Most owners opening a business in Simi Valley will go through a process called a "tenant improvement." A tenant improvement (TI) involves an alteration to an existing building, either interior or exterior, or both, in which case you will need to meet City requirements regarding architectural design, building occupancy, construction, parking, business signage, landscaping, and possible public right-of-way and sewer improvements. Please refer to the informational booklet "How to Open a Small Business in the City of Simi Valley," which also assists to guide and orientate you through the tenant improvement and the City’s permit process, including any local agencies that may be involved with the opening of your business.
The first point of contact is to check with the City’s Planning Division to ensure that the type of business is allowed in the proposed location and that the proposed business meets the City’s parking requirements. In addition, please note that your business may require a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), which is a permit to ensure your business is compatible with the surrounding uses. Refer to the City’s Zoning Maps and Zoning Code Section 9-26.030 (use matrix) to ensure the proposed business is zoned for the proposed use and determine if the proposed use requires Conditional Use Permit (CUP). Please refer to Conditional Use Permit for additional information in applying and processing a CUP.
In addition, depending upon the extent of any exterior improvements, a modification permit from the Planning Division may be required. Please refer to Modification of Existing Commercial and Industrial Developments for information regarding the level of review required.
If you are interested in placing a sign(s) at your storefront or considering a monument sign, you will need to obtain a Permanent Sign Permit. The Planning Division will issue a Permanent Sign Permit after ensuring compliance with the Zoning Code and Citywide Design Guidelines for location, size, and design of the sign. Your sign contractor would prepare the required elevation exhibits and photo simulation(s) showing how the sign looks on the building. Please refer to the Planning Division's Temporary and Permanent Signs page for more information regarding the City's sign ordinance and requirements.
Depending on the type of business and the extent of your improvements, the following City departments and County agencies may be involved:
Department of Public Works, Environmental Compliance DivisionIf your business is a restaurant, food, manufacturing, or auto facility, or provides medical, dental, veterinary, or photo-processing services, the Environmental Compliance Division of Public Works will also be involved in the business project. The Environmental Compliance staff enforces the City’s Sewer Use, Stormwater, and Water Conservation Ordinances. By monitoring, inspecting, and evaluating the business’s practices and operations, the Division protects the public health and the environment from toxic, hazardous, and other pollutants. New businesses are required to complete an Environmental Compliance Discharge Permit Application. The applicant may also be required to submit a floor plan and plumbing plans. Depending on the type of business, you may be required to install a pretreatment device, such as a grease interceptor, prior to obtaining building permits. For more information, please contact the Environmental Compliance Technical Assistance at (805) 583-6420.
Ventura County Fire Protection DistrictThe City’s Building and Safety Division will identify whether the Ventura County Fire Department will need to approve your tenant improvement construction plans. Approval from this Agency is typically required for most construction projects. While based in Camarillo, the Ventura County Fire Protection District is at the Building and Safety Division in City Hall (map) to answer questions on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM. For projects needing the District’s approval, construction plans will need to be submitted to the following address: Ventura County Fire Protection District, 165 Durley Avenue, Camarillo, CA 93010-8586. For more information, please contact Ventura County Fire Protection District at (805) 389-9710.
Ventura County Environmental Health DivisionThe City’s Building and Safety Division will also identify whether the Ventura County Environmental Health Division will need to approve your plans. Food-handling establishments, businesses that produce hazardous materials and waste, medical waste, and other contaminants will need approval from this Agency. For additional information, please contact Ventura County Environmental Health at (805) 654-2813.
Department of Environmental Services, Building and Safety DivisionMost improvements require construction plans and a building permit from Building and Safety. Construction plans showing the proposed work are required so City staff can issue applicable permits after ensuring the plans are safe, structurally sound, and in compliance with all applicable Building Codes. Please refer to Tenant Improvement Process for Business Owners for the Building and Safety Tenant Improvement Guide to assist you through the process and several documents to help your design professional prepare plans quickly and accurately. There are four components to the tenant improvement process: 1) Construction Plan Preparation; 2) Construction Plan Submittal/Review; 3) Permit Issuance and Construction; and 4) Occupancy.
Construction Plan Preparation - The first step to ensuring a successful construction project involves retaining a licensed architect and/or engineer to draw your construction plans. Typically, plans prepared by a licensed architect and/or engineer will result in both time and cost savings during the construction phase and will facilitate a smoother tenant improvement process. As a courtesy, a walkthrough of the proposed site can be arranged with the City’s Building and Safety staff, business owner, and architect to address any questions or concerns regarding general code requirements prior to plan submittal. Plans consisting of all proposed architectural, disabled access, energy, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical changes will need to be submitted to the City for plan review and permit processing. Although not required, it is recommended that all plans be submitted at the same time.
To assist the design professional in drawing plans for the proposed scope of work, please refer to the following links for reference material outlining the various code and State requirements for the designer’s review:
To help familiarize the business owner with the tenant improvement process and gain a better understanding of the City’s departments, external agencies, and steps involved, please refer to the Flow Chart of the Tenant Improvement Process.
If the tenant improvement involves a simple modification, an unlicensed designer or licensed contractor performing the work may be allowed to submit the proposed plans. Building and Safety will make this determination once the Scope of Work has been defined.
Construction Plan Submittal/Review - Once your architect and/or engineer have completed the construction plans, City engineers will need to ensure that the drawings comply with California Building Code. This is the second component of the tenant improvement process and is often called “Plan Check.” It is not uncommon for plans to be returned to the architect and or engineer with corrections. For this reason, plans typically reenter the “plan check” process for a second review. Building and Safety staff will determine the appropriate plan check fees at the time of plan submittal. Plan check fees are based on the scope of work of the project, which is determined by the size and type of construction.
Over-the-counter plan review for non-structural improvements is available for existing buildings when the total area is less than 3,000 square feet. Service by appointment is available on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM and can be arranged by calling (805) 583-6723. Plan check is also available by appointment with the respective plan checker. Standard plan review for tenant improvements on existing buildings exceeding 3,000 square feet or “A” type occupancies such as restaurants will require a 10- to 15-business day turn around. Building permits are not issued until all City staff and applicable agencies have approved the proposed plans.
Permit Issuance and Construction - Once construction plans have been approved and prior to beginning construction, a building permit is issued to the owner of the property or a licensed contractor. When a permit is issued to the property owner, the term of ‘Owner/Builder’ is referenced on the permit. Building and Safety staff will provide the ‘Owner/Builder’ with documentation informing them of their responsibilities and possible risk of having the permit issued in the Owner/Builder name. If the permit is issued to a licensed contractor, the contractor will be required to provide evidence of Worker’s Compensation insurance. The contractor must have a Business Tax Certificate in order to obtain the permit. In addition, insurance must be maintained throughout the construction period per regulations of the California Labor Code. Larger projects will require a pre-construction meeting. A preconstruction meeting typically includes Building and Safety inspection and engineering staff along with the project’s superintendent. The meeting provides an opportunity to review time frames, construction requirements, and the City inspection process. Please note that it is important to schedule all of the necessary building inspections in order to review each phase of construction. It is the City inspector’s job to ensure all work is consistent with the approved plans and all applicable State codes. The City inspector will not conduct inspections unless it is scheduled by the contractor or project manager. Inspections can be scheduled for the next business day by calling (805) 583-6723 no later than 3:00 PM on the day preceding the inspection.
Occupancy - The final phase of the tenant improvement process includes obtaining final approvals from City departments and external agencies involved with the project. Depending on the type of business and scope of the project, you may need to obtain sign-off from the City’s Planning Division and Public Works Department, along with the Ventura County Fire Department and Environmental Health Division. During the construction process, the building inspector will provide correction notices, informing the contractor or superintendent of items that do not meet building code requirements. All outstanding code requirements must be resolved prior to requesting the final inspection. Once construction is complete, final inspections and sign-offs are obtained from both City departments and external agencies, the City’s Building Official will issue a Certificate of Occupancy. This legal document allows you to occupy your new business space.