Thumbs Up for San Diego’s Professional Certification Program for Tenant Improvements

The Streamlined Issuance Permit Program Can be a Commercial Interior Design Game Changer

During September 2023, the City of San Diego rolled out the Professional Certification program for tenant improvements. We saved a month of time using this expedited permitting process for our client!

Qualifying for the Streamlined Permit

San Diego’s Professional Certification program has very specific requirements, so most projects won’t qualify. The ones that do, however, can expect to receive a permit a month or more before they would have under the traditional permitting system.

As outlined by the City, qualification to use this program requires that a project:

  • Must be a Group B interior office tenant improvement less than 20,000 square feet in area with no change of use or occupancy.
  • Must be designed by a licensed California Architect or Engineer.
  • Cannot be a first-generation tenant improvement; the space must have already been entirely built out.
  • Must not alter, remove, or add plumbing fixtures.
  • No deferred submittals. All items must be submitted at the time of the building permit. Projects with fire alarm and/or sprinkler systems will have expedited reviews for those permits, as these system reviews cannot be professionally certified.
  • No changes to the exterior portions of the building including window modifications or replacements or any change to the exterior facade.
  • Must not alter or change stairways or stair vestibules.
  • Must not include new floor openings.
  • Can only include structural calculations for equipment anchorage, if designed and stamped by a licensed engineer.
  • No new hazardous materials can be added to the building, including Energy Storage Systems (Batteries) or Uninterrupted Power Supplies (UPS).
  • Must not reduce accessibility in any way.
  • No special inspections are required as a part of this scope of work except for the anchorage of equipment.
  • Must comply with all Federal, State, and local Codes and Standards.

Benefits of the Professional Certification Program

Even with its restrictions, the Professional Certification program for tenant improvements means that small projects that do qualify don’t have to compete with larger projects in plan review. Two separate review pipelines can translate into both time and cost savings for our tenant improvement design clients.

Through our experience designing tenant improvements for a bioscience firm (which did not include lab space or hazardous materials), we learned that, if all the boxes are checked, a permit application can get same-day review and issuance. The process involves a virtual, 30-minute meeting with a plan checker. If that person is satisfied, they issue the permit the same day.

The Streamlined Tenant Improvements Permit in Action

The program was a great fit for our client. The biosciences firm moved into existing office space as a subtenant and wanted to add private offices and a conference room. With all the requirements above met, they quickly progressed to the project build-out phase.

You don’t have to take just our word for it. Our construction company partner on the project is a fan, too.

“This client had a timeline that wouldn’t have been achievable through the normal permit process,” said Cody Sieverding, project manager from Backs Construction. “This program allowed us to start construction weeks, if not months, earlier than originally anticipated.”

Now, for every office tenant improvement project that we take on in San Diego’s city limits, we work with our client early in the design process to determine whether the Professional Certification program for tenant improvements is a fit.

Let us know if you have a project in mind and want to determine whether the Professional Certification program for tenant improvements is right for your office space.

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FS Design Group