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Jurisdiction of DSA

This brief description of the jurisdiction of DSA is intended for general guidance only. Please refer to the Government Code, Education Code and other applicable laws and standards for complete information. This information is not intended to contradict or interpret any law or regulation.

Enforcement Responsibility

DSA has responsibility for enforcement in two separate areas of State law:

1. Access Compliance

DSA has jurisdiction over access compliance requirements for all buildings in California (including schools) that are publicly-funded in whole or in part by the use of state funds per Government Code Section 4450 through 4461. Plan review of access compliance related features only, is performed for the following entities when public funds are used in construction:

  • Public elementary and secondary Schools (grades K–12)
  • Community colleges
  • All state-owned or state-leased essential services buildings
  • University of California
  • California State University
  • All state-owned State of California property
  • All state-leased State of California property (enforced by DGS/Real Estate Services Division)
  • Certain Charter schools (see PL 17-01: Charter Schools Enforcement Jurisdiction (PDF - 65KB) )

2. General California Building Code Enforcement
(for Public Schools and Essential Services Buildings Only)

For public schools and State Essential Services Buildings (ESB), DSA has jurisdiction over all aspects of construction (including access compliance), to ensure that plans, specifications, and construction comply with the building code (Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations). Plan review and construction oversight is provided for all construction (except as noted in Section 2.1 and 2.3 below) on the following facilities:

  • Public elementary and secondary schools (grades K–12) - see Education Code, Sections 17280-17317 and 17365-17374.
  • Public Community colleges - see Education Code, Sections 81130-81149.
  • All state-owned or state-leased essential services buildings buildings - see Health and Safety Code, Sections 16000-16023.

DSA Jurisdiction – Building/Construction Type

All construction must be reviewed and approved by DSA, except as noted below, before a contract for construction can be awarded. Title 24, Part 1 defines several exceptions (not including access compliance) to DSA jurisdiction for Building Code enforcement for various types of construction as described below (for more information on construction types, see DSA's Scope of Projects for DSA Plan Submittal by Construction Type page ).

1. New Construction

Per Title 24, Part 1, Section 4-314 - Definitions, the following structures are classified as "school buildings" and are therefore subject to complete review and approval by DSA:

  • facilities or structures used for instructional purposes or intended to be entered by pupils or teachers for school purposes,
  • dwellings for pupils or teachers on the school site,
  • any structure, utility system or facility necessary to the complete functioning of the school, and
  • any structure on school grounds that could endanger pupils or teachers if it were to collapse.

Excluded Structures and Other Exceptions

Title 24, Part 1, Section 4-314 also defines certain types of structures that are not considered to be “school buildings.” When the entire scope of a construction project includes only these structures they may be constructed without first obtaining structural or fire/life safety approval from DSA (note that access compliance review by DSA is still required). These structures may be submitted to DSA for full review at the option of the school district. Note that these structures must still be designed, constructed and inspected per code requirements even if they are not submitted to DSA for structural or fire/life safety review.

Structures that are not considered to be regulated by DSA as “school buildings,” when they constitute the entire scope of construction, include:

  • 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 the Health and Safety Code, Division 13, Part 2, commencing with section 18000, that are 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).

Note that additional exceptions to DSA approval requirements exist for various unusual situations. For more information about these exceptions please refer to the Education Code or contact one of DSA's Regional Offices.

Section 4-310 of Title 24, Part 1 states that the following types of buildings are not subject to the Field Act requirements and therefore need not be submitted to DSA for structural or fire/life safety review; however, these structures must still be designed, constructed and inspected per code requirements even if they are not submitted to DSA. These types of buildings must also be reviewed and approved by DSA for access compliance requirements (see above):

  • Bus garage, warehouse, storage and similar buildings,
  • Dwellings for non-teacher, non-pupil employees,
  • Other 'non-school use' buildings or structures,
  • District-wide administration buildings that are not on a school site which are not entered by pupils or teachers for school purposes.

The school board shall take all necessary precautions to prevent injuries to pupils or teachers on school grounds as a result of collapse of 'non-school' buildings on a school site. Such precautions may include fencing-off the non-school buildings from the rest of the school site.

Also, a sign stating that: "This building does not meet the earthquake safety requirements of the California State building code and shall not be entered by pupils or teachers" shall be posted on all non-school buildings on school sites.

Finally, the school board shall pass a resolution stating that the structure shall not be used for school purposes and that no pupils or teachers, as such, will be permitted to use or enter said building for said purposes or be subjected to a hazard resulting from its collapse. A copy of the resolution shall be submitted to DSA.

All structures (including those not subject to DSA approval) are still required to be designed and constructed in accordance with the requirements of the building code. The school board is responsible for hiring a licensed architect or engineer to design such structures, and must also provide for adequate inspection of the construction.

2. Additions

All additions are subject to DSA review and approval regardless of size or cost. Note that additions may only be made to DSA compliant structures unless alterations to bring the existing structure into compliance are also included in the scope of the project. See IR A-20.

3. Alterations

Alteration projects require DSA review and approval except for low cost projects as described in DSA IR A-10. Projects shall not be subdivided for the purpose of evading plan review requirements.

Note that construction must still conform to all building code requirements and that the school board is still responsible for hiring a licensed architect or engineer to prepare plans and specifications for the construction, and must also provide for adequate inspection of the construction even when plan review by DSA is not required.