Planning Department Banner, This link takes you back to home page
Zoning & Development Review

During the course of the review of a discretionary application with the County Planning Department, there are certain actions that are appealable.  These appeals may be filed by the applicant and, in certain instances, affected members of the public.  Appeals may be filed on the following actions:

Type of Appeal

Appealed by

Heard by*

Appeal Period

Completeness Determination


Board of Supervisors-see note below

14 calendar days from date of determination

CEQA Determination Requiring an EIR


Planning Commission

10 business days from Notice of Determination

Administrative actions by staff


Planning Director

14 calendar days from action including initial incompleteness determinations

Level I – III permit action


Planning Director

14 calendar days from action

Level IV permit action


Zoning Administrator

14 calendar days from the date of the decision or action

Level V action (Zoning Administrator)


Planning Commission

14 calendar days

Level VI action (Planning Commission)


Board of Supervisors

14 calendar days; 10 calendar days for Tentative Maps; 15 calendar days for Tentative Map time extensions

Coastal Development Permits (approval only)


California Coastal Commission

10 business days following receipt of the Final Local Action Notice (FLAN)


* Any Level III, IV, or V appeal may be referred to a higher level.  The Board of Supervisors, under Special Consideration, may consider any Level I to VII Permit.
For all appeals, except an appeal to the California Coastal Commission, an appeal letter and the required appeal fee must be received by the Planning Department no later than 5:00 PM on the last day of the appeal period noted in the table above.  If the last day falls on a weekend or holiday, the appeal period will end at 5:00 PM the next business day.  Coastal Commission appeals must be received in the regional office of the Coastal Commission at 725 Front Street Suite 300, Santa Cruz, CA before the end of the coastal appeal period (see below).
With the exception of Level 4 (Public Notice), the first day of the appeal period is the day following the action. The first day of a Level 4 appeal period is the day after the date the public notice appears in the newspaper.


The appellant must write a letter to the appropriate official or body and include the following information:

  1. Whose decision is being appealed?  Give the date of the decision.
  2. Give the applicant’s name, the application number, and the Assessor’s Parcel Number (APN).
  3. State your name and your interest (applicant, neighbor, community group, nearby property owner, etc.) in the decision.
  4. What are your reasons for appealing?  Please provide as much detail as possible regarding the reason why the appeal is being made. 
    • Was the determination or decision fair and impartial? If not, why?
    • Was there an error or abuse of discretion by the decision-maker? If so, what was it?
    • Was the decision supported by the facts presented? If not, why?
    • Has significant new evidence relative to the decision become available? If so, why could it not have been presented when the decision was made?
  5. Bring your letter and the appeal fee to the Zoning Counter on the 4th Floor at 701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz no later than 5:00 PM on the last day of the appeal period. Mailed appeals must also be received in the Planning Department by that date and time. Postmarks will not be accepted.

An appeal will not be accepted without the fee. Call (831) 454-2130 or see the Zoning Counter for the current fee.  Make the check payable to the County of Santa Cruz.  The applicant will always be notified of an appeal. Once an appeal has been filed, the permit cannot be issued until the appeal has been resolved.


Administrative Appeals

Any Planning staff decision or action on an Administrative Permit (Levels I through IV) may be appealed by the applicant to the Planning Director. In addition, any action on a Level 4 permit may also be appealed by any interested person. The Director, or his or her designee, must commence action of the appeal within 20 business days and will notify the applicant and/or appellant of the decision in writing within 60 days of the appeal submittal. The decision is final unless a member of the Board of Supervisors requests consideration of the matter.

Incompleteness Determination Appeals

The Board of Supervisors as required by Government Code Section 65943(c) considers appeals of incompleteness determinations, following the second incompleteness letter.   A decision on the appeal must be completed within 60 days.  Following the submittal of an appeal, Planning staff will prepare an analysis of the appeal and place it on the Board of Supervisors’ agenda for consideration.  The applicant and property owner will be notified of the date, time and place of the appeal hearing.  The appellant will have an opportunity to orally present information to the Board to augment the appeal letter material.  

Planning Commission Appeals

Any decision of the Zoning Administrator (Level 5) may be appealed to the Planning Commission. Decisions of the Environmental Coordinator to require an Environmental Impact Report for a project are also appealable to the Planning Commission.  The date for the hearing will be set within 30 calendar days of the date the appeal was filed.  The person making the appeal, the applicant, all owners of property within 300 feet of the project parcel and occupants of the site itself and within 100 feet of the project parcel will be notified of the date and time of the appeal hearing. At the hearing, the Planning Commission will consider all the evidence and make a decision to uphold or deny the appeal.  The Commission may also refer the item to the Board of Supervisors.  

Board of Supervisor Appeals

Any final decision of the Planning Commission (Level 6), including actions on an appeal, may be appealed to the Board of Supervisors. Level 7 applications that are denied by the Planning Commission may also be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.  Planning Commission actions to approve Level 7 projects, which are sent to the Board of Supervisors as recommendations, are not subject to appeal because the Board will be the final decision maker in any case. 

For appeals of all Level 6 decisions, except land divisions, the Board will first hold a jurisdictional hearing to determine whether to take jurisdiction or to let the Planning Commission’s decision stand. It is up to the appellant to demonstrate that an appeal is justified based on the criteria outlined in County Code Section 18.10.340(c) . This decision will be based on the issues addressed in the appeal letter and presented to the Board at the jurisdictional hearing. If the Board of Supervisors determines that there is not sufficient justification for accepting jurisdiction, there will be no additional hearings and the original decision will stand.
If the Board determines that there are sufficient grounds to review the project, they will schedule a public hearing.  Following the public hearing, the Board will decide to uphold or deny the appeal, or to remand the matter back to the Planning Commission. The Board’s decision is final. For appeals of Planning Commission action on land division applications, jurisdiction is automatic and the Board will schedule a public hearing to consider the appeal.


If the project is located within the appeal jurisdiction of the Coastal Commission (see the Coastal Development Permit brochure for the definition of appeal jurisdiction), as indicated on the agenda, an approval may also be appealed to the California Coastal Commission, based on one of the five specific grounds which appear in Section 13.20.122(c) of the Santa Cruz County Code. The appeal period for applicable Coastal Development Permits begins following the end of the appeal period provided for review by the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors.  Appeal forms and information are available at the Coastal Commission Office at 725 Front Street Suite 300, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, or by calling (831) 427-4863. 

Denials may not be appealed to the Coastal Commission, but may be appealed to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. Please contact the Coastal Commission office to determine the expiration date of the coastal appeal period for a specific application.

This brochure summarizes the various appeal processes for Development Permits. To review the codified regulations regarding appeals, please refer to the following:

Development Permit appeals – County Code Section 18.10.300 et seq
Completeness Determinations – Government Code Section 65943(c)
For land divisions – County Code Section 14.01.311 to 314
For appeals to the California Coastal Commission – County Code Section 13.20.122
For appeals of the actions by the Environmental Coordinator - County Environmental Guidelines. 

18.10.340(c) Grounds for the Board of Supervisors to Take Jurisdiction. The Board of Supervisors will not take jurisdiction of an appeal and grant further review of a matter unless the Board is convinced that there was an error or abuse of discretion on the part of the Commission, Zoning Administrator, or other officer; or that there was a lack of a fair and impartial hearing; or that the decision appealed from is not supported by the facts presented and considered at the time the decision appealed from was made; or that there is significant new evidence relevant to the decision which could not have been presented at the time the decision appealed from was made; or that there is either error, abuse of discretion, or some other factor which renders the act done or determination made unjustified or inappropriate to the extent that a further hearing before the Board is necessary.