~ Opening a location in Campbell ~

Starting your business in Campbell

I hope this helps you make educated decisions on moving forward with your project in Campbell (or outside of the area).

DISCLAIMER These are simply my own account of my experience with my project. It should not be used as legal advice, project advice, or construction advice. I am not an employee of the city; I am not a spokesperson from the city; I am just a business owner and these are an account of my experiences. Had I known the items listed below, I would have set more realistic expectations both on an opening date and with finances. I am not an attorney, architect, city official or person of decision making power.

I will not be discussing lease agreements or negotiations below.

Administrative Planned Development Permit

You need this permit type when you are setting up your business at a location that was not the same business type**. For example, I am building out a tanning salon in my new space; unless the new location was a preexisting tanning salon, I would need to apply for the APD permit. If you are a retail establishment moving into another retail establishment, you would not need to move forward with this permit.

Document here --> https://www.ci.campbell.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/15187/Land-Use-Change-Applications 

Understanding Page 4
Project plans - This is completed by your architect. My architect was $3800 and I was able to get a cash discount.
Project description - You draft this. Reference page 3 #8.
Acknowledgement statement - This is on page 5. Sign the page, send it to your landlord to also sign.
Preliminary title report - This document comes from a title and escrow company.  Ask your realtor for this; they typically get a discount on the document. You can also email/call a title & escrow company independently. This document is around $250.

Duration: 2 months for review of the permit and modifications with the team. +10 days of some random notice that is sent out to the city for comments. 

Cost: $3,441.24 in permit fees (this includes the 4% processing fee).
+ Architectural fees. I paid $3800. Architects are REQUIRED whether you are building within the location, simply adding furniture/racks, or doing nothing at all to it.

**If you are unsure of the current land use of the property, call city planning and request the permit type of the unit. Campbell Planning department (408) 866-2140; [email protected]Include the location address and unit, and contact info on every email. When you are assigned permit numbers, include that as well.

Building Permit

If you are making modifications to the inside of the unit (adding non loadbearing walls, updating the restroom, removing a wall, etc), this is required. This is called tenant improvement, TI.

Document--> https://www.ci.campbell.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/16590/Commercial-Remodel-Application-Guide 

Not all of the required files will pertain to you. Submit the ones that you have and pertain to your project; I was told to submit and let the permit techs review and request other documents if necessary.

Duration: 1 month for document review and permit approval (2 weeks to finalize the review +10 days of some random notice that is sent out to the city for comments). Once this is complete, you can start construction, then call inspections. You cannot have clients in the location until your inspections are finalized.

Cost: $1,471.58 in permit fees (this includes the 4% processing fee). There are no fees for inspections.
+ Architecture fees. You will not need to pay the architect twice; the same plans will be used as the APD permit. Some of the same documents will also be posted.

**Contact persons in the building department
Bob Lenon (acting building official): [email protected]
The permit techs: Marge 408 871 5102 ; Teal 408 866 2131
The permit techs only sometimes have the right answers to questions. I’d recommend taking  your questions to Bob. Confirm receipt, review of documents, and updates with the permit techs.

How to call for inspections

You call for inspections on MyGovernment Online after your building permit is issued. All inspection requests that are made before midnight are guaranteed for the next day. While there is a list of inspections to call for, you only call 3 inspections.


  1. When your rough is complete (electrical and framing).
  2. When you’re ready for your fire inspection (see below on how to call that; not on MyGovOnline).
  3. When you’re ready for your final, doors open.
    Inspections are called in this order.

I would recommend your GC (general contractor) be present for all inspections, but it is not required for rough or final. I would recommend not having any furniture present at your inspections. Also, clean up the area, throw trash away, sweep, update broken ceiling tiles, etc.

Fire Department Inspection - Fire and Life Safety from the county

Document: None. Duration: Book their inspection one week in advance. Cost: Included in the building inspection.

Requirements to pass:

  • Must have this specific fire extinguisher (2A10BC).
  • An exit sign with braille and contrasting letters must be exactly to the right of the front door handle inside to satisfy ADA.
  • Emergency lights in every room (reference your stamped plans from architect). Confirm you have the correct type of emergency lights up with your electrician.
  • Confirm emergency lights in every room work when the power goes off by working with your electrician and doing a simulation test.
  • Your address needs to be on the front door with 4 inch tall numbers.
  • Your lock must be up to fire code; two options. Option 1: a key on the inside, a key on the outside; Option 2: a key on the outside, a lever on the inside.
  • Above the front door inside, must have the sign that says “door to remain open during business hours”

How to call for your fire inspections 
The address on MyGovernment online brings you to an unmonitored voicemail. Phone: (408) 378-4010 ask for Fire Prevention. Let the scheduler know you’re calling for a Fire &  Life Safety inspection. You will likely be inspecting with Matthew McKenna at 408-341-4420.

They typically schedule one week out versus the city who schedules less than 24 hours out.

Your GC must be on site for the inspection with fire.

Unreasonable Hardship Exemption

If you are spending less than $150,000ish in construction on your project, you can apply for the hardship exemption to waive the expensive costs of redoing your location per ADA compliances. This does not eliminate you from getting sued, but it waives your need to invest in these expensive upgrades. You still need to spend 20% of the construction cost on accessibility measures.

Document --> https://www.ci.campbell.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/110/Hardship-Worksheet
ADA Compliance Documents --> https://www.adachecklist.org/checklist.html (& scroll down mid-page)

If you qualify for this exemption, your architect will need to add this to the plans. If you are doing any work to the bathroom, automatic shut off sensor lights are required.

Title 24

If you are making any adjustments to the permanent lighting in the ceiling, you need to apply for Title 24. This is a California initiative to monitor wattage and electricity. There is a private party that handles this. Inspections are an additional cost. Note: I did not move forward with Title 24 and have opted to keep the lighting as-is.

Document: NA; Duration: 6 weeks; Cost: A few thousand dollars after architectural fees

Other notes to consider

You cannot be an owner-builder on your own commercial project in Campbell. You must hire a General Contractor for the project. I HIGHLY recommend looking up your GC’s contractor number and confirming it is valid for the next 3 months; if it is not, have them update their license asap so you don't run into a stop work on your permit.

Link to contractor look up --> https://www.cslb.ca.gov/onlineservices/checklicenseII/checklicense.aspx 

Unless your General Contractor is based in Campbell, they will need an Out of Town business license for $103 document here --> https://www.ci.campbell.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/18368/Out-of-Town-Business-License-Application-2021

Total investment

Approximately $60,000 (this is not including any furnishings)

Permits - $10,000
General contractor - $15,000
Architect - $3,800
Supplies and labor - $31,200

Timeline 3.5 months after securing the lease, obtaining permits, building, and passing inspections until we were able to open.

Consulting Info

If you are thinking about becoming a business owner in Campbell and have questions on the information above, please feel free to call me with your questions, leave a voicemail or send me an email. I want to see all businesses in our immediate economy thrive. Advice given on calls should be seen as  friendly recommendations, not legal advice.

I have contact information for skilled contractors and a realtor to find you the perfect location.

Wishing you the best,
Emily Scott (805) 410-2064 [email protected]

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