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Environmental & Resource Protection
Geologic Hazards Assessments (GHAs)

What is a Geologic Hazard Assessment?

A geologic hazards assessment is a summary of the potential geologic hazards present at a site that may affect your project. GHAs are generally conducted by the planning staff geologist; however GHAs can be done by a consultant and submitted for review.

When is a Geologic Hazards Assessment Required?

A GHA may be required for any construction considered "development" per the geologic hazards ordinance which is located:

  • Within any hazardous areas such as fault zone, landslide area, floodplains, floodways and coastal high hazard areas.
  • Within any area identified by a member of the Environmental Planning Staff as potentially unstable or hazardous
  • On land where a site inspection reveals that more geologic evaluation or review is indicated to ensure public health & safety is maintained.

What is a Geologic Hazard?

A geologically hazardous condition exists when life and/or property are threatened by geologic or hydrologic processes. In Santa Cruz County, areas subject to hazardous conditions are shown on a series of hazard maps. Some examples of Geologic Hazards include:

  • Fault Zones
  • Liquefaction Zones
  • Coastal Bluffs
  • Coastal Beaches
  • Areas subject to landsliding or debris flows

How Can I Obtain a Geologic Hazards Assessment?

  1. Submit an application at the Planning Department's permit center during their hours of operation. No appointment is necessary.
  2. The following are minimum submittal requirements:
    • a site/topographic plan indicating the proposed development including septic locations and all access ways to buildings
    • building plans and pertinent geologic/geotechnical reports (if developed)
    • a check for the application fee
  3. Stake and mark the corners of the building site and septic location.

How is it Processed?

The County Geologic staff will visit the site, consult hazards maps, and write an evaluation of the site conditions and permit requirements. Further research may be required, such as:

  • An engineering geologic report prepared by a State-registered geologist
  • A soils report prepared by a geotechnical engineer or a registered civil engineer who specializes in geotechnical engineering

Any required geologic, soil, or other technical report shall be completed, reviewed and accepted pursuant to the provisions of this section before any public hearing is scheduled and before any discretionary or development application is approved or issued. The County Geologist may agree to defer the date for completion, review, or acceptance of any technical report where the technical information is 1) unlikely to significantly affect the size or location of the project, and 2) the project is not in the area of the Coastal Zone where decisions are appealable to the Coastal Commission. In no event shall such be deferred until after the approval or issuance of a building permit

Conditions of Approval

When the geologic hazards assessment and any additional reports have been completed, the County Geologic staff will state what conditions of approval will be placed on the building or development permit, such as:

  • Project modification or relocation
  • Grading and drainage requirements
  • Meeting all report recommendations
  • Elevation of the structure
  • Using a specified envelope for the septic system leach field
  • Filing a declaration of geologic hazards with the County Recorder


Decisions which enforce provisions of the Geologic Hazards Ordinance may be appealed to the Planning Director. See the Planning Appeals brochure

Can We Help You?

If you have any questions regarding the Geologic Hazards Assessment process or whether a GHA might be required for your project, please call the Santa Cruz County Geologic staff at (831) 454-3162 or come to the Planning Department from 8-noon and 1 p.m. -3 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and ask to speak with an Environmental Planner.