New and Redevelopment

New and redevelopment projects in Santa Barbara County must be designed to prevent water quality impacts from occurring, not just during construction, but throughout the life of the project.

County staff review project applications to determine mitigating conditions consistent with requirements in Section E.12 of the Statewide NPDES Municipal General Permit and, for projects located in the NPDES Permit Area, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board's Post-Construction Stormwater Management Requirements

Stormwater Technical Guide

All regulated projects shall follow the Santa Barbara County Stormwater Technical Guide.

The County's Stormwater Technical Guide explains how to design bioretention for development projects.  Bioretention is the recommended solution for addressing the County's stormwater requirements.  Additional resources including bioretention construction specifications, plant selection, and a vendor list, can be found on the Central Coast Low Impact Development Initiative website.

An example Stormwater Control Plan for a commercial project is here ; an example Stormwater Control Plan for a residential subdivision is here .

Is my project subject to these requirements?

Applicability depends on where your project is located and the type and scope of development.

1.  Projects Located In the NPDES Permit Area

The NPDES Permit Area generally coincides with the urban areas of Santa Barbara County and is based on census block boundaries.  To determine if your project is located in the NPDES Permit Area, view the map here. All projects located in the NPDES Permit Area, and some projects outside the permit area that are Tier 2 or greater, shall meet the following stormwater runoff measures:

Type of New or Redevelopment Project Application Completeness

Tier 1
Projects, including single-family homes, that create or replace 2,500 square feet or more of impervious surface

Submit a Stormwater Control Plan for Small (Tier 1) Projects

Tier 2
Projects, other than single-family homes, that create or replace 5,000 square feet or more of net* impervious surface

Submit a Stormwater Control Plan that addresses Site Design (Tier 1), runoff treatment and source control measures (Tier 2)

Tier 3
Projects, other than  single-family homes, that create or replace 15,000 square feet or more of impervious surface.

Detached single-family homes that create or replace 15,000 square feet or more of net* impervious surface.

Submit a Stormwater Control Plan that addresses site design (Tier 1), runoff treatment and source control measures (Tier 2), and stormwater retention (Tier 3)

Tier 4
Projects that create and/or replace 22,500 square feet or more of impervious surface (collectively over the entire project site).

In addition to the above for Tiers 1, 2, and 3, follow the Santa Barbara County Flood Control District requirements for managing post-development peak flows. Note the County's requirements are typically more stringent than Tier 4 requirements and have a lower threshold of applicability than Tier 4 projects.

* Net impervious surface equals new and replaced impervious area minus the total pre-project-to-post-project reduction in impervious area (if any). 

Projects that have already received their first ministerial permit (e.g. a building permit), or projects that have previously been approved through a discretionary action (e.g. Planning Commission approval) but are not yet built, are not Regulated Projects and therefore do not have to apply the Post-Construction Stormwater Requirements (R3-2013-0032 §(B)(c)(i)). Specifically, all land divisions (Tentative Parcel Map or Tract Map) approved by a decision-maker prior to March 6, 2014, would qualify as the "first discretionary approval of project design".

2.  Projects Located Outside the NPDES Permit Area

Projects not located in the NPDES Permit Area, but that do meet the following criteria, shall be conditioned to provide treatment of stormwater runoff.  [NOTE EXCEPTION: Very large developments located outside the NPDES Permit Area, such as residential subdivisions, will likely be subject to the Tier 4 Post-Construction Requirements described above.]  The standard conditions for water quality treatment can be found here.  The performance requirements can be met by implementing measures as described in the County's Stormwater Technical Guide for a Tier 2 project, or other acceptable design guidance manual for stormwater quality treatment.

Type of New or Redevelopment Project

Application Completeness

  1. Any development that disturbs 1.0 acre or more
  2. Residential subdivisions with 10 or more dwelling units
  3. Commercial / Industrial / Institutional that disturbs 0.5 acres or more
  4. Parking lots that create or replace 5,000 square feet or more or that have 25 or more parking spaces and are potentially exposed to storm water runoff
  5. Automobile repair shops
  6. Gasoline stations
  7. Restaurants

Submit a Stormwater Control Plan that addresses site design and water quality treatment (Tier 2) and source control measures

Project Review / Approval & Construction

In order to obtain land use permit issuance or zoning clearance for Regulated Projects, the project applicant must submit a deposit for the review/approval of final construction documents, including the final Stormwater Control Plan and Maintenance Plan (see the instructions on page 3-7 of the Stormwater Technical Guide for construction checklist). 

Plan Check for Regulated Projects

In order to obtain map clearance, zoning clearance, or any permit approvals, you must submit the following to Project Clean Water at the main office: 130 E. Victoria Suite 200, Santa Barbara CA 93101.  The building is located on Victoria between Santa Barbara and Anacapa Streets.

  1. Deposit of $2,000 for all plan check reviews.  Checks payable to Project Clean Water.
  2. Final Storm Water Control Plan, along with the full size civil engineering plans (Grading and Drainage, Utilities, etc.).  Submittal may include relevant portions from the Landscape and Architectural plans.
  3. Maintenance Plan
  4. Agreement for Payment of Plan Check Form signed by the applicant, identifying the project name, APN and/or address, and case number(s).

A receipt for the check and copy of the agreement form will be provided at 130 E. Victoria St. Suite 200 office.  If submitted by mail or private delivery service, please include contact information so we can provide the receipt and signed agreement form.  The plan check and approval process typically takes two weeks or more, but will not begin until all of these items are received by the Project Clean Water Office in Santa Barbara.

In addition, the owner must sign a formal agreement with the Public Works Department for the long-term operation and maintenance of stormwater control facilities described in the Stormwater Control Plan.

Maintenance Agreement

Form used to document the site-specific maintenance agreement terms between property owner/subdivider and County.  Project Clean Water will prepare this form.  The owner's signature must be notarized.

Maintenance Plan

The maintenance plan is Exhibit C of the Maintenance Agreement (above).  The maintenance plan describes the specific activities that must be performed to maintain the particular performance objectives stated in the Storm Water Control Plan.  It must include:

  1. All structural measures to be maintained
  2. All maintenance activities for each measure (what needs to be done and how do they do it?)
  3. A schedule for maintenance (how often and when?) and
  4. A site plan or vicinity map showing the location of all measures
  5. The statement, "Records of inspection and maintenance activities as outlined in this plan will be retained by the owner for a minimum of the past five years, and copies shall be made available upon request to the County of Santa Barbara Project Clean Water".

The document should be easy-to-use for any future owner, written in simple and plain language.  The site plan must be legible and reproducible per County Recorder, which means black-and-white, no small fonts or faint marks such as topo lines on paper size of 8x11. An example Maintenance Plan for commercial projects is here; and an example Maintenance Plan for a residential subdivision is here.

Inspection & Maintenance Log

This is an example of an inspection and maintenance log that could be used in a Maintenance Plan, if multiple facilities need to be inspected.  Revise this template as appropriate for your project site, using language consistent with the Maintenance Plan.

Once the project is constructed, prior to Occupancy Clearance, the owner must provide certification by the project engineer that the stormwater control facilities were installed per approved plans or as approved by Project Clean Water.

Engineer's Certificate

Form filled out by responsible engineer upon successful installation of water quality facility as per plans.

Storm Drain Markers

If your project is conditioned to install storm drain markers, the County currently uses 4" round stainless metal markers in red and blue, that read "NO DUMPING * NO TIRE BASURA".  They are manufactured by Almetec .  You may purchase your own or from Project Clean Water for $5.50 per unit (does not include adhesive).  Contact us at 805-568-3440 for details.


Signage is required.  If you have a bioswale or bioretention area, signage must be visible and legible to alert landscape staff, installed above the height of the feature/mature vegetation, and constructed of a material that is weather resistant.  For underground facilities, the marker must be located as close as possible to the inspection/maintenance portal(s), mounted on a post or affixed directly to concrete.  See examples below and here .

Rain Garden Sign Updated BMP Marker Underground Feature

Bioretention Soil Specifications

Bioretention soils shall be specified on the plans as a mixture of washed sand (60-70%) and compost (30-40%).  The specification developed by the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies ( BASMAA ) is recommended. Information on how that specification was developed is found here .  For potential suppliers of the soil, or any of the other components of bioretention (permeable gravel layer, plants), see the Low Impact Development Initiative and download the list of vendors here . For bioretention with tree planting, consider the recommendations found here .

In-Situ Soil Testing

Soil percolation rates are critical in the sizing of retention-based Stormwater Control Measures. The default option in the Stormwater Technical Guide , and provided in the Stormwater Control Measure Sizing Calculator , is 0.75 in/hr for soils in the Hydrologic Soil Group (HSG) A/B, and 0.25 in/hr for HSG C/D.  These values are well-established and based on empirical data developed for the Contra Costa Clean Water Program.  Should you wish to submit your own percolation rate from on-site testing, please refer to "Native Soil Assessment for Small Infiltration-Based Storm Water Control Measures" for test methods.  This document was prepared for the Central Coast Low Impact Development Initiative by Earth Systems Pacific, and is available on the Central Coast Water Board website here .  Because of limitations in the precision of infiltration rate testing at very low rates, this option may be used only to support an infiltration rate of 0.5 in/hr or greater; otherwise the default 0.25 in/hr will apply.


A November 20, 2015 workshop presentation describes how to use the Stormwater Technical Guide and Calculator.  That presentation is available here , with accompanying slides here .

A January 9, 2014 presentation provides additional depth on the Low Impact Development design approach for meeting the Post-Construction Requirements.  That presentation is available in a stand-alone viewer .  Presentation slides are available here .

Contact Information

For project-specific information, contact Karen Sullivan, Flood Control Engineer, at 805-568-3440.  For general questions on the post construction program, contact the Project Clean Water Manager,  Cathleen Garnand at (805) 568-3561.