When do I need to obtain a building permit?
A permit is required for most construction and/or repair projects including electrical, plumbing, mechanical, grading and demolition work.
For more information see the informational handout - When Do I Need A Building Permit
What documentation must I submit with my building permit application?
A minimum of 3 sets of plans (36" x 24" size preferred; 17” x 11” min. size) and supporting documentation are required for submittal.
For a detailed checklist of submittal requirements, see the Building Permit Submittal Requirement Sheet.
Who can obtain a building permit?
Permits can be issued to a homeowner, owner of the building or their agent, or a licensed contractor.
If a contractor is obtaining the permit(s), the contractor must show a copy of their State Contractor's License and proof of Workman's Compensation Insurance(if they have employees). In addition, all contractors working in the City of Sonoma are required to have a Sonoma business license.
If an owner is obtaining a permit, the owner must complete the owner-builder declaration on the permit form.
Can you summarize the typical building permit application and inspection process for me?
Summary of Building Permit Application and Inspection Process:
1. Submit plans to outside agencies such as Sonoma County PRMD, Sonoma County Health Department, etc. if applicable (see the handout "Obtaining a Building Permit" for more information regarding outside agencies).
2. Submit permit application with plans and pay initial Building Division deposit.
3. The Building Division routes plans to applicable City departments for their review of application.
4. Plans Examiner reviews plans and documentation for code compliance.
5. Plans Examiner notifies applicant about any changes or corrections that need to be made to the plans.
6. Architect or Designer corrects plans (if corrections are required) and resubmits plans to Building Division.
7. Plans undergo re-reviews and re-notifications as necessary.
8. When all corrections are completed and verified, plans are approved and Building Permit is ready for issuance. Building Division staff will notify you when the permit is ready for pick-up.
9. Applicant pays other agency fees (i.e. School Impact, Sewer, Water. etc.) if required.
10. Applicant pays remaining Building Permit fees and picks up permit.
11. Applicant proceeds with construction and calls for required inspections.
12. Applicant or contractor requests inspections and the Building Inspector inspects construction of the work during all phases of the project.
13. Applicant obtains necessary written approvals from applicable agencies and City Departments prior to Building Division final approval.
14. Applicant obtains final inspection approval from the Building Inspector.
15. Upon successful completion of the final inspection, a certificate of occupancy will be issued.
For more information about fees, please see the handout "Obtaining a Building Permit."
How long is my building permit valid?
Building permits expire by limitation if no work is performed or no regular inspection is called for within any 180-day period. A one-time, 180-day extension may be granted by the Building Official provided that a written request for extension is provided prior to the expiration of the building permit.
If a permit expires, a new permit and applicable fees will be required.
What will the fees be for my project?
Most plan check and permit fees are based on the valuation of the project. The Building Division determines the valuation based on published valuation tables. The valuation is based on the value of the work, not the actual cost, of all the construction or work the permit is issued for. This includes all finish work, painting, roofing, electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, elevators, fire extinguishing systems, paving, any other permanent work of improvement or permanent equipment, overhead and profit.
Please feel free to contact the Building Division if you need a rough estimate of the Building Permit fees prior to starting your project.
For more information about fees please see the handout "Obtaining a Building Permit."
Once my application, plans and other required documentation have been submitted for plan check, how long will it take to get my building permit?
The time it takes to approve a set of plans and documentation varies depending on a number of factors such as the complexity of the project, the completeness of the plans, the current workload of the Plans Examiner and the number of times the plans and documentation must be returned for corrections. The best way to expidite permit processing is to have the plans prepared by a qualified design professional.
For a standard new single-family dwelling, the average time it typically takes to approve plans and documentation is 6 to 8 weeks. Plan checking for minor projects are typically processed much quicker.
The Plans Examiner can provide you with a rough estimate of the plan review turnaround time when you submit your plans for plan check.
For more information, please see the handout "Obtaining a Building Permit."
I'm planning on making some alterations to my commercial building. When are disabled access regulations triggered?
Disabled access regulations are triggered when a building is newly constructed or when alterations, remodeling, structural repairs or additions are made to an existing building.
Projects that consist only of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, reroofing, electrical work not involving placement of switches and receptacles, painting and related cosmetic work or equipment not considered part of the architecture of the building do not trigger accessibility requirements.
When is a fire sprinkler system required to be installed?
Fire sprinkler systems must be installed under the following circumstances:
In other than Group U occupancies (i.e. garages, garden sheds, fences) and Group S Division 2 shipping containers, a fire sprinkler system is required in all newly constructed buildings.
ADDITION is the increase of area of an existing structure, for which a building permit has been issued, where the increase in floor area is not made exclusively for the provision of accessibility for the physically disabled. For additions to all existing structures that result in a building with a floor area (including porches, covered parking, attics with floors, storage rooms and other covered areas) greater than 4,000 square feet, a fire sprinkler system must be provided throughout the entire building.
REMODELING is work requiring a building permit including, but not limited to, cosmetic or structural repairs, renovations, restorations, alterations or additions to a structure, the total cumulative building permit valuation of which, as determined by the Building Official, exceeds $100,000 for residential uses and occupancies or exceeds $150,000 for all other occupancies over any 36-month period. All existing structures that are remodeled and meet the above-mentioned criteria require an automatic fire sprinkler system throughout the entire existing structure.
Additional Requirements for Additions to Existing Residential Structures
A fire sprinkler system is also required when any addition is made to a residential building and any of the following conditions exist:
1. Any part of the building is used as a hotel, motel, bed and breakfast, boarding house or any other form of transient occupancy.
2. Access to the structure does not meet the emergency vehicle access requirements of Article 9 of the Fire Code.
3. The structure will contain two or more dwelling or guest units.
4. The structure contains a use other than the residential component.
5. Water supply to the structure does not meet the water supply requirements of Article 9 of the Fire Code.
6. The structure is located on land that would be classified as “State Responsible Area” if it were not located in the City of Sonoma (i.e. hillsides).
For more information, please see the handout titled "Fire Sprinkler Requirements."
When are public improvements required in conjuction with my building permit?
Public improvements are triggered for all projects with an aggregate permit valuation exceeding $40,000 over any 2-year period, except when the building permit is issued solely for reroofing, solar hot water heating or accessibility improvements to be installed in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act or other approved accessibility standard. Public improvements are curbs, gutters, sidewalks, streets and storm drainage and must be provided or repaired by the property owner as determined necessary by the City Engineer. The owner of the property must sign a public improvement agreement in conjuction with the permit and is responsible for the costs and installation of the public improvements in accordance with City Standards.
Public improvements can be expensive, so it is in your best interest to contact the City Engineer to determine the necessary requirements before filing an application for a building permit.
My building permit has been issued. I was given the permit, a job card, a set of plans. What do I do now?
You can now begin construction. Your approved plans, job card and any other documents you received must be maintained on the job site for use by the inspector. The job card will be used by the inspector to record the progress of the required inspections. The set of plans will be used to verify that all construction is in compliance with the approved plans.
If the job card and plans must are not on-site and available for the inspector's use, no inspection can be performed.
For more information, please see the handout "Obtaining a Building Permit."
What is the best way to schedule a building inspection?
Building inspections can be scheduled by phone, by fax or in person at City Hall. Information needed to schedule an inspection includes the job address, inspection type, time of day for the inspection (i.e. morning or afternoon), your name, your phone number and the permit number.
To schedule by phone, call 707-938-3681 during business hours.
To schedule by fax, print the "Request for Building Inspection" form and fax to 707-938-8775.
What are the regular City Hall business hours?
Monday through Friday 8:00 AM to 12:00 Noon and 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. City Hall is closed from 12:00 Noon to 1:00 PM for lunch and on the following holidays:
- New Year's Day - January 1 (or closest Friday or Monday if it falls on a weekend)
- Martin Luther King Day - Third Monday in January
- Presidents' Day - Third Monday in February
- Memorial Day - Last Monday in May
- Independence Day - July 4 (or closest Friday or Monday if it falls on a weekend)
- Labor Day - First Monday in September
- Columbus Day - Second Monday in October
- Veterans’ Day - November 11 (or closest Friday or Monday if it falls on a weekend)
- Thanksgiving - Fourth Thursday and Friday in November
- Christmas - December 25 (or closest Friday or Monday if it falls on a weekend)
- Every day proclaimed by the Mayor as a holiday
During what hours can construction work be performed under the City's Noise Ordinance?
Construction hours are:
8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday-Friday,
9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturdays, and
10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sundays and holidays
What is a Special Inspector and how do I find one?
A Special Inspector is a third party, independent inspector hired by the property owner to inspect specific elements of a project(i.e. welding, structural bolting, high strength concrete, masonry, fireproofing, etc.)as prescribed by the building code. Special Inspection firms that have been recognized by the City of Sonoma for specific specific types of special inspections can be found on the City's list of Recognized Special Inspection Agencies.
What is a Building Survey?
A Building Survey is a service provided by the Building Department intended to provide an overview of requirements or issues that would likely come about as a result of a proposed change of use, remodel or addition to a building. This service is commonly used by prospective buyers or prospective tenants that are investigating the potential costs and code requirements for a building to facilitate a particular use or improvement. This service allows prospective buyers to obtain a general overview of necessary City requirements and develop cost estimates prior to actually purchasing a building or renting a tenant space.
The Building Survey includes an on-site inspection and a written report performed and prepared by City staff. While the Building Survey is not intended to identify all code deficiencies within a building, it is intended to identify some of the major costs that might be associated with a change in use, remodel or addition to a building. The cost for obtaining a Building Survey is updated annually and may be obtained by calling City Hall at 707-938-3681. Click on the following link for a Building Survey Application Form.
Does the City of Sonoma allow the installation of wood-burning fireplaces and stoves?
The installation of any new wood-burning appliance (i.e. fireplaces and wood stoves) within a building in the City of Sonoma where no wood burning appliance previously existed is prohibited.
No person shall remodel or replace a fireplace or chimney unless a gas-fired, electric or EPA Cerified device is installed. This requirement is triggered by a fireplace or chimney remodel where a total cost exceeds $15,000 and the work requires a local building permit.
For more information, see the handout titled "Wood Burning Appliance Regulations."