Apply for a Creek Protection Permit

All creekside properties must obtain a Creek Protection Permit to perform construction or other work. "Creekside property" means those properties located in Oakland having a creek or riparian corridor crossing the property and/or are contiguous to a creek or riparian corridor. Read below for more and how to apply.

When Is a Permit Required?

The category of required permit (I-II-III or IV) depends on the type of work proposed and where it is taking place in relation to the centerline of the creek. Public notice may also be required for Category III and IV Creek Protection Permits.

  • Category 1: Interior construction and alterations including remodeling.
  • Category 2: Exterior work that does not include earthwork and is located more than 100 feet from the centerline of the Creek.
  • Category 3: Exterior work that is located between 20 feet from the top of the Creek bank and 100 feet from the centerline of the Creek; or Exterior work that includes earthwork involving more than three (3) cubic yards of material, beyond 20 feet from the top of the Creek bank.
  • Category 4: Exterior work conducted from the centerline of the Creek to within 20 feet from the top of the Creek bank.

For more information, see the Guide to Oakland's Creek Protection Ordinance and view the Creek Protection section of the City's Municipal Code which may be found under OMC 13.16. For detailed information about creeks and their defining features, please visit our Creek Definition webpage.

What May Be Required to Approve a Creek Protection Permit?

The following are typical conditions of permit approval that help projects meet the intent and criteria in the Creek Protection Ordinance. (This list is not inclusive and other conditions may be imposed.)

The applicant may be required to:

  • Plant and maintain native riparian vegetation for landscaping along creek areas (plant lists are available at the Building Services counter)
  • Use soil bioengineering techniques for bank stabilization and to control erosion, such as brush layering, cuttings, staking and fascines
  • Implement stormwater quality protection measures such biofiltration, porous pavement, modular pavers and permeable surfaces, installation of vegetation and vegetated swales, biofiltering, infiltrative landscaping, and other on-site stormwater treatments
  • Implement appropriate drainage controls to prevent concentration of water and velocity, such as dissipation and infiltration
  • Implement appropriate construction controls such as locating stockpile away from the creek, installing temporary erosion control
  • Comply with seasonal limits on grading, grubbing or pier drilling
  • Install vegetation and tree protection measures during construction such as fencing
  • Comply with limits on pesticide and fertilizer use and, in a very few cases actual design changes will be necessary when proposed structures are too close to the creek and riparian corridor

A Hydrology Report May be Required

A Hydrology Report (see page 3 of the Creek Protection Permit application), required for a Category 4 permit, must be prepared by a licensed engineer with creek hydrology expertise. Review and approval by the City is required prior to issuance of a Creek Protection Permit. A hydrology report may include, but is not limited to the following elements:

  • Flows and water surface levels
  • Address how future development in the area (unrelated to the proposed work) may impact flows
  • Creek bank stability, before and after the project
  • Impact of proposed work with regard to direction, as well as quantity of flow in the Creek
  • Upstream and downstream conditions, before and after project construction
  • Location of major drainage facilities (e.g. trash racks, culverts, discharge points, etc.)
  • Profiles of the stream
  • Cross sections
  • Proposed improvements to the Creek; including any vegetative or other natural screening enhancements utilized
  • Impacts of proposed project on existing vegetation or wildlife within the affected riparian corridor
  • Required permits or approvals from regulatory agencies such as the California Department of Fish and Game, Army Corps of Engineers, and the State Regional Water Quality Control Board
  • Any additional information deemed reasonable by the Director of Building Services

What Is Typically Not Allowed?

Projects and activities that would generally not meet the criteria in the ordinance:

  • removal of riparian vegetation zones (even if in a fire area, fire abatement guidelines are available at the building and engineering services counter)
  • culverting or undergrounding of the creek
  • changing or moving the location of the creek
  • structures spanning the creek (such as bridge, house, garage, or deck)
  • structures in or on the creek bank
  • draining into the creek without controls for velocity (speed and energy) and pollution
  • agriculture activities on creek banks or in creek beds
  • rip rap, rock gabion or concrete in the creek or on the creek bank
  • check dams in the creek
  • alteration of the creek flow direction, velocity, turbidity or chemical makeup
  • creation of ponds
  • introduction of non-native vegetation or wildlife
  • removal of tree canopies over creeks
  • grading of creek banks
  • filling, pile driving, or deposition of any new material to creek bank or bed

Note: In order for the City to approve any of the above activities, the applicant must demonstrate, to the City's satisfaction that (1) the application of the Creek Protection Ordinance to a specific project would create an unconstitutional "taking" of property without just compensation (e.g., there are no feasible alternatives to the activity and without the activity the applicant will be deprived of economically viable use of their property) and that the activity, if permitted, would be carried out only to the extent necessary to avoid a "taking"; or (2) that the activity will result in restoration or improvement to creek water quality, hydrology and/or riparian habitat; or (3) denial of the permit would continue or exacerbate a threat to property and/or the public's health or safety (i.e., the work is necessary to protect drainage facilities, prevent or repair erosion/landslides and there are no feasible alternatives to the work).

Creek Protection Plans

A Creek Protection Plan is prepared for City review and approval prior to issuance of the Creek Protection Permit for Categories 3 & 4. A Creek Protection Plan may include but is not limited to the following elements:

  • Education on creek protection provided to workers on the site
  • Litter prevention measures, (for example, how is debris, loose dirt. etc. stored)
  • Dust control measures
  • Methods of cleaning tools and equipment
  • Construction site fencing
  • Future and ongoing sediment and erosion control measures
  • Wet weather protection
  • Special circumstances/additional information
  • Emergency preparations for construction-related spills
  • The Creek Protection Plan may be prepared by the owner of the property, an architect, engineer or contractor and will obligate the applicant to implement the approved provisions of the plan.

For more information, please visit our Creek Care & Stormwater Protection webpage.

How to Apply

Creek Protection Permits are handled by the Planning & Building Department's Zoning staff, who act as liaisons as needed with Oakland Public Works' Watershed Division.


Ready to get started? First, make sure you are registered and activated at our Online Permit Center. For instructions, please visit our Planning & Building Video Tutorials webpage.


Once we receive your application and have created it in our system, we will review your plans. If we need further information, we will contact you. For the latest processing estimates, please see our Average Permit Processing Turnaround Times webpage.

Creek Protection Permit Appeals Process

Determination of whether there is a creek (identification of a creek, or headwaters) is made by the Environmental Services Manager and can be appealed to the City Planning Commission with an appeal fee. Decisions on the Creek Protection Permit are made by the Director of Building Services and can be appealed to the City Planning Commission with an appeal fee.

Both appeals must be made within ten (10) calendar days of the contested decision, be in writing, state specifically wherein it is claimed that there was an error or abuse of discretion, or where the decision was not supported by substantial evidence before the City, and be accompanied by the appropriate appeal fee. If you challenge a City determination in court, you may be limited to issues raised in your appeal form (and attachments).

Appeal forms can be obtained from the City of Oakland, Planning & Building Department, Planning Permit Counter, 250 Frank Ogawa Plaza, 2nd floor, Oakland, CA 94612.