City Related FAQs

When did Sonoma become a City?

The City of Sonoma incorporated September 3, 1883.

When does the City Council meet?

The City Council meets on the First and Third Mondays of each month at 6:00 p.m. in the Community Meeting Room, 177 First Street West, Sonoma California. When a Holiday falls on the Monday meeting date, the meeting is then scheduled for the following Wednesday

Where do I obtain a Marriage License?

Sonoma County Clerk Recorder (707) 565-3800

Where do I apply for a City business license?

Contact the City Finance Department (707) 938-3681

Where are claims against the City filed?

Claims are filed in the Office of the City Clerk, City Hall, No. 1 The Plaza, Sonoma CA 95476 (707) 933-2216

How do I find my polling place?

Contact the Registrar of Voters Office (707) 565-6800

Building Related FAQs

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:

New Construction
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
(Chap.9.56, SMC).

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."

Police Related FAQs

I've heard of Safe Sonoma. What is it?

Safe Sonoma is an organization founded in honor of the late Sandra Cantu. Sandra was 9 years old when she went missing from her home in Tracy.

The goal of Safe Sonoma is to help parents be prepared in advance in case their child is missing. Using their checklists and resources can save valuable time in the event of an emergency.

Please see the link to Safe Sonoma on our Resources page.

How do I request a copy of a police report?

Police reports are released by request by the Central Information Bureau.  A fee of $17.10 is charged and photo identification is required. A request form is available in the lobby of Sonoma Police Department, or by clicking the link below.

How do I get my stored/impounded vehicle released?

Vehicles will only be released to the registered owner.

The fee for a vehicle release is $183.00 which must be paid by check or cash, no credit cards or debit cards will be accepted.

I received a parking citation in the City of Sonoma and I want to appeal it. What do I have to do?

Parking Administration Request for Review forms can be obtained at Sonoma Police Department and at City Hall.  Review forms are forwarded to County of Sonoma Parking Administration 585 Fiscal Dr. Rm 100F Santa Rosa CA 95403.  A determination will be made and notice of the decision will be sent to you by mail.

I have a traffic problem on my street that I want some help resolving. How do I bring the situation to the City's attention?

The City of Sonoma completed a Traffic Calming Study in 2003 to devise ways to promote safe and pleasant conditions for all street users by reducing the impact of traffic.  The outcome of that study was a comprehensive Traffic Safety Program,  a key component of which is a Hazard Reporting Process. Traffic Hazard Reporting forms are available in the lobby of the Police Department, or by clicking here.

Additionally, the Sonoma Police Department, through a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, developed a traffic deputy position in 2004.  A full time deputy was appointed and a motor unit was purchased for the purpose of traffic enforcement.

Traffic Enforcement Deputy Mike Baraz can be reached at Sonoma Police Department.

Why does my dog need a license?

Section 8.20.010 of the Municipal code requires that all dogs over the age of 4 months in the city limits be licensed.

If your dog is lost, the license will enable us to identify him and return him to you more quickly.

How do I get a dog license?

Come to the Police Department during business hours with proof that your dog has a current rabies vaccination and pay the required fees. 

How much does a dog license cost?

A dog license costs $15 for a dog that has been neutered and $30 for one that has not. Owners who are over 62 qualify for a discount for one dog only.—$7.50 for a neutered dog and $15 for one that is not.

You should bring proof of neutering if applicable.

Public Works Related FAQs

How do I report a problem with a street light?

Contact the Public Works Department at 938-3332.  Report the address and/or the location.  If possible provide  the number that is located midway on the pole.  Allow two weeks for repairs.

How do I report a deceased animal?

If the animal is located on a City street or in a City Park, contact the Sonoma Police Department at 996-3602.

How do I adopt a section of the city Bike Path?

For information regarding the "Adopt-A-Bike Path" program, contact Colleen Pratt at (707) 938-3332

Who do I report Graffiti to?

Report Graffiti to the Sonoma Police Department at (707) 996-3602 or Public Works at (707) 938-3332

How do I reserve space at a City Park?

Most Parks are on a first come first served basis.  For Special Events contact Wendy Atkins at (707) 933-2204. for a Special Event Application.

How do I report a pot hole?

To report a pot hole in the City of Sonoma, contact Public Works at (707) 938-3332

To report a pot hole in the County of Sonoma, contact (707) 565-2231

How do I obtain garbage service?

City Residents contact:
Sonoma Garbage

County Residents contact:
Empire Waste Management

How do I report illegal dumping to a storm drain or creek?

Contact the Stormwater Compliance Specialist at (707) 933-2245.

Where can I drain the water in my swimming pool to?

The water in your swimming pool may contain chemicals prohibited from being dumped into any street, road-side ditch, storm drain, or stream in Sonoma.
Please consult the Guide for Pool and Spa Drainage available at City Hall and here, or call the Stormwater Compliance Specialist at (707) 933-2245 before draining your pool to any of the locations mentioned above.

Business Related FAQs

Where do I get a business license?

Click here for business license information and link to the business license application.

Can I operate a business out of my home?

Click here for information about home occupation permits.

Can my business get put on the directional signs at the corners of the Plaza?

Click here for information about the Plaza Periphery Wayfinding Signage Program and to download the form for business placard replacement.

What resources are available for new and existing businesses in Sonoma?

Visit the Business Assistance section at Sonoma Chamber website or contact the Economic Vitality Program Manager, Laurie Decker at 707-327-7338 or 707-996-1033.

How do I get information about Sonoma's Living Wage Regulations?

A summary of the Living Wage Regulations may be obtained HERE