Historic District Design Review Process

Design review is a procedure to review exterior changes to buildings or sites, to ensure that they are consistent with the City’s adopted plans and regulations.  In a historic district, this includes a review of consistency with the design guidelines of the adopted conservation plan.  Many maintenance, repair, and minor projects may be exempt; those that are not will require design review and approval either through a staff-level process (administrative review) or through a commission-level public hearing. Requirements for Design Review are contained in Chapter 17.108 of the Benicia Municipal Code.

Examples of projects that are likely to require design review and approval include:

  • Removal, replacement, or alteration of architectural features or details;
  • A new structure or structure addition; and
  • Demolition or partial demolition of a structure.

Getting Started:

First, determine what type of work can be exempt from design review, and what type of work will require administrative or commission-level review. Exempt projects do not require design review and can proceed directly to building permit (if required).  In some instances, the City will complete a review and issue a written determination on the project’s exemption prior to permitting.

For questions, please consult the informational handouts provided on this webpage, or reach out to the Planning Division Planner of the Day via email or call (707) 746-4320.

If design review is required, please anticipate the following:

  1. Submittal of a complete design review application + fee.  Refer to the submittal checklistsubmittal standards and fee schedule available on the City of Benicia website.
  2. City review of application. The application will be routed for review to appropriate city departments. Additional information may be requested to ensure a complete application, and revisions may be required for compliance with zoning and/or adopted design guidelines. The review period may take up to 30 days for each submittal.  This process will also include environmental review per the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
  3. Complete application ready for decision. If the project requires commission-level review, it will be scheduled for a public hearing. In general, a lead time of at least 28 days is required to prepare an item for a public hearing.  Administrative design review applications, however, do not require a public hearing.  In either case, a public notice will be mailed to owners within a defined radius of the project location and posted on the project site.
  4. If the project is approved, obtain a building permit. Building permits must comply with the commission-level (or staff-level) approved project.  A building permit will not be issued until after the 10-working day appeal period from the date the design review action has passed.