Lease & Permit Application Process


The Commission manages about four million acres of tide and submerged lands and the beds of natural navigable waterways (rivers, streams, lakes, bays, estuaries, inlets, and straits). We also manage about a half-million acres of lands known as school lands. Open each of the boxes below to learn more about our application process.  

Application Submittal

The Commission has an online portal, the Online System for Customer Applications and Records, to submit applications. You can access training videos on how to create an account and apply through the portal. To submit a paper application, download our Application for Use of State Lands or request a paper application by calling our office at 916.574.1940.

Each application must include a non-refundable filing fee of $25 and an Approximate Expense Deposit. The Approximate Expense Deposit reflects the typical staff costs to process a routine application. Actual staff costs may be more or less than the deposit. These fees are separate from and in addition to any charges for occupation or use of state land.

Title / Boundary Review

We review historic maps and documents to determine the land and resource interest and extent of State land and resources impacted by the proposed use.

Environmental Review

We evaluate the potential for environmental impacts from the proposed activity or use, consistent with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). We also examine potential impacts from climate change and sea level rise on the proposed use.

Lease & Permit Processing

We prepare a staff report for the Commission and recommend whether to approve or deny a proposed lease or permit. The staff report analyzes whether the proposed use or activity is in the State’s best interest and takes the below items into account:

  • Public Trust Analysis (as applicable): We assess whether the proposed use is consistent with the Public Trust Doctrine. If a proposed activity or use is inconsistent with the Public Trust, we may recommend that the project be revised or may recommend that the Commission deny the application.
  • Best interests of the State: We analyze whether the proposed activity or use is in the best interests of the state.
  • Regulatory Compliance: We review the proposed activity or use to ensure all necessary permits/leases and authorizations have been obtained or are in the process of being obtained. Most leases for the use of state lands require approvals from other agencies, such as the California Coastal Commission, and the city or county where the proposed lease area is located. Some leases may also require the consent of the landowner (where the Commission owns all or part of the underlying mineral interest, but not the surface land) or adjoining landowners (right-of-way leases crossing sovereign land).
  • Tribal Consultation: We conduct outreach and consult with Tribal governments that may be impacted by the proposed use in accordance with statewide policies (Executive Orders B-10-11 and N-15-19), the Commission’s Strategic Plan and Tribal Consultation Policy, and CEQA.
  • Environmental Justice: We review the proposed use to ensure it is consistent with our Environmental Justice Policy. We may recommend lease terms or conditions to ensure consistency with our Environmental Justice Policy.

Commission Meeting

The Commission considers the proposed application during a public meeting and decides whether to approve or deny the proposed lease or permit and under what terms and conditions. Contract documents, (e.g., the lease, memorandum of lease, etc.) are expected to be signed and returned by the applicant before the Commission meeting.

The Commission holds public meetings throughout the year at different locations. All Commission meetings are public, as required by the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act and publicly noticed with an agenda posted on our website at least 10 days before the meeting. Staff reports are prepared for each item and posted on the Commission’s website. The Commission may only act on items that are on the agenda.

Staff Closing Transaction

If the actual staff costs are less than the Approximate Expense Deposit, we issue the applicant a refund. If staff costs exceed the Approximate Expense Deposit, we will send an invoice for the balance due. Invoices and refunds may be sent up to 6 months after the Commission acts on an application.

Commission staff will sign contract documents following the Commission authorization and receipt of the signed contract document from the applicant. Once all parties have signed the contract documents, we will provide a copy to the lessee/permittee (previously applicant). If a Memorandum of Lease was required as part of the lease document, we will send signed copies to the appropriate county recorder’s office. Once the document has been recorded, we send a copy to the lessee for their records.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

For answers to more Frequently Asked Questions please see our general FAQ page.

How do I know if I need a lease or permit from the Commission?

If you are planning on using or constructing any type of structure on lands under the Commission’s jurisdiction, developing any resources or minerals located on, or otherwise occupying any lands under the Commission’s jurisdiction, a lease is likely necessary. The best course of action is to call or submit an inquiry to the Commission. The contact number for general leasing questions is 916.574.1940 and the contact number for mineral or resource leasing information is 562.590.5201.

How long does it take to process my application?

It can range from 6 months to several years to process an application. The timeframe depends on several factors and the complexities of the project.

Is compensation required for the use of State land?

Yes, private use of public land generally requires compensation. Various laws and regulations govern the process of determining rent or royalty. The Commission also uses regional benchmarks or appraised values to determine rent, depending on the specific use. The Commission has the discretion to discount rent for projects or uses that provide a significant state or regional benefit. More information is available on our Leases & Permits page.

How will I know if there are any objections to my application during a Commission meeting?

We will notify you if it learns of any objections or concerns regarding your application. We send meeting agendas to the Legislature and to everyone who requests notification. We also post meeting agendas on our website at least 10 days before the meeting and post any public comment letters received on an item. The public is welcome at all Commission meetings. Routine and non-controversial items are typically on the Commission’s consent agenda. Each item on the consent agenda includes a staff report that is available to the Commissioners and the public. All consent items are approved in one vote without individual presentations and discussion.

If concerns are raised on a consent item, we will remove the item from the consent agenda and it will be considered as a regular item. Wewill provide a verbal presentation on regular (non-consent) items. The applicant may speak in support of their application, and the public may request to comment. The Executive Officer will call out any changes to the consent agenda at the beginning of the meeting.

What actions are available to the Commission when considering my application?

There are typically four actions available to the Commission when it considers your application. The action is not authorized until the Commission has voted on the item at a public meeting.

The Commission can:

  • Approve: The Commission authorizes the lease or permit consistent with staff’s recommendation which allows the applicant to use the lease premises as outlined in the lease or permit.
  • Approve with changes or modifications to staff’s recommendation: During the consideration of a lease application at a public meeting, the Commission may approve the lease or permit but make changes or modifications to the lease or conditions of the lease that are different from staff’s recommendation.
  • Deny: The Commission can deny an application for a lease or permit. If that happens, the applicant would not have the authority to proceed with the proposed use.
  • Defer: The Commission postpones action on an application until a later date.

If the Commission approves a lease or permit, the authorization is for a fixed term of years without options or rights of renewal. The applicant accepts that future leases or permits authorizing the continued existence of any structures constructed or maintained by an applicant on state land are subject to a future discretionary action of the Commission. Submission of an application for a new lease does not guarantee a new lease will be granted. Lessees are required to remove any structures from state land before their lease expires unless a subsequent lease is approved by the Commission. The applicant acknowledges that construction of structures on state land and investment in or obtaining financing for the uses authorized under any lease or permit is done in full understanding that future leases are not guaranteed. Applicants should therefore consider the cost of both construction and structure removal in the context of the original lease term.

What other agency approvals may be necessary?