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District Department of Transportation

Frequently Asked Questions on Permits

The District Department of Transportation has management and oversight responsibility for the use and occupancy of the public space.

When do I need a public space permit?

You need to apply for a Public Space Permit whenever you intend to occupy, construct and/or install in or on publicly-owned property between the property lines of a street, park, or other public property (including roadway, tree space, sidewalk, or parking between such property lines.)

Where do I go to get a permit?

All Public Space permit applications are accepted at 1100 4th Street, SW, 2nd Floor, between the hours of 8:30 am and 4:15 pm, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Thursday the hours are from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. The Permit Office is on the third floor. Applicants must go to the second floor to apply for permits. 

Surface permits are issued for a 30-day period. Excavation permits are issued for 45 days. A longer permit period may be requested if the applicant pays any applicable renewal fees and if it is determined that the type of work to be performed requires more time to complete. Applications take up to 30 days to process depending on the permit type, the number of clearances required and the nature of the work to be performed. Both types of permits are renewable.

How much does a permit cost?

The cost of the Public Space permit varies, depending on the scope of work. The most common permit applications made by residents are for the installation of fences, driveways and retaining walls. The permit cost varies from $50 to $135. There is also a deposit fee for paving and walls, which is refundable following a satisfactory inspection of the public space and completion of the work.

What happens if I don't get a permit?

If you do not obtain a permit for occupying and working in the public space, you could be shut down and/or fined. Fines start at $300.00.

What are the standards, if any, for common public space work (i.e., fence, retaining walls, driveways)?

There are specific standards governing height restrictions, construction specifications and curb and sidewalk cut dimensions that must be adhered to when applying for permits to do specific types of work. These standards are contained in the DCMR Title 24 for the specific type of work to be performed.

What if I get a contractor to do my work? Who's responsible then?

The responsibility for applying for the permit is a decision between the homeowner and his or her contractor. It is not uncommon that an individual homeowner would come in to obtain a permit for work to be done by a contractor. The ultimate responsibility for obtaining the permit is the property owner.