7.5 minute series of topographic maps. At the discretion of the director of public works, the definition of natural channel may be limited to those channels having a watershed area of fifty (50) acres or more, and this definition will be commonly used in connection with the administration of this chapter except for those cases in which the director of public works determines that the definition must be extended to a natural channel with a watershed smaller than fifty (50) acres in order to prevent a condition which is a menace to life and limb, endangers property, is a hazard to public safety, adversely affects the safety, use or serviceability of adjacent property, public way or drainage channel, or could adversely affect the water quality of any water bodies or watercourses where the definition not extended to a particular natural channel with a watershed below fifty (50) acres.
(Prior gen. code 7-100.2)


Article II. General Requirements

Section 15.36.050 Exemptions.

The following grading may be done without obtaining a permit:

A. Minor projects which have cuts or fills, each of which is less than five feet in vertical depth at its deepest point measured from the existing ground surface, and which include all of the following:

1. Less than one hundred fifty (150) cubic yards of graded material,

2. The removal, plowing under or burial of less than ten thousand (10,000) square feet of vegetation on slopes ten percent or greater or any amount of vegetation on slopes less than ten percent,

3. Do not create unstable or erodible slopes;

B. Grading done by or under the supervision or construction control of a public agency that assumes full responsibility for the work;

C. Excavations in connection with a building, swimming pool, retaining wall, or other structure authorized by a valid building permit;

D. Grading necessary for agricultural operations unless such grading will create a cut or fill whose failure could endanger any structure intended for human or animal occupancy or any public road, or could obstruct any watercourse or drainage conduit;

E. Trenching and grading incidental to the construction or installation of approved underground pipe lines, septic tank disposal fields, conduits, electrical or communication facilities, and drilling or excavation for approved wells or post holes. Such work shall be backfilled and the surface restored to its original condition, including reseeding or otherwise restoring vegetation on all disturbed earth surfaces if slopes exceed two percent, as soon as possible after such grading work is completed;

F. Excavations for soil or geological investigations by a geotechnical engineer or engineering geologist. Such work shall be backfilled and shaped to the original contour of the land under the direction of the geotechnical engineer or engineering geologist as soon as possible after the investigation;

G. Grading in accordance with plans incorporated in an approved surface mining permit, reclamation plan or sanitary landfill;

H. Maintenance of existing firebreaks and roads to keep the firebreak or road substantially in its original condition;

I. Routine cemetery excavations and fills;

J. Performance of emergency work necessary to protect life or property when an urgent necessity therefore arises. The person performing such emergency work shall notify the director of public works promptly of the problem and work required and shall apply for a permit therefor within ten calendar days after commencing said work.

Exemption from the requirement of a permit shall not be deemed to be permission to violate any provision of this chapter. (Prior gen. code 7-111.1)

Section 15.36.060 Grading.

No person shall do or permit to be done any grading in such a manner that quantities of dirt, soil, rock, debris, or other material substantially in excess of natural levels are washed, eroded, or otherwise moved from the site, except as specifically provided for by a permit. (Prior gen. code 7-111.2)

Section 15.36.070 Water obstruction.

No person shall do or permit to be done any grading which may obstruct, impede or interfere with the natural flow of stormwater, whether such waters are unconfined upon the surface of the land or confined within land depressions or natural drainage ways, unimproved channels or watercourses, or improved ditches, channels or conduits, in such manner as to cause flooding where it would not otherwise occur, aggravate any existing flooding condition or cause accelerated erosion except where said grading is in accordance with all applicable laws, including but not limited to permit requirements. (Prior gen. code 7-111.3)

Section 15.36.080 Safeguarding of watercourses.

Any proposed grading work which could result in a connection or discharge into or modification of the flow of a watercourse may, at the discretion of the director of public works, require a separate permit under the provisions of the county watercourse protection ordinance or the county flood control and water conservation district permit ordinance. (Prior gen. code 7-111.4)


Article III. Procedures

Section 15.36.210 Validity.

The issuance of a permit or approval of plans and specifications shall not be construed as an approval of any violation of the provisions of this chapter or of any other applicable laws, ordinances, rules or regulations; and shall not prevent the director of public works from thereafter requiring the correction of errors in said plans and specifications or from preventing work being carried on thereunder in violation of this chapter, or any other applicable law, ordinance, rule or regulation. (Prior gen. code 7-112.7)

Section 15.36.220 Appeals.

Appeals from decisions pursuant to this chapter shall be made to the board of supervisors in writing setting forth the specific grounds thereto within fifteen (15) calendar days from the date of such decision. (Prior gen. code 7-112.8)


Article IV. Plans and Specifications

Section 15.36.230 Application--Plans.

Two or more complete sets of plans, as determined by the director of public works, including but not limited to profiles, cross sections, topographic maps and specifications shall be submitted to the director of public works with each application for a grading permit, or when otherwise required by the director of public works for enforcement of any provisions of this chapter. At the time of application, the applicant may provide preliminary grading plans. Prior to the issuance of a grading permit the applicant must furnish final grading plans. Preliminary grading plans with appropriate changes and additions thereto may be accepted as final grading plans. When the final grading plans and other required documents have been approved, a grading permit will be issued by the director of public works. The work shall be done in strict compliance with the approved plans and specifications which shall not be changed or altered except in accordance with the provisions of this article. (Prior gen. code 7-113.0)

Section 15.36.240 Preliminary grading plans.

Preliminary grading plans provide for review and determination of grading permit requirements prior to approval of final plans and issuance of a grading permit. Precise design at this stage is not required. The plans shall be clearly and legibly drawn and entitled "preliminary grading plans," shall contain a statement of the purpose of the proposed grading, and shall include the following, unless waived by the director of public works:

A. On a map of appropriate scale, but not smaller than one inch equals one hundred (100) feet:

1. A plan entitled "preliminary grading plan" and the name and signature of preparer and date of preparation,

2. A vicinity sketch (not at map scale) indicating the location of the site relative to the principal roads, lakes and watercourses in the area,

3. A site plan indicating the site of the work and any proposed divisions of land,

4. The complete site boundaries and locations of any easements and rights-of-way traversing and adjacent to the property, appropriately labeled and dimensioned,

5. The location of all existing and proposed roads, buildings, wells, pipelines, watercourses, and other structures, facilities, and features of the site, and the location of all improvements on adjacent land within fifty (50) feet of the proposed work,

6. Location and nature of known or suspected soil or geologic hazard areas,

7. Contour lines of the existing terrain and proposed approximate finished grade at intervals not greater than five feet, showing all topographic features and drainage patterns throughout the area where proposed grading is to occur. The contour lines shall be extended to a minimum of fifty (50) feet beyond the affected area, and further if needed to define intercepted drainage, and shall be extended a minimum of one hundred (100) feet outside of any future road rights-of-way,

8. Approximate location of cut and fill lines and the limits of grading for all the proposed grading work including borrow and stockpile areas. A written description of offsite locations of said areas fill suffice,

9. Location, width, direction of flow and approximate location of tops and toes of banks of any watercourses,

10. Approximate boundaries of any areas with a history of flooding,

11. Proposed provisions for storm drainage control and any existing or proposed flood control facilities or septic tank disposal fields in the vicinity of the grading,

12. A conceptual plan for erosion and sediment control including both temporary facilities and long-term site stabilization features such as planting or seeding for the area affected by the proposed grading. This requirement may be waived by the director of public works for sites having no slopes greater than five percent unless the large size of the site, its proximity to sensitive areas or other conditions make an erosion or sediment discharge hazard possible,

13. North arrow and scale,

14. General location and character of vegetation covering the site and the locations of trees with a trunk diameter of twelve (12) inches or more, measured at a point three feet above average ground level, within the area to be disturbed by the proposed grading. The plans shall indicate which trees are proposed to remain and how they are to be protected;

B. Typical cross sections (not less than two) of all existing and proposed graded areas taken at intervals not exceeding two hundred (200) feet and at locations of maximum cuts and fills;

C. An estimate of the quantities of excavation and fill, including quantities to be moved both on- and off-site;

D. The estimated starting and completion dates of grading;

E. Such supplemental information as required for processing and approval of the design concept and the application as required by the director of public works. (Prior gen. code 7-113.1)

Section 15.36.250 Final grading plans--Engineer required.

Final grading plans and specifications shall be prepared and signed by a civil engineer, except as otherwise provided herein, on sheets at least twenty-four (24) inches by thirty-six (36) inches. The plans shall include the following, in addition to all requirements for preliminary grading plans, unless waved by the director of public works:

A. A title block. Plans shall be entitled "grading plan" and state the purpose of the proposed grading and the name of the engineer or firm by whom this plan is prepared;

B. Accurate contour lines at intervals not greater than five feet, showing topographic features and drainage patterns and the configuration of the ground before and after grading, relative to a bench mark established on-site;

C. Location, extent and finished surface slopes of all proposed grading and final cut and fill lines;

D. Cross sections, profiles, elevations, dimensions and construction details based on accurate field data;

E. Construction details for roads, watercourses, culverts, bridges and drainage devices, retaining walls, cribbing, dams, and other improvements existing or to be constructed, together with supporting calculations and maps as required;

F. Complete construction specifications;

G. A detailed erosion and sediment control plan including specific locations, construction details, and supporting calculations for temporary and permanent sediment control structures and facilities, when required by the director of public works;

H. A landscaping plan, when required by the director of public works, including temporary erosion control plantings, permanent slope plantings, replacement of temporary groundcover, and irrigation facilities;

I. An estimate of the quantities of excavation and fill, adjusted for anticipated swell or shrinkage;

J. The location of any borrow site or location for disposal of surplus material;

K. A projected schedule of operations, including, as a minimum, the dates of:

1. Commencement of work,
2. Start and finish of rough grading,
3. Completion of drainage facilities,
4. Completion of work in any watercourse,
5. Completion of erosion and sediment control facilities,
6. Completion of hydromulching and other landscaping.

If rough grading is proposed between October 1st and April 15th, a more detailed schedule of grading activities and use of erosion and sediment control facilities may be required;

L. Itemized cost estimate of the proposed grading and related work;

M. Other information as may be required by the director of public works. (Prior gen. code 7-113.2)

Section 15.36.260 Final grading plans--Engineer not required.

All plans and specifications shall be prepared and signed by a civil engineer except that the director of public works may waive this requirement if the grading is minor in nature; would not endanger the public health, safety or welfare as determined by the director of public works; and would not involve or require any of the following:

A. Cuts and fills with a combined total of one thousand five hundred (1,500) cubic yards or more;

B. An access road serving three or more existing or potential residences;

C. A cut or fill that is intended to support structures;

D. A cut or fill that is located so as to cause unduly increased pressure or reduce support upon any adjacent structure or property;

E. The construction of any extensive drainage or sediment control structures, culverts, or facilities or alteration of any existing drainage course;

F. The creation or aggravation of an unstable slope condition. (Prior gen. code 7-113.3)


Article VI. Design Standards

Section 15.36.530 Setbacks--General.

Unless otherwise recommended in a soil and geological investigation report, Figures 1 and 2 and Table 70c on Pages 683 and 684 of the 1976 Uniform Building Code or said similar provisions as provided for in adopted successor code shall be used for establishing setbacks for property boundaries, buildings and structures other than fences and retaining walls. (Prior gen. code 7-115.7)

Section 15.36.600 Erosion and sediment control.

The following shall apply to the control of erosion and sediment from grading operations:

A. Grading plans shall be designed with long-term erosion and sediment control as a primary consideration.

B. No grading operations shall be conducted during the rainy season except upon a clear demonstration, to the satisfaction of the director of public works, that at no stage of the work will there be any substantial risk of increased sediment discharge from the site.

C. Should grading be permitted during the rainy season, the smallest practicable area of erodible land shall be exposed at any one time during grading operations and the time of exposure shall be minimized.

D. Natural features, including vegetation, terrain, watercourses and similar resources shall be preserved wherever possible. Limits of grading shall be clearly defined and marked to prevent damage by construction equipment.

E. Permanent vegetation and structures for erosion and sediment control shall be installed as soon as possible.

F. Adequate provision shall be made for long-term maintenance of permanent erosion and sediment control structures and vegetation.

G. No topsoil shall be removed from the site unless otherwise directed or approved by the director of public works. Topsoil overburden shall be stockpiled and redistributed within the graded area after rough grading to provide a suitable base for seeding and planting. Runoff from the stockpiled area shall be controlled to prevent erosion and resultant sedimentation of receiving water.

H. Runoff shall not be discharged from the site in quantities or at velocities substantially above those which occurred before grading except into drainage facilities whose design has been specifically approved by the director of public works.

I. Permittee shall take reasonable precautions to ensure that vehicles do not track or spill earth materials into public streets and shall immediately remove such materials if this occurs. (Prior gen. code 7-115.14)

Section 15.36.620 Erosion and sediment control plans.

Erosion and sediment control plans prepared pursuant to this chapter shall comply with all of the following:

A. The erosion and sediment control plan need not be a separate sheet if all facilities and measures can be shown on the grading sheets without obscuring the clarity of either the grading plan or the erosion and sediment control plan.

B. An erosion and sediment control plan shall be required whenever:

1. The graded portion of the site includes more than ten thousand (10,000) square feet of area having a slope greater than five percent;

2. There is a significant risk that more than two thousand five hundred (2,500) square feet will be unprotected or inadequately protected from erosion during any portion of the rainy season;

3. Grading will occur within twenty (20) feet of any watercourse;

4. The director of public works determines that the grading will or may pose a significant erosion or sediment discharge hazard for any reason.

C. The applicant shall submit, with his erosion and sediment control plans, a detailed cost estimate covering this work.

D. Erosion and sediment control plans shall include an effective revegetation program to stabilize all disturbed areas which will not be otherwise protected. All such areas where grading has been completed between April 1st and September 15th shall be planted by October 1st. Graded areas completed at other times of the year shall be planted within fifteen (15) days. If revegetation is infeasible or cannot be expected to stabilize an erodible area with assurance during any part of the rainy season and the unstable area exceeds two thousand five hundred (2,500) square feet, additional erosion and sediment control measures or irrigation of planted slopes may be required as appropriate to prevent increased sediment discharge.

E. Erosion and sediment control plans shall be designed to prevent increased discharge of sediment at all stages of grading and development from initial disturbance of the ground to project completion. Every feasible effort shall be made to ensure that site stabilization is permanent. If grading occurs in distinct phases or the site will remain unstable through more than one rainy season, more than one set of plans may be required. Plans shall indicate the implementation period and the state of construction where applicable.

F. Erosion and sediment control plans shall comply with the recommendations of any civil engineer, geotechnical engineer, engineering geologist, or landscape architect involved in preparation of the grading plans.

G. The structural and hydraulic adequacy of all stormwater containment or conveyance facilities shown on the erosion and sediment control plans shall be verified by a civil engineer, and he shall so attest on the plans. Sufficient calculations and supporting material to demonstrate such adequacy shall accompany the plans when submitted.

H. Erosion and sediment control plans shall be designed with sufficient flexibility to meet unanticipated field conditions.

I. Erosion and sediment control plans shall provide for inspection and repair of all erosion and sediment control facilities at the close of each working day during the rainy season and for specific sediment cleanout and vegetation maintenance criteria.

J. Erosion and sediment control plans shall comply with any and all standards and specifications adopted by the director of public works for the control of erosion and sedimentation on grading sites.

The director of public works may waive the requirement for an erosion and sediment control plan if, in his opinion, no significant erosion or sediment discharge hazard exists. (Prior gen. code 7-115.16)