Grading Permits

Grading is regulated by the Development Standards. A grading permit is necessary prior to performing most grading operations in the City of Tucson. All plans require a minimum 10pt font. The following require a grading permit unless exempted from the requirements of the grading code:

  • Excavation or “Cut”
  • Fill
  • Clearing or Grubbing
  • Stockpiling

The following is exempted from the need to obtain a grading permit. Other permits (floodplain, for example) may still be required.


  1. When approved by the building official, grading in an isolated, self-contained area if there is no danger to public or private property.
  2. An excavation below finished grade for basements and footings of a building, retaining wall or other structure authorized by a valid building permit. This shall not exempt any fill made with the material from such excavation or exempt any excavation having an unsupported height greater than 5 feet (1524 mm)after completion of such structure.
  3. Cemetery graves.
  4. Refuse disposal sites controlled by other regulations.
  5. Excavations for wells, tunnels or utilities.
  6. Mining quarrying, excavation, processing stockpiling of rock, sand, gravel,aggregate or clay where established and provided for by law, provided such operations do not affect the lateral support or increase the stresses in or pressure upon any adjacent or contiguous property “except as such activities are regulated by code or other regulations of this jurisdiction”. This does not exempt stockpiling not connected with mining operations.
  7. Exploratory excavations under the direction of soil engineers or engineering geologists.
  8. An excavation which is less than 2 feet (610 mm) in depth, OR which does not create a cut slope greater than 5 feet (1524 mm) in height and steeper than 1 vertical unit in 1-1/2 units horizontal (66.7% slope).
  9. A fill less than 1 foot (305 mm) in depth and placed on a natural terrain with a slope flatter than 1 unit vertical in 5 units horizontal (20% slope), or less than 3 feet (914 mm) in depth, not intended to support structures, which does not exceed 50 cubic yards on any one lot and does not obstruct a drainage

Exemption from the permit requirements of this chapter shall not be deemed to grant authorization for any work to be done in any manner in violation of the provisions of this chapter or any other laws or ordinances of this jurisdiction.

It should be noted that it does not take very much soil to exceed the fifty (50) cubic yard requirement. Please see the following table:

Area (Square Feet)  Dimensions (Feet) Height of Fill (Feet)
500 22 X 22 2.7
1000 32 X 32 1.35
2000 45 X 45 0.67 (8 inches)
5000 71 X 71 0.27 (3 inches)

So the fill placed over a typical small residential lot generally requires a grading permit.

Fees are required for grading plan review and issuance of permits.

For any project greater than one (1) acre, or which is part of a project greater than one (1) acre, a surface water pollution prevention plan (SWPPP, usually pronounced “swip”) is required by state regulation (AzPDES). Notices must also be sent to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prior to and at the completion of grading.

If work is performed in a regulatory floodplain you must also obtain a Floodplain Use Permit. These are also available from Development Services. Native plants on the site must also be protected per applicable codes and standards.

Placement of fill in excess of two (2) feet above existing grade at any location in the outer one hundred (100) feet of a developing site requires compliance with differential grading criteria. This applies to residential lots smaller than 24,000 square feet and all non-residential developments.

All grading should have adequate drainage provisions and conform to the requirements of the Technical Standards Manual (TSM 2-01).

Further information can be obtained at the Engineering counter located on the 1st floor of the County-City Public Works building at 201 N Stone Ave. The phone number is (520) 791-5550.