Project Submittal and Plan Review Frequently Asked Questions

See the DSA Publications or Forms pages for cited documents.

Click on a question to read the answer:

How do I communicate with DSA regarding a specific project?

DSA identifies each project with a file and application number. To expedite processing, all correspondence to DSA must include the file and application number in the upper right hand corner of the document. The file number identifies the County and the school district where the project is located and the application number identifies the DSA Regional Office and the project number assigned to the project.

The File Number consists of two parts:

  1. The County number (two digits identifying one of California's 58 Counties),
  2. Followed by a school district number. The school district number may be one, two or three digits. High School districts numbers are preceded by the letter 'H' and Community College district numbers are preceded by the letter 'C'. DSA uses the file number to quickly route documents to appropriate staff for processing.

Example File Numbers:

  • 34-53 indicates that the project is in Sacramento County (County 34) and that it is in the Sacramento City School District (school district 53),
  • 19-H10 indicates a project in Los Angeles County for the El Monte Union High School District.

The Application Number also consists of two parts.

  1. Two digits, which identify the DSA Regional Office where the project was submitted,

Regional Office Numbers:

  • 01 Oakland
  • 02  Sacramento
  • 03  Los Angeles
  • 04  San Diego

See the California DSA Regions Map to find the geographic regions served by each regional office.

  1. Followed by a six digit "project number" which is number assigned sequentially by the DSA Regional Office to identify each project submitted to that office.

Example Application Numbers:

  • 02-100627 indicates the 627th project submitted to the Sacramento Regional Office,
  • 01-101234 indicates the 1,234th project submitted to the Oakland Regional Office,
  • 03-101234 indicates the 1,234th project submitted to the Los Angeles Regional Office. Note that this application number differs from the preceding only in the two digit "Regional Office Identifier."

I have a minor construction project; does it require DSA review?

In general all construction projects on school sites require review and approval by DSA. Title 24, Part 1 describes types of projects that do and do not require DSA review and approval in Sections 4-306, 4-308, 4-309, 4-310 and 4-314.

See Jurisdiction of DSA for further information.

The following is a list of common structures that do not require DSA approval (See IR A-10 and IR A-22 for details):

  • One-story buildings not over 250 square feet in floor area when used exclusively as accessory facilities to athletic fields (equipment storage, toilets, snack bars, ticket booths, etc.).
  • Greenhouses, barns, and storage sheds used exclusively for plants or animals and not used for classroom instruction (small groups of pupils or teachers may enter these structures for short periods of time).
  • Light poles or flagpoles less than 35 feet tall.
  • Antenna towers less than 35 feet tall or less than 25 feet above a building roofline.
  • Retaining walls less than 4 feet above the top of foundations and not supporting a surcharge.
  • Concrete or masonry fences less than 6 feet above adjacent grade.
  • Ball walls or yard walls less than 6 feet above adjacent grade.
  • Signs, scoreboards or solid-clad fences less than 8 feet above adjacent grade.
  • Bleachers and grandstands with five rows of seats or less.
  • Playground equipment, open-mesh fences and baseball backstops.
  • 'Temporary-use' buildings on community college sites used for less than three years.
  • 'Trailer Coaches' that conform to the requirements of Part 2 (commencing with section 18000) of Division 13 of the Health and Safety Code, not greater than 16 feet in width and used for special education purposes for no more than 12 pupils at a time (or 20 pupils for driver training purposes).

Where do I submit my project for plan review?

DSA has Regional Offices in Oakland, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego (see Contacting DSA).

How many buildings may be included in the scope of a single application?

Any number of buildings may be included in a single application. In general all buildings must be on the same site and built under the same contract. Districts may also submit projects "incrementally" so that initial increments of the project can be submitted and reviewed while the design of subsequent increments is proceeding.

How many different sites may be included in the scope of a single application?

Projects submitted to DSA for review shall be limited in scope to construction on a single site only. Applications for multiple “various” sites will not be accepted. Please refer to: DSA Bulletin BU 13-02: Project Definition Limited to Construction on a Single Site (PDF - 119 KB), effective July 1, 2013.

How many different construction contracts may be included in a single application?

Although DSA does not limit the number of contracts that may be executed under a single application number, it should be noted that multi-prime projects are generally more difficult to administer and to inspect than traditional single-prime projects (where a general contractor is responsible for all subcontractors). Additional inspection time should be allocated and additional construction review by the design professional should be anticipated to deal with an increased number of change orders. These costs are in addition to any construction management costs. (It should also be noted that construction management costs are considered a part of the construction cost for the purpose of DSA fee calculations. See IR A-23 and IR A-24.)

Can a single construction contract include work that is included in a DSA application as well as work that is not?

While DSA rules allow this to occur, it is a confusing situation for all parties, especially the contractor and the inspector. For example, when changes are necessary, the changes that apply to the DSA application work must be processed through DSA for approval. However, when the work is not a part of the DSA application, it would not require DSA approval. It may not always be clear whether a particular issue is a part of the DSA portion of the contract or not. It is recommended that separate contracts be written in this situation if possible.

How long will it take to review my project?

Project review time depends on the size of the project and the number of projects pending review at DSA.

DSA has developed a Plan Review Time Calculator which allows you to estimate how long the review process may take for new construction or modernization, using specific information about your project. The review time estimated using the calculator is only intended as a planning tool when scheduling school construction projects. Contact a DSA Regional Office if a more detailed estimate is desired.

Projects involving only pre-approved relocatable buildings may be reviewed "over-the-counter." An appointment is required so call early. The plan review process is generally competed within a day.

How do I schedule an "Over the Counter" appointment for a relocatable project?

Simply call the regional office with jurisdiction for the project site and schedule an appointment (see DSA Policy PL 07-02 for information on OTC and setting up an appointment with a Regional Office. Also see Contacting DSA for information regarding locations of regional offices).

How can I obtain plans for an existing school building?

DSA maintains records for all school construction projects in California since 1933. If you know the file and/or application number for the project, call the business section supervisor at the DSA regional office with jurisdiction over the area where the project is located. Ask that the plans for the project be retrieved from archives. If you cannot find the application number for the project, DSA can assist you if you provide the name of the school, the school district, the county and city where the project is located, the date of construction, and a description of the scope of the project.

Please allow at least two weeks for retrieval (in an emergency, plans may be retrieved more quickly). Plans may be viewed at the DSA regional office or you may contract with a local blueprinting company to have the drawings picked up, photocopied, and returned to DSA. Record plans are released only to local, recognized blueprint companies.

How can I track the progress of my project through the plan review process?

Go to Project Tracking to obtain project status information. You will need your project's application number. You can see the anticipated start date for your project, the plan reviewer's name(s), the approval date and other useful information. If more detailed information is required, please call the plan review supervisor at your DSA Regional Office.

How do I schedule a "back-check" appointment?

Call the structural plan reviewer who reviewed your project. The reviewer's name and phone number are marked on the first page of your marked-up check set.

Be sure to make all corrections and coordinate all drawings and all specifications before the back-check meeting. Your reproducible drawings will be stamped by DSA at the conclusion of the meeting. Bring all drawings and specifications with all required signatures. Don't forget to bring all marked-up check sets and any additional calculations or substantiating data that may be required to address the plan review comments.

What do I do if I need to change the DSA approved drawings before a construction contract has been awarded?

All changes to DSA approved documents must be approved by DSA. Prior to the award of a construction contract, changes are implemented by means of Revision; or, if the project is out to bid, by means of addenda. All addenda must be written, and signed, by the architect (or engineer) in general responsible charge of the project. The architect (or engineer) then submits signed addenda to DSA for review and approval.

What do I do if I need to change the DSA approved drawings during construction?

Changes to DSA approved documents are subject to approval by DSA. After a contract has been awarded, changes are typically made by change order. Change orders must be written, and signed, by the architect (or engineer) in general responsible charge of the project. They must also be signed by the school district. The architect (or engineer) then submits them to DSA for review and approval.

To facilitate changes during construction, DSA will review preliminary change orders (including Construction Change Directives, Architects Supplemental Instructions, Field Orders and other similar documents). DSA will transmit stamped copies of acceptable preliminary change orders back to the architect on an expedited basis. This allows changes to be quickly approved on a same-day basis under ideal circumstances.

How do I identify contracts and change orders to DSA when a project involves multiple contracts?

Each contract associated with a specific DSA application number should be identified with a "contract number." Contract numbers are assigned by the architect in general responsible charge of the project and reported on form DSA 102: Contract Information (PDF - 98 KB). Contract numbers should be assigned in a simple sequential manner. However, it is also acceptable to identify contracts in any logical, systematic manner (for example contract number "BP1A" may indicate bid package 1 of phase 'A' of the project). The entire scope of work approved by DSA must be reported on one or more Contract Information forms. Note that the value of work done by school district employees and/or volunteers must be estimated and reported. Also, contracts with construction managers for management of construction must be reported on a Contract Information form.

All changes orders should be numbered sequentially for each contract and must indicate the Contract Number of the contract to which they pertain. For example, the second change order issued for contract number 7 should be clearly labeled "Change Order #2" and "Contract #7." See IR A-6: Change Order and Field Change Approval Processes for more information on Change Orders.