Retaining Walls

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Retaining walls have the potential to create hazards to property or persons. Depending on the specific nature of the improvements proposed, a Grading Permit may be required to ensure safety and prevent property damage.

When Does a Retaining Wall Require a Grading Permit?

A Grading Permit is required under the following circumstances:

  • If the wall is located within five feet of the property line or the city’s right-of-way line.
  • If the wall height is greater than three (3) feet.
  • If the wall is retaining a slope that is steeper than two horizontal to one vertical (2:1).
  • If the wall impacts any open space or environmentally sensitive areas designated in the General Plan.
  • If the wall will impact any waterway or wetland, stream, river, channel, pond, lake, marsh, bog, lagoon, vernal pool or riparian habitat.
  • If the wall is to be constructed in any floodway or floodplain.
  • If the wall is to be constructed in any officially mapped zone of high geologic risk (Zone “C” and “D”) as defined by the geotechnical/seismic study for the General Plan.
  • If the wall is to be constructed in the hillside overlay district. (applies to any HL, R-1 & R-1A zoning designation).
  • If the wall is constructed in any other sensitive area such as archaeological sites, historical sites or burial grounds.

If no Grading Permit is required, a Building Permit from the Building Division will be required under the following circumstances:

  •  If the wall is supporting a surcharge of any kind.  A three foot wall installed within three foot of a structure such as a house will have a surcharge from that structure.  A three foot wall within three feet of a driveway will have a surcharge from the vehicles that park on the driveway.
  •  If the wall is used to impound flammable liquids.

More Information

The City of Santee Grading Ordinance regulates grading activities within the City and provides information on when a permit is required and what is required to obtain a grading permit.

What is Required to Obtain a Grading Permit?

The attached “How to Guide on Grading Permits”  provides helpful information on what is needed to obtain a grading permit. Standard drawings are available for walls with foundations in the San Diego Regional Standard Drawings Concrete Structures and for stacked stone walls in the City Adopted Keystone Design Standards.

When & Where Permits are Issued?

Grading permits can be obtained at City Hall, Department of Development Services, 10601 Magnolia Avenue Building 4, during the following hours:

  • 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday
  • 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Helpful Resources:

Department of Development Services
(619) 258-4100 Extension 167