An explainer: City of Malibu permit processes for development projects

Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

With the implementation of a development portal, city seeks to expedite and streamline application processing

By Barbara Burke

Special to The Malibu Times

Residents of Malibu must file applications for project approvals and various permits when seeking to build a new structure or to remodel homes or businesses. When doing work on your property, it is always best practice to contact the city to verify if a planning approval or building permit is necessary. The Malibu Times consulted with Environmental Programs Manager Tracey Rossine, Development and Operations Manager Patricia Salazar, and Senior Planner Raneika Brooks for a deep dive to find out how the processes work to obtain required approvals from the city, and also, to discuss the city’s new development portal which was implemented on April 22. Staff explained that the portal’s ability to work in real-time will expedite and streamline processing of requests, reviews, approvals, and payments, as well as keep applicants informed while their requests and applications are pending with the city.

“The project’s applicant team, including the consulting geologist, engineers, design professionals, etc., is required to provide project plans and technical site analyses to be reviewed by the city’s departments,” Brooks explained. “The role of the city departments is to review the submitted documents provided by the applicant’s team for adherence with local and state regulations.”

Moreover, it was explained why the onus is on an applicant’s professional team to perform such necessary studies and assessments.

“The city’s team cannot complete a site analysis or design a project on behalf of the applicant/homeowner/project team for sites in Malibu as that would be a conflict of interest and a violation of their code of ethics,” Rossine said. “Simply stated, it is against best practices and ethics in the industry for a professional to review his or her own work.”

Basics of a development project submittal, beginning with the planning phase

City staff set forth the steps in obtaining approval for a development project.

First, there is the planning phase, which focuses on architectural and zoning assessments — This is the ‘Where and what I am building?’ phase.” the staff explained.

In that process, a person submits an application, which includes, but isn’t limited to, architecture and grading plans, technical reports and analysis, etc. The application is distributed to applicable city departments and external agencies planning staff further explained. The city departments review the submittal to determine whether it adheres to applicable city and state codes before providing comments to the planner and applicant team. Concurrent to the city departmental review, the planner conducts a conformance review to determine whether what has been submitted complies with applicable development standards.

Addressing the next phase in the process, Brooks stated, “Once the applicant has addressed the city specialists’ and planner’s comments, the planner deems the planning application complete and a decision will be issued by the appropriate decision-making body.” Once all appeal periods have expired and the applicant has met all conditions of approval, the applicant will then be notified to submit to building plan check. 

Building plan check review 

After the planning phase comes the building plan check review. 

“The building plan check addresses the civil/engineering/structural aspects of a project. This is the ‘How it is being built’ phase,” Rossine said. “Applicants submit approved plans to building staff and there is distribution of documents to applicable city departments and external agencies to determine whether the proposed project adheres to all local and state regulations.”

That process includes a permit technician being notified when a plans examiner and other city departments and external agencies have completed review. Those city professionals reviewing the applications during this phase will provide comments or corrections or an approval of the project.

“Once the applicant has satisfactorily met all state and local regulatory requirements, the plans are approved, and the applicant will be notified to submit for permit issuance.” Rossine explained.

Building permit phase

In the building permit phase of the process, approved construction plans with all required approval stamps are processed by a permit technician. “This is also the point when the Planning Department staff will conduct post-approval compliance inspection ensuring that all planning conditions imposed on the project are completed.” Salazar explained. 

“A permit is issued based on the approved scope of work and construction can begin,” Rossine stated. “Next, there are inspections and inspection staff are called at specific points to verify that a project is being done according to the approved plans.”

Salazar elaborated, noting that “Projects may also require inspections by the Planning and Public Works departments and the city biologist.” This is in addition to geology, and LA County Fire-required inspections. 

The city has provided a video explaining the development process that readers can access here: The video is also on the city website at   

Development Portal – A game changer

On April 22, the city introduced the Malibu Development Portal for applicants or owners to submit projects, view status updates, and manage documents and fees. Design professionals and homeowners have access to individual projects, real time updates, departments’ revisions, required documents, and fee information. Other features include managing inspection requests and researching public documents. Readers can find out comprehensive information and a “How-To Video” explaining this portal at:

To access the portal, go to To access the meeting when City Council members were introduced to the new portal, go to (starts at the 1:28 mark).

With the new development portal, the city’s professionals who are working on an application can collaborate on working on a project in real time, thus streamlining the process. 

As those seeking to build structures in Malibu go through the city review process, they may discover that the city’s processes are more streamlined and efficient and that there is more information available to applicants during the process, now that the city has implemented its new development portal.