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Home Improvement and Renovations

Planning & Approval Process

This page explains the process you'll need to follow to complete your home improvement project in the City of Cerritos. For more information, call Community Development at (562) 916-1201.

Planning Regulations

Certain home improvements are required by the City Municipal Code (Location: City Government/City Laws, Codes and Regulations/Municipal Code) and may require City approval and/or building permits. City approval and a building permit are required for many important reasons:

  • To help ensure that home improvements are attractive and fit well within their neighborhoods;
  • To maintain property values and our quality of life;
  • To help homeowners get their projects done safely and correctly the first time, saving time and money, and most importantly;
  • To protect the safety of your family and your neighbors.

The City uses the current Los Angeles County building code which includes code requirements for electrical, mechanical and plumbing work.

Permits Are Required for the Following Home Improvement Projects:

  • Air conditioners
  • Air filters
  • Dishwashers
  • Electrical changes
  • Landscaping
  • New block walls
  • New fences
  • New wood siding
  • New windows/trim
  • Painting
  • Patio covers
  • Paving
  • Plumbing changes
  • Roofing
  • Room additions
  • Spas
  • Sprinkler systems
  • Stucco work
  • Swimming pools
  • Water heaters

Planning and Building & Safety applications for various home improvements are available here (Location: Home & property/Home Improvement and Renovations/Home Improvement Permits).

If you are considering any other projects or improvements, please contact the Department of Community Development at (562) 916-1201 to find out if there are any City requirements that apply to your project.

The Cerritos Building & Safety Division is open to issue permits from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Building inspectors are available in the office to answer your questions from 8 to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday. The Plan Check Engineer is available from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, by appointment only. Please call (562) 916-1209 for an appointment.

How to Get City Permits / Approval:

  1. Contact a planner in the Department of Community Development to discuss your project and obtain a development application.
  2. Submit your completed development application and any required supplemental information to the Department of Community Development.
  3. City Planning staff will review your application for compliance with the City's development code and suggest corrections/revisions as needed.
  4. A building permit is required before starting most projects. To obtain a permit, take your approved plans to the Building & Safety Division. Building and Safety staff will advise you of the necessary plan check and permit requirements for your project.
  5. Upon issuance of the necessary permits and commencement of project construction, contact the Building & Safety Division at (562) 916-1209 to schedule inspections by the City Building Inspector to confirm that your project meets all applicable building codes.
  6. When your project is done, request a final inspection from the Building & Safety Division.
  7. If you've met all City and County standards, you'll receive a permanent building permit to keep on file as proof that you've done the job right. Enjoy your newly improved home!

For More Information

For more information on completing a home improvement project in Cerritos, or on hiring a contractor, you may call the following numbers:

  • Department of Community Development - (562) 916-1201
  • Building & Safety Division - (562) 916-1209
  • Contractors' State License Board ( - (800) 321-CSLB
  • Better Business Bureau ( – (213) 631 3600
  • Agency Referral: If you have questions regarding fees or approvals from the Fire Department, Health Department, School District, Sanitation District, Water Quality Board, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Air Quality Management District, or electrical/mechanical/plumbing plans which are checked off site, see the agency referral section(Location: Community & Safety Services/Referral Services) of this website.


For questions regarding the building permit process and fees, and the plan check process and inspections, please call the Department of Community Development at (562) 916-1201.


Residents who plan to update the appearance of their driveways or front yards are reminded to follow the City's regulations concerning paving and landscaping in front yard areas.


Driveway aprons (the paved area from a sidewalk to a garage door) are required to be set back at least three feet from the closest side property line. The maximum width of a driveway apron may not exceed 25 feet for a two-car garage or 35 feet for a three-car garage. This requirement prevents over-paving of front yard areas for parking.



Fences and Walls

If you're planning to build a block wall, replace a tired wood fence or add a decorative planter down the side of your front yard, be sure to consider the people next door. You can maintain neighborly relations by staying within your property lines, using quality materials and following City rules.


To determine your property line, you will need a licensed land surveyor, found in the phone book. The surveyor will review the original tract maps filed with the County when your home was built, then use a variety of tools to measure the exact boundaries of your property. He or she will then stake the four corners of your land. For details on hiring a surveyor, download the "Consumer Guide to Professional Engineering and Professional Land Surveying" at

Next, talk to your neighbor about your project. He or she may even agree to share the cost. Your new wall or fence should be within your property line or, if your neighbor agrees, may straddle the property line.

While neighbors are nearly always agreeable, disputes over property lines are considered civil matters that do not involve the City.


Front yard landscaping & Parkways


Front yard landscape


Cerritos residents are reminded to maintain the appearance of the landscaping in their front yards and parkway areas. The summer months usually require extra watering, mowing and pruning of landscaped areas. Plant material which has become dried and lifeless should be removed.

To maintain the appearance of residential streets in Cerritos and to prevent over-paving of front yards, the City requires that a minimum of 40 percent of your front yard be landscaped. This can include the lawn, flower beds and shrubbery. If you plan to install an irrigation system for your yard, be sure to check with the City's Department of Community Development first to obtain approval and a building permit. If you plan to renovate your landscaping, be sure to include drought-tolerant plants which consume less water. Information about drought-tolerant plants is available in the Department of Community Development at City Hall. Now is a good time to check your irrigation system to ensure that it is using water efficiently. Permits are required by the City for the installation of new irrigation systems. For more information about the permits required, call the Department of Community Development at (562) 916-1201.


While City crews maintain the more than 20,000 trees that line Cerritos streets, homeowners are responsible for watering and maintaining their parkways.

A home's "parkway" is the public property between the curb and the sidewalk. A home may have a front parkway, side parkway, or both, if it is a corner lot. These parkways are designed to be landscaped with grass or plants.

Parkways must be kept clear to provide access for work crews who trim the parkway trees or repair water meters, utility lines, curbs, gutters and sidewalks. For this reason, concrete, brick, pavers or other "hardscape" improvements are not allowed in parkway areas. Hardscape is also not allowed as it may become cracked and warped by parkway tree roots, posing a safety hazard.

Finally, parkways may not have any permanent structures such as basketball backboards, or shrubs that block traffic visibility.


Many mailboxes in Cerritos are over 30 years old and showing their age. To help beautify Cerritos and protect residents from mail theft, the City Council has approved guidelines for residents planning to replace their old models. Residents are encouraged to work with their neighbors to choose mailboxes that are attractive and compatible, for a beautiful streetscape. 

A wide variety of mailboxes that meet these guidelines can be found at your local home improvement, discount or hardware store.

General Guidelines

All new mailboxes should be made of a rust-resistant material and should be compatible with the color, style, and material of your home and neighboring homes. 

All new mailboxes should also have a locking device that only you can access with a key. A locking device allows your postal carrier to deliver your mail through a slot, which helps to reduce the potential for mail theft.


Wall-mounted Mailboxes

Wall-mounted mailboxes can be attached to the outside of your home, near your front door. 


Freestanding Mailboxes

Freestanding mailboxes can be installed in the parkway in front of your house. A "paired freestanding mailbox" is actually two mail boxes, installed in a parkway, that are joined together by a metal or wood structure. Each mailbox is assigned to one property address and the owner is responsible for its maintenance. 

Freestanding mailboxes should be no more than 48 inches from the top of the mailbox to the ground, and no shorter than 25 inches from the bottom of the mailbox to the ground. The mailboxes should be supported with a metal or wood post or structure painted to match or complement the color of the box. To prevent wear, the base (at least four inches above the ground) should be made of concrete or protected with metal flashing or a similar wear-resistant material.


Painting your home exterior

Homebuyers and new businesses are attracted to Cerritos by the City’s great looking neighborhoods. Beautiful homes, clean streets, landscaped sidewalks and more than 30,000 street trees help make Cerritos an attractive place to live and work.

The City’s exterior paint color ordinance helps protect the property values and park-like look of Cerritos. Painting is an investment, so before buying paint or hiring a contractor, homeowners must obtain a paint color permit at City Hall. Prior to issuing the permit, staff will assist the homeowner in conducting a quick check to make sure the proposed color(s) will fit well with Cerritos neighborhoods.

If you are planning to paint your home, first pick up paint samples for your choice of exterior and trim colors at the local hardware or paint store. You can then bring the paint color samples to the Community Development counter on City Hall’s second floor between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. A City planner will review your choices and compare the colors against the City’s approved exterior paint color palette.

Homeowners who need ideas or help choosing a color may review the color palette at the Community Development counter. The palette provides color combinations most suitable for residential properties and was prepared by a professional color consultant. For details, call the Department of Community Development at (562) 916-1201.



Pool Safety

While pools are a great way to cool off during hot summer months, care must be taken to prevent accidents.

For safety, Cerritos pool owners are required to maintain a six-foot-tall fence around the perimeter of their pool. Any gates leading to the pool must also be at least six feet high, and must be self-closing and self-latching.

Care must also be taken to prevent storm-water and ocean pollution. Owners planning to drain their pool should make sure it drains to the sewer (not to the street or storm drain) through the pool's "P-trap." The P-trap should have been installed when the pool was first constructed; for help in locating the P-trap, call your pool cleaning or equipment service.


The following permit applications are available pertaining to pools:

  • Swimming Pool Demolition Application (
  • Swimming Pool Spa Application (


Prevent shocks

Water and electricity make a very dangerous mix. Any appliance near plumbing, puddles or a body of water could cause electrocution. Prevent accidents by installing a ground fault interrupter in any outlet that has the potential to come in contact with moisture. This includes outlets in your kitchen, bathrooms, garage and any outdoor outlets.

Ground fault interrupters are available at any hardware store, and are a few dollars more than a normal outlet. Most come with good instructions and can be installed by anyone with average knowledge about electrical equipment. If you need help, consult an electrician. An electrician may also help you install a ground fault interrupter in your home's main electrical breaker board.

Room Additions

Room additions are very popular in Cerritos. A room addition can give your family more space, add new life to an older home and increase the value of your property.

This section gives a brief overview of the steps you will need to take to gain City approval and obtain necessary permits for a room addition. For more details, talk with a City staff member or check out the video called "Adding On to Your Cerritos Home" from the video section at Cerritos Library.

General Requirements

Room additions in Cerritos must:

  • Be architecturally similar to other homes in your neighborhood.
  • Maintain adequate setbacks from property lines, streets and neighboring homes.
  • Maintain adequate space for landscaping in the rear and front yards.
  • Use materials that blend well with your existing home.
  • Protect your neighbors from any negative impacts.
  • Meet all applicable Cerritos Municipal Code requirements for the size and lot coverage of your home.

Potential Costs

Room additions can be expensive. Before planning your project, talk to at least three qualified contractors for estimates of construction costs. In addition to construction costs, your project may include the following additional costs:

  • Plan check and building permit fees based on the size and value of your room addition.
  • One-time school fees for room additions over 500 square feet.
  • Possible increase in your yearly property taxes.

Obtaining Approval

The City's Department of Community Development must approve all plans and issue permits to make sure that all room additions are done safely and correctly. Here are the steps to obtaining City approval and a permit.

  1. Measure your home, yard and proposed room addition and bring a simple sketch to the Community Development Counter on City Hall's second floor. A City planner can tell you whether your project meets general guidelines.
  2. While at City Hall, pick up a room addition application packet and read the guidelines carefully.
  3. Hire an architect or contractor to manage the project and draw up detailed plans. (You may also handle the project and draw plans yourself.)
  4. Complete and sign the room addition application and return it to the Community Development Counter, along with all applicable supplemental information as required on the application.
  5. Upon submission of a completed application, a City planner will carefully review your application and plans over the next ten working days.
  6. Larger room additions that are more than 900 square feet or more than 70 percent of the area of your existing home must be approved by the Planning Commission. City staff will place your project on the Commission's agenda, notify neighbors within 500 feet and ask you or your contractor to attend the meeting to answer questions.
  7. Once your room addition plans have been approved by a City planner and, if necessary, the Planning Commission, the City will keep a set of your plans and give you two sets. You can then submit your plans to the Building and Safety Department for structural plan check review.
  8. A Building and Safety Plan Check Engineer will make sure your plans meet all uniform building codes. The engineer may require changes to render your project in compliance with all applicable provisions of the building code.
  9. Once all code requirements are met, the engineer will stamp your plans and give them back to the Planning Division. A planner will compare the project to the original plans you submitted to make sure the scope hasn't changed. Upon completion of this final review your project planner will contact you to advise you that you may now obtain building permits and commence construction.
  10. During construction, call the Building and Safety Division to schedule regular inspections. An inspector will visit your home to verify that your project is meeting building and safety codes and sign your Inspection Record Card after each visit.

Points to Remember

By following these City rules and meeting all building and safety codes, you are:

  • Helping to maintain our City's high development standards;
  • Protecting Cerritos property values;
  • And most importantly, protecting your family's safety.



Home Care / Permits / Regulations (




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