Auto Shop Vehicle Lifts

Car lift.png

Project Update

Permitting of Auto Shop Vehicle Lifts

In 2012, City staff became aware that a number of auto shop vehicle lifts had been installed without the issuance of a building permit.  Staff also discovered that many auto shop owners, as well as installers, were not aware that building permits, and, in some cases, planning permits, are required for these installations.

Although several shop owners received notices of violation for not having obtained the appropriate permits, City staff decided to take time to systematically address the issues that had been raised by the shop owners.  Staff then temporarily suspended the enforcement of lift violations that had been issued to analyze the issues and develop a plan to address the City’s interests in ensuring building and zoning code compliance, while being sensitive to the challenges that the shops may face in achieving compliance.

City Planning and Building Divisions staff held a public meeting on Thursday, October 12, 2017 to discuss the program for compliance described below under Project Description.

Related Documents

Draft Building permit application materials that will be used for this program: 


  • The City Council held a study session to discuss this matter on October 17, 2016, to discuss the available options and provide staff with developing a plan; no action was taken at that meeting.

Project Description

The City is now engaging in a program to require building permits for all existing unpermitted automotive lifts.  It is important to understand that the intent of this program is not to seek removal of any existing automotive lift, but to ensure that they have been installed, and continue to be operated, safely.

Toward this end, the following program has been established: 

Step One: The City requires that the owners of all auto-related establishments complete and mail a card regarding the presence of automobile lifts and any related City permits you may have obtained for them. If your establishment has no lifts, or if the issuance of City permits can be verified for existing lifts, then no further action, beyond returning the card, is required. This card will be mailed to all establishments by October 30, 2017.

Step Two: If no City building permit was ever issued for an existing automobile lift, an application for a building permit will be required by April 30, 2018.  Permit issuance will be required by October 30, 2018. It is important to note that permit issuance may require structural or electrical work to make the auto lift installations safe according to current building code provisions.  Permit issuance would end the process here. 


  • Future complaints about city code violations related to the auto repair establishments, including trash containers and debris in public view; inoperable vehicles and parts stored outside of buildings; repair work performed outside of buildings and on the street; unpermitted structures; parking violations, particularly excessive double parking; and graffiti not being addressed in a prompt manner, will continue to be addressed through standard code enforcement procedures.
  • The issuance of a building permit for electrical or structural work performed in installing a lift pursuant to this program shall not be construed to be a permit for, or an approval of, any violation of City law, including the provisions of the city’s zoning code. 

City Contact Information

Planning Division
(650) 522-7212