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. (Grading Ordinance) 
  • If the wall height is four feet or greater. (Grading Ordinance)
  • If the wall is retaining a slope that is steeper than two horizontal to one vertical (2:1). (Grading Ordinance)
  • If the wall impacts any open space or environmentally sensitive areas designated in the General Plan (Grading Ordinance)
  • If the wall will impact any waterway or wetland, stream, river, channel, pond, lake, marsh, bog, lagoon, vernal pool or riparian habitat. (Grading Ordinance)
  • If the wall is to be constructed in any floodway or floodplain (Grading Ordinance)
  • 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. (Grading Ordinance)
  • If the wall is to be constructed in the hillside overlay district. (applies to any HL, R-1 & R-1A zoning designation) (Grading Ordinance)
  • If the wall is constructed in any other sensitive area such as archaeological sites, historical sites or burial grounds. (Grading Ordinance)

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. (Uniform Building Code)
  •  If the wall is used to impound flammable liquids. (Uniform Building Code)

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 Conc. Structures and for stacked stone walls in the 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