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Why do I need a Radius Map, Notification Map or Property Owner Mailing Labels to complete my permit application?

November 04, 2019 6 min read

Why do I need a Radius Map, Notification Map or Property Owner Mailing Labels to complete my permit application?


My project application is completed but the city has informed me that I need a radius map and property owner labels.

One of the most common questions that gets asked is why do we have to go through all this red tape when we are just improving our home to build a pool, garage, addition or adding an AC Unit? California State Law requires most projects that involve a permit to notify their neighbors of what they are doing at a minimum distance of 300 feet. Some city jurisdictions have an increased requirement. For more information, you can view the California Legislature (1984) CHAPTER 2.7. Public Hearings 65090 – 65096. Chapter 2.7 added by Stats. 1984, Ch. 1009, Sec. 2).


Does anyone even care?  It seems like just wasted time and money. 

Ah, if it were only that simple.  For some, a radius map and property owner labels may seem like just another unnecessary cost.  Unfortunately, cities are required to follow the California State Law and inform people of upcoming projects to protect property owner and resident rights within a community. Most cities outsource this requirement to companies such as Express Mapping due to the high cost of data. It also helps to have an unbiased third party such as Express Mapping prepare the radius map and notification list to limit city liability.

Ok, so tell me why I need to do this?

When a project requires a public hearing, the city is required to notify all property owners within a certain distance of the proposed project (and sometimes the occupants as well).  That responsibility falls on the applicant to provide that list of information to the city as part of the application process.  It may not be as big of a deal as notifying local airports of a massive crane you are attaching to your skyscraper that may impact a passenger jet that is landing but it’s still important because you are making changes to the day-to-day that people have become accustomed to.  Surprises are nice when it’s a birthday and you get a big gift.  People may not want to be surprised in other situations and noticing helps to ease them into change.

Can you provide a real-life example?

Sure, let’s say that your business is going to begin selling liquor. That’s a big deal especially if you are in a neighborhood and you are going to be staying open later.  How about a simpler example?  You are adding an entrance to your business that will also require an entrance be built into the center.  That may impact traffic flow to the neighborhood.  You must let people know about that.  There are big examples where a company may be building a massive campus, or it could be a small deck you are adding to your home that could block your neighbor’s view.  These all could trigger a public hearing. Each city is different as to what types of projects require a radius map and property owner list. If you are unsure if your project needs one, the city planning department is the best resource to start with.

What about me?  Do I get anything out of this other than an empty wallet?

As the business owner, wouldn’t you be interested in knowing if your community has questions and be able to help alleviate any concerns?  What if you have done a lot of research to show the benefits?  Wouldn’t you like to share that with people who have questions?  Communication can be either a uniting or dividing factor.  This just allows both sides to communicate if they want to. Another added benefit of our service is that it provides the applicant with a list of all property owners within proximity to your project. This list can be used for marketing and public outreach.

Ok, I understand it now.  Is this the same for every city?  What if I have multiple locations?  Do I have to do one for each location?

The distance is determined by the City Council and enforced by the Planning Department.  They can vary from city to city.  So yes, each city has a different process. A good resource is the Express Mapping product page. You can search your city in the top right corner and view current application requirements for each city here

What does this notification show?

The public notification letter varies for each city. The city planning department is responsible for drafting the letter and its contents. Most standard public hearing notices include the date, time, and agenda for the meeting, information about the project and resources to learn more. The letter also invites anyone interested to attend the public hearing and voice their opinion in front of the city council members. By law, public hearing notices must be mailed no later than ten (10) business days prior to the meeting. Some cities mail out the public hearing notice 30 days prior. They want to make sure that property owners have enough time to make plans to attend the public hearing. So… you can’t mail this on Monday and have the meeting be set on Wednesday with the hopes that nobody will show up.

What about the radius map?  Why do I need that too?

County Assessor maps (APN Maps) are most commonly used to display the lot lines of each parcel that a property owner owns. Express Mapping uses Assessor Parcel Maps to locate the properties that are within the radius of the requirement. Most of the time, the maps need to be re-scaled to a common scale, and then put into one large map to accommodate the radius. We use GIS (a digital graphing system) to help speed up this process to provide you with fast, accurate and visually appealing maps. The radius line on the map is used to identify the parcels that require notification, which are then exported to mailing labels or excel spreadsheets.  People are “Visual.”  They like to see things. That is what a radius map provides.

I have something that needs “Occupant Notification.”  What is that?

When occupant notification is required, the applicable parcels are individually researched in order to determine all units on each parcel. This includes commercial suites, apartments, residential multi-unit and industrial units). An apartment building could have 800 units.  That needs to be determined so that each person gets a notice.  The last thing you want is for a person to say that they didn’t get a notice and they show up somewhat annoyed.  That can be problematic. 

Once the radius map and labels have been compiled, the package is then delivered to the municipality.  The mailing is sometimes done by that municipality. Some cities offer an option to the applicant to fast track the process and have the applicant mail out the notices on their own. The mailing is then certified so the city has a document proving that you have completed the mailing. Express Mapping offers a mailing service option to assist with this option if you need a mailing prepared. Let us do the heavy lifting.

Is this something that I should do myself? 

No!  Well, just kidding.  You can prepare a radius maps and property owner list yourself, but the process has a lot of potential potholes that you can step into and if you make one mistake, it usually is like throwing a firecracker into a bowl of confetti.  It gets messy.

For one thing, requirements for public notification vary from city to city (and county). Professional services like Express Mapping keep running files of requirements by each city on record. That’s a big file.  We also contact the applicable Planning Department personnel if there are any questions regarding a project. We have all the resources to put out fires which almost always seem to pop up at the worst time.  It’s like doing self-surgery.  You could probably fix and set a broken arm yourself but it’s probably better to go to the doctor.  Check out our services and testimonials here

We are ready to assist you will all your mapping needs.