Building FAQs

Many types of signs require a permit.  You can find links and additional information on our business signage page.  Contact the Planning Department for details.

Copies of permits and other related permit documentation on file may be obtained by requesting the documents at Sonoma City Hall and paying the requisite copying fee. A person requesting copies of plans and other documentation prepared by registered professionals may be viewed at City Hall but not copied until after an Affidavit Requesting Copies of Plans is completed, the design professional notified and the requirements of Section 19851 of the California Health & Safety Code are met.

See the Informational Handout “Obtaining a Building Permit” for the process for obtaining a building permit.

Building inspections can be scheduled by phone, fax or in person at City Hall. The information needed before an inspection can take place 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.

FAST START Plan Check is a way to “fast track” the processing of your building permit application so you can get your project underway quickly. We recognize that for many projects, time is of the essence.  Using FAST START can significantly reduce the turnaround on your plan check, enabling you to get going faster.  There’s no additional fee for using the FAST START program.

Projects qualifying for FAST START at the time of initial application for a building permit will go to the front of the plan check line (immediately following any other FAST START plan check applications, of course).

To be eligible, your project must be submitted by a licensed architect, who utilizes the FAST START checklist to ensure that the project meets the program criteria and the submittal is complete. When City staff receives a qualifying FAST START application, we know that it is professionally prepared and comprehensive – which helps the plan check review go more quickly and smoothly.

If you’re a licensed architect, we’d be happy to meet with you to provide an overview of the FAST START process and answer any questions you may have.  For more information, contact the Building Department.

If your business plans involve a major remodel, expansion, or new construction within the City of Sonoma, you can request (or staff may suggest) a meeting with the Project Advisory Committee (PAC). PAC meetings are also strongly suggested for any new or expanded restaurant business.

At the PAC meeting, City staff  from various departments provide early-stage input on development projects at no charge.  It can prove extremely valuable in giving you and your architect or project manager a sense of the process, any studies that may be required (traffic, drainage, etc.), timelines, and potential issues associated with your project.  Staff can also assist with identifying the agencies and departments that can provide you with an estimate of their respective fees for your project.

Contact the Planning Department for more information.

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 types of special inspections can be found on the City’s list of Recognized Special Inspection Agencies on the Resource Links page.

SolarAPP+, short for Solar Automated Permit Processing, is an online web portal that automates the plan review process for issuing permits to qualified contractors to install code-compliant residential (1 & 2 family dwellings, ADU’s) rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Based on California building, electrical, and fire codes, SolarAPP automatically performs a compliance check based on inputs supplied by the contractor to ensure the proposed system is safe and code compliant. Installation practices, workmanship, and adherence to the approved design are then verified by a City of Sonoma Building Inspector through the normal inspection process.  SolarAPP+ lowers permit costs and expedites the issuance of solar PV permits and installations for eligible projects.  For more information go to the SolarAPP+ Webpage.

Building permits are required to build, enlarge, alter, remove, demolish, or repair a structure. This includes everything from houses and garages to commercial construction, tenant improvements to signs. Some work does not require a permit. Prior to getting a building permit, you should first check with the Planning Division to make sure what you want to do is allowed.

To apply for a building permit for any structural changes, or to add square footage to an existing structure, you need to:

  • Complete an application form (for some types of work, you can apply online)
  • Provide construction drawings
  • Pay building permit fees

Learn more from our When Do I Need a Building Permit handout.

Encroachment permits are required if you plan to do any construction work in the sidewalk area, in an easement, on city owned property (median islands, parks, city facilities) or in the street.

Common reasons you would need one:

  • Utility saw-cuts
  • Excavation
  • News stands
  • Bicycle racks
  • Sidewalk dining
  • Debris boxes
  • Fences/walls
  • Construction staging
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