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City Permits FAQs

How Do I Get a Parking Permit?

The City issues parking permits in the following situations:

  • Reserved parking in ‘A’ Street and Keller Street parking facilities: currently there is a waiting list for these permits.
  • Temporary construction parking permits: you need this permit for  parking construction-related equipment or vehicle in a timed parking zone.  A timed zone is usually in the downtown area where parking is only permitted certain days and hours. These permits are issued for a maximum of thirty days at a time, after which they may be renewed.
  • Residential parking permits may be issued for areas where “Permit Only” restrictions are in effect, or as designated by City Council.

Parking permits are handled by the Finance Department. Please contact financeemail@cityofpetaluma.org for assistance.

When do I need to install sprinklers?

All new residential and commercial construction requires the installation of fire sprinklers. Some existing buildings, both residential and commercial, without fire sprinklers may require a fire sprinkler retrofit as a result of major remodels, additions or renovations. There are exceptions for some Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU). Detailed fire sprinkler requirements can be found here.

What is a business license inspection and how do I schedule one?

As part of the business license process, the City’s Fire Prevention and Building Divisions need to inspect your business to ensure that you business meets minimum requirements for safety and emergency access. To schedule a business license inspection, call (707) 781-1201 or send email to bizcheck@cityof petaluma.org.

You can prepare for the inspection by reviewing this checklist of items.

When do I need a fire department permit?

There are two types of fire department permits: Construction and Operational.

Construction permits are needed for the installation of fire protection systems (such as fire sprinklers) and high-piled storage systems and for construction that involves hazardous materials and processes.

Operational permits are required for certain business types or business activities, such as businesses involving hazardous materials or hazardous operations, day care and residential care facilities, tent installations, tire storage, and other uses.

To clarify whether you’ll need a permit and which kind you’ll need, contact Fire Prevention Bureau via email at firemarshal@cityofpetaluma.org or by phone (707-778-4389).

What is an Encroachment Permit and how do I get one?

The City needs to assure safety and accessibility on all public property and right-of-way, such as streets and sidewalks.  For that reason, it requires an encroachment permit any time a property owner, service provider, business, construction company needs to use part of the sidewalk, street, or other public right-of-way. You’d need an encroachment permit for:

  • Dumpsters, scaffolding, storage bins or other structures placed on a sidewalk or in the street (e.g., for a construction project or a move)
  • Outdoor dining, furniture, and awnings for a restaurant
  • Installing a bike rack (near your business, for example)
  • Construction on or repair of sidewalks or streets
  • Underground utility work
  • Tree trimming or removal
  • Transporting a wide load (transportation permit)

To get an encroachment permit or to ask if you need one, contact the Encroachment Permit Counter by phone (707-778-4303, option 6); email (encroachmentpermits@cityofpetaluma.org); or in person at 11 English Street (East wing, lower basement floor). Download an encroachment permit application here.

Can I subdivide my property?

Potentially. Contact the Planning Division by phone (707.778.4470), email (petalumaplanning@cityofpetaluma.org) or in person at 11 English Street to learn about how you can use or subdivide the property in question. Planners are available to help from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Mondays through Thursdays, Closed Fridays

What fees are associated with building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)?

There are several fees associated with ADU’s, including:

Building permit fees- about 5 percent  of the total valuation, time and materials to build.

School Impact Fees – about $3 to $ 4 a square foot.  There are several school districts within the City limits, so you might owe fees for more than one district. Contact them directly for their fee structure.

City Development Impact Fees – Impact fees pay for the additional “impact” the unit will put on City services and infrastructure–everything from public safety to sewers to streets. Read the Fees booklet to estimate which fees will apply to you.

How do I add a granny unit or accessory dwelling unit (ADU)?

As a first step, contact the Planning Division to check requirements and restrictions. This will help you determine if the ADU is doable. Contact the Planning Division by phone (707.778.4470), email (petalumaplanning@cityofpetaluma.org) or in person at 11 English Street

Are there special requirements for buildings in historic districts?

Yes, homes and commercial buildings in Petaluma’s Historic Districts have special requirements and limitations, especially for exterior changes (including paint and windows). Consult with the Planning Division for information and direction. Call 707.778.4470, email (petalumaplanning@cityofpetaluma.org) or stop by the Planning Counter at 11 English Street during normal business hours (8am – 5pm
Mondays through Thursdays, Closed Fridays).

 

What is an over-the-counter permit?

 

An over-the-counter permit does not require plan review. These permits are typically issued on the same day or within a few days of the Building Division’s receipt of your permit application.

The Building Division will issue over the counter permits for re-roofs, water heater, furnace and A/C repair/replacements, and electric service panel upgrades. To save time, apply online.

Can I use the ceiling joist in the garage as a storage area by adding plywood?

No. The ceiling joist or the lower cord of the trusses is not designed to support storage loads.

When do I need a permit for my home/yard project?

People often do not know they need a permit for their home or yard improvement projects. Before you start a project, review the list below, read the Building Permit Fact Sheet, and contact the Building Department if you have any questions. Remember, permits keep people, pets, and natural resources safe!

 

Furnace, Electric Panel Service Upgrade, and Water Heater Installations require permits that typically are issued “over-the-counter.”

Kitchen Remodel: Kitchen remodels trigger a wide variety of permits, depending on the work that is done. Read our kitchen remodel checklist for more info.

Bathroom Remodel: Bathroom remodels trigger a wide variety of permits, depending on the work that is done. Read our bathroom remodel checklist for more info.

Re-roof: This is an over the counter permit. The cost is based on valuation of project and materials costs. Apply online here.

Hot Tub/Spa Installation: For plug-cord connected spa/hot tub, permit is required for any necessary new electrical work. If it is a hardwired electrical connection spa/hot tub, permits are required for the spa installation, electrical work, and plumbing work.

Fence: A fence permit is required when constructing a new fence or replacing an existing one. The height, style, and location of fencing is regulated by the zoning district in which your property is located. Contact the Planning Division to check zoning requirements and submit your Fence Permit application and fee to the Building Division.

Deck:  Planning Division approval required for decks 18 inches or higher above grade; Building Permit required for decks is more than 30 inches above grade. Review our handout on Residential Deck Permit Requirements.

Dry Rot: Yes, dry rot repair does require a permit.  It takes only a few minutes to complete the permit application and state, in writing, the scope of work. Most of the time a copy of the termite report is adequate. The permit fee is based on the valuation of the work, including material and labor costs.

 

 

 

 

How do I pay for a permit?

How you pay your permit depends on the Department/Division that’s issuing the permit.

For Building Permits: you can pay online or email a completed permit application form to cdd@cityofpetaluma.org and pay in-person once you have received an email/call that it is ready to pick up.

For Planning Permits:

Police Permits

Water/Sewer Permits

Encroachment Permits

What is a plan check? How long does it take?

Plan check is the part of the permit review process where the City carefully reviews the architectural plans you have submitted. Some permits do not have plans so there is no plan check process.

The building permit Plan Check process takes about 15-20 business days (one month calendar) for initial review for residential additions, remodels, new single family homes, grading permits, signs, retaining walls, trellis, pools, patio covers and minor tenant improvements. If a second plan check is required due to non-approvable plans, the second plan check takes approximately 10 business days.

The Plan Check process takes about 20-30 business days (about 2 months calendar ) for first review for all subdivisions, commercial buildings, industrial buildings, major tenant improvements, multi-family homes and all others takes approximately 20 business days. If a second plan check is required due to non-approvable plans, the second plan check turnaround takes about another 10 business days (two weeks calendar)

.
The Building Division Office will notify you when the plan check reviews are complete and when the
application is approved and ready to issue. 

How do I schedule an inspection after my permit is issued?

For Building permits, request an Inspection online or call 707-778-4479. A minimum of twenty-four hours’ notice is required prior. Download the Inspection Checklist.

For Fire-related permits, 

For Sewer (Wastewater) permits, 

How long does it take to get a permit and how much does it cost?

It depends on the type of permit. Some permits require a few days to process and cost a few hundred bucks. Others take months (or even a year) and cost six figures. Most fall somewhere in the middle. It really depends on the type of permit you need, how closely your project follows existing rules, and how well you (or your project managers) understand the permitting process.

The best way to estimate your timeline and costs is to contact the issuing Department/Division.

How do I know if I need a permit?

For non-residential (i.e., commercial) projects, go to petaluma.opencounter.com. This online tool will ask questions and, based on your answers, give you a list of permits you might need and an estimate of fees.

For residential projects (i.e., house and yard), check the list below and read the linked documents.

Building Division: Building Permit Checklist

Planning Division: 

Special Events: Permits are required for special events including parades, athletic events and block parties that take place on a city street, sidewalk, or city-owned land. Download the permit form here.

Sprinklers: Sprinklers must be installed on all new residential construction and in remodels/additions that increase square footage. Read more here.

 

What is a Permit? Why do I need one?

The City issues permits as a way to keep people, buildings, and resources (like the River) safe and to make sure the town maintains its charm and vitality. Permit and permission come from the same root word, so you can think of a permit as the City’s permission to do something–at your house, in your business, or in the public right-of-way.

The permit process typically requires applicants to describe what they intend to do (in writing and/or with plans) and pay a fee. Staff from many different departments/division review the application to make sure all the various state and federal laws and City requirements are met. The permit is issued when the application meets all the requirements and the fee is paid. At that point, the applicant can start the work on his/her project.

Once the work is complete, the applicant needs to contact the City to request an inspection. The inspection ensures that the approved plan was followed and that the project does, indeed, meet all the requirements..

What is a zoning check?

The City’s Zoning Ordinance is the set of rules that describes what types of activities are allowed within the City, where these activities can occur, and how physical structures can be developed or changed to accommodate these activities. Before you sign a lease/purchase agreement or commit to a project, consult with the City’s Planning Division for a “zoning check” to confirm whether your project is allowed and to identify requirements and limitations.

Do I need a permit to operate a vacation or short-term rental?

Yes. The City requires a Business Certificate, a special permit, and payment of Transient Occupancy Taxes (TOT). See the Short Term Rental Checklist for requirements, instructions, and forms.

How do I start a home-based business?

Home-based businesses require a business certificate and a home occupation permit that must be approved by the Planning Division and renewed annually. This process ensures that neighborhoods are protected from the impacts of commercial activities.

What permits do I need to start or expand a business?

It depends on the type of business and the location you’ve chosen. Use the online permit scoping tool at petaluma.opencounter.com to scope out the permits and fees. 

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