15 - Retaining Walls

Revised on 06-19-2020

Image of wall bordering parkA retaining wall is a structure designed and constructed to resist the lateral pressure of soil, when there is a desired change in ground elevation that exceeds the angle of repose of the soil.

The allowable height of walls is stipulated in the Zoning Code. The Zoning Code requirements shall apply to structures located in the public right-of-way per recommendations from the City Attorney on April 10, 2010.  Walls that conform to Zoning Code requirements are generally processed under Tier 2 Revocable permits.

Revocable permits for retaining walls over 2’ require a B-Permit for approval of plans and structural calculations.


Once the information has been vetted, City Staff will prepare an Revocable Permit Requirements (RPR) letter.

Screen shot of  page 1 of a Revocable Permit Requirement Letter












Screen shot of  page 2 of a Revocable Permit Requirement Letter













Screen shot of  page 3 of a Revocable Permit Requirement Letter
















  1. Determine if the retaining wall is in the public right-of-way.
    1. No - If the retaining wall is on private property, Building & Safety would issue a permit.
    2. Yes
      1. What is the encroachment?
      2. What are the dimensions of the encroachment?
      3. Does the retaining wall require planning approval? In cases where the permissible height of retaining wall is not apparent, a condition shall be imposed to require Planning Department approval for an apparent over-height retaining wall.
        1. Is it in a Fence Height District (LAMC 13.10)
        2. Is the retaining wall in a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ)?
          1. Written approval will be required
  2. Is the structure designed to the City’s Standard Plans (BOE Standard Plan S-500 Series, BOE Standard Plan B-Series, or Building and Safety Requirements for Concrete Masonry Walls)
    1. Yes, confirm accurate information is referenced on the plans
    2. No
      1. Plans will require Structural Review (Central District or Structural Division)
      2. A B Permit and Work Order will be required
      3. A deposit will be required for the review
      4. If non-standard materials are being proposed, the Design Standards and Investigations Group would need to provide approval of the materials.
  3. If the retaining wall is being placed on a hillside, the following should be applied:
    1. If the roadway fronting the property is less than 20 feet wide, the property owner will be required, as a condition of the R-Permit, to widen/improve it to a minimum paved width of 20 feet which may include concrete curb and gutter.

      A copy of a land survey that shows the proposed/existing encroachments, property line, centerline of roadway/right-of-way, width of existing roadway, and any other existing street improvements fronting the property is required to be submitted with the application.
  4. Is the structure’s aesthetics non-standard? This would include anything considered art, color, or design features.
    1. Yes
      1. Cultural Affairs will need to provide written approval for the structure
      2. Applicant would need to demonstrate they
  5. No – N/A