• Navigating Government Agencies

  • Application Process – click here for helpful flyers

    For a retail business leasing an existing space in Morro Bay, a business license from the City of Morro Bay may be all the approval that is necessary. The amount of the Business License Tax will vary by the type and size of the business and can be found here.

    Applications for new business licenses and renewals of current business licenses can be processed online, by email, or by U.S. mail. 
    Online: Click 
    here to complete and submit an electronic application, request a license renewal, and pay the fee

    OR, scan and email your completed form to MorroBay@HdLGov.com

    OR, mail completed form to: 

    ‚ÄčCity of Morro Bay
    Business Support Center
    8839 N. Cedar Ave #212
    Fresno, CA 93720 

    For Customer Support, call (805) 339-2649

  • Planning Department

    You will need to visit the Planning Department for a sign off before you are issued the business license. Planning will look at a number of factors before signing off:

    1. Was there a similar business in the space before? 
    2. Is the business intensifying the land use, such as changing from a retail use to a restaurant?
    3. Is the business in a prohibited use category, such as a use not allowed in the downtown?

    4. Is the business in a category that requires a land use permit or conditional use permit, requiring more information and a longer approval period?

    If your business requires a Conditional Use Permit, for example, it may take 3-4 months to get through the process and receive final approval from the Planning Commission. However, such a major approval is usually only necessary for the more intensive or potentially disruptive businesses in the city, such as bars and restaurants, businesses that engage in the sale of alcohol or other regulated products, or businesses likely to create undesirable impacts (noise, traffic) on nearby land uses.

    Effective January 3, 2023, public counter hours for the Community Development Department are 8am - 4pm Mondays through Thursdays.

    New!  The City of Morro Bay has developed an Electronic Plan Review (EPR) program designed to streamline the plan submittal process, reduce paper waste, reduce expense, and reduce the inconvenience of printing and shipping multiple copies of construction plans.

    Electronic Plan Review will allow concurrent review by Morro Bay staff which will reduce plan review times and will create a consolidated corrections list that can be used to track and respond to comments.

    To submit your application via the Permit Portal, click here

    For more information and a list of services and link click here.

    Signage: In larger shopping centers in the city, signage is often controlled through a sign program that was approved when the center was developed. In other areas of the city without a master developer, such as downtown, signage is controlled by the City’s Zoning Code. These regulations control the location, number and type of signs a business may have, the type of signs allowed, and the size (square footage) of the signs.

    Shortcuts to some of Morro Bay's Zoning Ordinances

    Morro Bay Planning Division Contact Information

    Scot Graham, Community Development Director | Email | Phone: 805-772-6291

    Cindy Jacinth, Senior Planner | Email | Phone: 805-772-6577

    Nancy Hubbard, Contract Planner | Email | Phone: 805-772-6211

    Gabby Cortez, Assistant Planner | Email | Phone: 805-772-6270

    Physical Address
    955 Shasta Avenue
    Morro Bay, CA 93442
    Phone: 805-772-6267
    Fax: 805-772-6268

    Office Hours
    Monday – Thursday, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.

  • Building Department

    Before undertaking tenant improvements in your space, you will need to obtain a building permit from the City’s Building Department. In many cases, your contractor will be able to describe to the Building Department the work to be done and receive a permit once it is inspected. However, for more substantial projects, such as the demolition or construction of interior or exterior walls, may require plans to be submitted and “plan-checked” by the City.
    The Building Department is charged with enforcing local, state, and federal building codes and look at a number of other categories of alterations, including:

    1. Structural Changes
    2. Electrical Codes
    3. Plumbing Codes
     Title 24 (including energy efficiency)
    5. Americans with Disability Act (ADA) compliance

    If you propose making structural changes to your space, the Building Department will analyze whether the change would alter the structural integrity of the building. For example, if you open a part of the exterior wall to create a new storefront opening, was the building originally constructed with that opening? Would the new opening weaken the wall, making the building potentially unsafe? Would the building continue to meet seismic building codes, or if it doesn’t, is there a retrofit available and required? Or, if you plan to remove an interior wall, is it a load bearing wall? In other words, does it now help hold up the ceiling or upper floors? What is a proposed structural change to the building that would still allow the wall to be removed without the building collapsing?

    There are other factors that get analyzed, too, when walls are added or removed, such as how it changes the occupancy of the space, which may trigger a Fire Code concern (discussed below).

    If the business is moving into a space and not making any changes, the business owner will probably not be required by the City to make any additional changes to the building to bring it up to code. But if electrical or plumbing changes are proposed, all of the new improvements will be required to meet current codes. The same applies to Title 24 issues. Title 24 is part of the State Building Code that governs a number of issues, most notably the energy efficiency of buildings; these rules mainly apply to new buildings or those undergoing major remodeling.

    Finally, there is the issue of ADA and how it applies to building remodels: When an owner submits a permit application (at the estimated construction cost as determined by the contractor at the time of application), the City is required under the Federal ADA to require the owner to also spend 20% of that amount on ADA improvements to the business. A Building Department inspector will go out to the site to create a checklist of potential ADA improvements to the business. They may include such things as lowering a sink in the restroom to be at the proper height, to improving wheelchair access to the store from the parking lot. Note that even for a tenant, eligible improvements could be in the parking lot, out of the tenant’s direct control. Obviously, the tenant would need the approval and cooperation of the landlord. Such “parking” improvements would be related to making it easier to get from the handicapped space into the shop. This could include installing parking wheel stops (bumpers) to keep the fronts of the cars parked in the lot from encroaching onto the sidewalk in order to ensure a full 48″ path of travel in a wheelchair.

    Note also that a business owner is only required to spend the 20% of permit value on ADA, which in some cases is less than $1,000. The business owner can apply for a waiver of the amount above the 20% figure, but still have to spend the 20%, however. The City would revisit the list of “waived” improvements if the owner comes in with another building permit application in the same calendar year. And, the waiver is only available for projects of $125,000 or less: if the permit is for more than that, the owner has to fully comply with ADA regardless of the cost. These are State laws that are based on the State’s interpretation of the Federal ADA. There is no “grandfathering” in ADA, once there is a new permit application on the table.

    Morro Bay Building Division Contact Information

    Scot Graham, Community Development Director | Email |Phone: 805-772-6291 | More Information

    Chad Ouimet, Chief Building Inspector/Plans Examiner | Email Phone: 805-772-6214 | More Information

    Eric Vincent, Building Inspector/Code Enforcement Officer | Email | Phone: 805-772-6213 | More Information

    Pamela Bruno, Permit Technician II | Email | Phone: 805-772-6267 | More Information

    Physical Address

    955 Shasta Avenue
    Morro Bay, CA 93442
    Phone: 805-772-6267
    Fax: 805-772-6268

    Office Hours

    Monday – Thursday, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.


    Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
    To schedule an inspection, call 805-772-6204.

  • Fire Codes

    For most retail businesses, the Fire Code requirements are fairly straightforward: exit signs and fire exiting, storage of flammable materials. However, for public assembly uses such as restaurants, nightclubs and theaters, an “A” fire rating is necessary for any space with occupancy over 49 persons. “A” rated spaces typically have fire sprinklers and meet all the codes related to fire exiting in the space.

    If you plan on opening a restaurant or nightclub, you should first check on the occupancy rating of your new space. Do not assume it is “A” rated no matter what tenant previously occupied the space.

    Changes to a building can also change the rating of a space: if you want to remove an interior wall to enlarge a room in a restaurant, the new larger space may now hold more than 49 seats, triggering the requirement for “A” rated space. Your space may have a “B” rating, which may lack one or more of the requirements necessary for the higher occupancy, even if the space is large enough to hold many more than 49 people.

    If you want to consider adding fire sprinklers, understand that sprinklers require a dedicated water service and cannot be shared with a domestic water meter. The installation of a new water line and meter is handled through the Desert Water Agency.

    Other fire issues arise when different land uses share the same building, such as in mixed use developments. Of particular concern are buildings where “sleeping” uses, such as residential and hotel uses, share walls or floors with other commercial uses. Often sprinklers, or additional fire, heat, and smoke detection alarms will be required on both sides of the wall.

    Fire Code Ordinances

    Morro Bay Fire Department Contact Information

    Dan McCrain, Fire ChiefEmail | More Information

    Matthew Vierra, Division Chief | Email | More Information

    Tracy McConnell, Administrative Tech | Email | More Information

    Physical Address
    715 Harbor Street
    Morro Bay, CA 93442
    Phone: 805-772-6242

    Monday - Friday
    8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

  • Public Works

    In most cases where a business is leasing an existing building space, no approval from the Public Works Department would be necessary. However, if you plan to construct or pave a parking lot, locate or relocate a driveway, or change the on-street parking configuration around your business, you may also need to get approval from the Public Works Department of the City.

    If your business is located along Highway 1 or Highway 41 you may also need to obtain approval by Caltrans for anything that encroaches in the Caltrans right-of-way, such as a landscaping, new driveway or turn lane. The use of California State Highways for other than normal transportation purposes, you should consult with CalTrans to see if written authorization is required.  

    CalTrans Public Affairs | email | 805-549-3318 

    For assistance in relation to Public Works services, please call (805) 772-6261 or visit the City's website for Department contact information. You can also contact staff by phone, email, and regular mail. (staff directory).

    Morro Bay Public Works Contact Information

    Greg Kwolek, Public Works DirectorEmail | 805-772-6564

    Physical Address View Map
    955 Shasta Avenue
    Morro Bay, CA 93442


    Mailing Address
    595 Harbor Street
    Morro Bay, CA 93442
    Phone: 805-772-6261
    Fax: 805-772-6268

  • San Luis Obispo County Department of Environmental Health

    Businesses such as restaurants and other food sellers also require approval by the San Luis Obispo County Department of Environmental Health. This is not a City department. The business owner or contractor would be required to submit an application and set of plans to both the County and the City for plan check. Please note that if you make changes to the plans during plan check based on corrections from either the City or County, you must submit the corrected plan to the other agency for their review as well. At the end of the review the plans will be reconciled and a building permit will be issued by the City. You will not receive a building permit from the City for a project requiring Health Department approval without their sign-off first. 

    Monday - Friday 8-5
    2156 Sierra Way Suite B
    San Luis Obispo , CA 93401

    Tel: (805) 781-5544 |  Fax: (805) 781-4211 | EmailWebsite 

  • California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC)

    The mission of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is to administer the provisions of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act in a manner that fosters and protects the health, safety, welfare, and economic well-being of the people of the State. The Department’s workload is divided into three elements: administration, licensing, and compliance. Investigators and/or Licensing Representatives investigate applications for licenses to sell alcoholic beverages and report on the moral character and fitness of applicants and the suitability of premises where sales are to be conducted. Less complex license applications are reviewed and processed by non-sworn Licensing Representatives. These reports are reviewed at the District Office and are forwarded to Headquarters in Sacramento for further review and processing. If the license is denied, or if its issuance is protested, the applicant is entitled to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. After hearing the evidence, the Administrative Law Judge makes a proposed decision which is reviewed by the Legal Section of the Department and acted upon by the Director. You can download alcoholic beverage application forms here.

    San Luis Obispo Office Information

    3220 S. Higuera St., Suite 103A
    San Luis Obispo CA, 93401

    Phone: (805) 543-7183 | Fax: (805) 543-3814 | Email | Website