by on May 14, 2024

posted in Administrative Regulations, Code Enforcement, Uncategorised,

How to Transition to a Paperless Planning Department

The necessity of having “wet” seals and signatures for land use projects and the use of an electronic seal for plans submitted to local agencies. Put another way, if a reviewing entity transitions to electronic plans submission, is there a legal basis to require that plans be submitted with an electronic stamp, seal and/or signature (as applicable).

Engineering Stamps

Business & Professions Code section 6764 provides, “each professional engineer licensed under this chapter shall, upon licensure, obtain a seal or stamp of a design authorized by the board bearing the licensee’s name, number of his or her certificate or authority, the legend ‘professional engineer…’ ” California Code of Regulations, Tite 16, Section 411, defines the size, design and manner of use for seal when submitting plans to the local authority. Subsection (e) of that provision specifically allows for the use of an electronically applied seal for items submitted by licensed engineers. (C.C.R, Tite 16, § 411.) 

Architectural Stamps

Applicable statutes provide that a licensed architect shall “adopt a seal for its own use. The seal used shall have the words, ‘California Architects Board’ inscribed thereon;” and “any stamp used by any architect licensed under this chapter shall be of a design authorized by the board which shall at a minimum bear the licensee’s name, his or her license number, the legend ‘licensed architect’ and the legend ‘State of California,’ and which shall provide a means of indicating the renewal date of the license;” and finally “It shall be circular in shape and shall be not less than one (1) inch in diameter and not more than two (2) inches in diameter. The stamp shall be of a design similar to those shown below and shall bear at minimum those elements specified in section 5536.1(b) of the Code.” (Bus. & Prof. Code, §§ 5536.1, 5520, et. seq; C.C.R. Tite 16, § 136.) While clearly the statutes provide plenty of details related to the size, contents, and design of the stamp, what these statutes do not do, is specifically address whether electronic stamps are permissible for architects.

As such, we have to dig a little deeper. Clearly, the plain language of Business & Professions Code sections 5520 and 5536.1 do not provide a definitive answer. However, the applicable Business & Professions Code sections and California Code of Regulations, Title 16, Section 136 include information which clearly speak to use of a physical stamp.[i]

This information is not determinative for several reasons but specifically because it references back to Business & Professions Code section 5536.1, which provides “The board may adopt regulations necessary for the implementation of this section.” “The Board” means the California Architect’s Board, and the information provided by the Board as provided below is determinative. The Architect’s Practice Act reads:

The signature and stamp, as provided for in Section 5536.1, on the plans and specifications by the person who prepared or was in responsible control of the plans and specifications shall constitute compliance with this section. It is the responsibility of the agency that issues the permit to determine that the person who signed and stamped the plans and specifications or who submitted the signed statement required by this section is licensed under this chapter or is otherwise licensed in this state to prepare the plans and specifications.

(See, Architect’s Practice Act see also, Bus. & Prof. Code, § 5536.2.)

Additionally, the state Architects Board provides an electronic exemplar stamp for use by licensed architects on their website:

California Code of Regulations Title 24, Part 2, section [A]107.2.1 (or “California Building Code section”) expressly authorizes the submission of such documents electronically if the reviewing entity allows it.[ii] California Building Code section [A]107.3.1 makes clear that it is ultimately, the purview of the approving entity to decide whether they are comfortable accepting plans with electronic stamp(s) and signature(s).[iii] (CCR Title 24 §§ 107.2-107.2.1;;; [A]105.3, [A]107.2.1; see, generally, C.C.R. Title 24, Part 2, §§ 1.1 and 1.9.2 of Chapter 1, Division I. Sections 102.1, 102.2, 102.3, 102.4, 102.5, 104.9, 104.10, 104.11, 106.1, 107.2.5; see also, Cal. Residential Code (2022) §§ R301.1.3-R301. The Building Department of the entity accepting these plans is obliged to ascertain the validity of the stamp and signature associated with the submission of plans; to review for code compliance and to enforce the applicable provisions of the Building, Municipal and Zoning/Development Code. (Bus. & Prof. Code, §§ 5536.1-3356.2; CCR Title 24 § 107.2.1.) As such, the entity in question should ensure that submission in this manner will allow the Building Official sufficient information to verify the licensure and other relevant information related to the submitter. (CCR Title 24 § 107.3-1077.1.)


Submission of plans which must be approved by engineers may be submitted electronically utilizing electronic stamps and/or signatures. Acceptance of plans which must be approved by an architect may be accepted via electronic stamp and signature is within the reviewing entity’s discretion.

[i] C.C.R. Tite 16, § 136:

“(b) The stamp shall not be of the embossing type.”

“(c) The license renewal date shall be shown on the stamp by either leaving a space on the stamp where the architect shall write his or her renewal date or having the license renewal date printed on the stamp.” emphasis added.

[ii] California Building Code Sections

[A] 107.2.1 Information on Construction Documents

Construction documents shall be dimensioned and drawn on suitable material. Electronic media documents are permitted to be submitted where approved by the building official. Construction documents shall be of sufficient clarity to indicate the location, nature and extent of the work proposed and show in detail that it will conform to the provisions of this code and relevant laws, ordinances, rules and regulations, as determined by the building official.”

[A] 107.3 Examination of Documents

The building official shall examine or cause to be examined the accompanying submittal documents and shall ascertain by such examinations whether the construction indicated and described is in accordance with the requirements of this code and other pertinent laws or ordinances.:

[A] 107.3.1 Approval of Construction Documents

When the building official issues a permit, the construction documents shall be approved, in writing or by stamp, as “Reviewed for Code Compliance.” One set of construction documents so reviewed shall be retained by the building official. The other set shall be returned to the applicant, shall be kept at the site of work and shall be open to inspection by the building official or a duly authorized representative.”

[iii] Id.


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