Planning FAQs

Where can I obtain the notices and other forms required under the Ordinance?

The City’s tenant rights notice and other forms are available to download from our Tenants Protections webpage. To receive printed in person or electronic copies via email, please contact our Housing Manager at [email protected].

What if I have questions?

The City will be conducting an information meeting in late September 2022. This meeting will be oriented for property owners, property managers, and nonprofit tenants rights organizations. However, any member of the public is welcome to join.

For details about the meeting or to contact City staff, please contact the City Housing Manager at [email protected] 

What would a tenant protections urgency ordinance do?

The City Council has directed that staff prepare an urgency ordinance for possible adoption at the September 12, 2022, City Council meeting to continue in Petaluma Covid-related eviction protections like those Sonoma County enacted that will expire on September 22, 2022.

The urgency ordinance, if adopted by the City Council, will take effect September 22, 2022, and expire when the City’s tenant protection Ordinance, discussed above, takes effect.  The purpose of the urgency ordinance is continuity of Covid-related tenant protections until the City’s tenant protection Ordinance takes effect. 

Like the County ordinance, the urgency ordinance would prohibit eviction of tenants who demonstrate in accordance with the requirements of the ordinance that they are unable to pay rent as a result of decreased income or increased expenses due to COVID-19.  Also like the County ordinance, the urgency ordinance would not excuse rent payments due and would require repayment of rent payments due by the time specified in the ordinance, and permit landlords to recover rent due in accordance with the ordinance.

What are the requirements if I want to “withdraw” my property from the residential rental market?

The table below summarizes the requirements for landlords to withdraw their property from the residential market. 

Activity

Timeline

Citations

Notice of intent to withdraw is provided to tenants. PMC Section 6.60.070(A)
(1)
A copy of the withdrawal notice is delivered to the City Housing Manager. Within 10 days of delivery of notice to tenants PMC Section 6.60.070(A)
(2)
Owner must record summary memorandum encumbering the property for 10 years. Within 14 days of delivery of notice to City Housing Manager PMC Section 6.60.070(A)
(3)
Owner must deliver a conformed copy of the recorded summary memorandum to City Housing Manager. Within 60 days of delivery of notice to City Housing Manager PMC Section 6.60.070(A)
(3)
Earliest effective date of withdrawal of a building from the residential rental market. 120 days from delivery of notice to the City Housing Manager or one year from delivery of notice if the tenant household has a tenant 62 years or older or who is disabled. The withdrawal cannot occur during the school year if the tenant household has a child under 18 or an educator. PMC Section 6.60.070(A)
(1) & 6.60.050(E)
Owner must pay tenant relocation assistance of 100% of a month’s rent and an additional 50% if the tenant is a “Low Income,” tenant, is disabled, elderly, has a child, or been under lease since 2010. Within 14 days of withdrawal PMC Section 6.60.080
Owner must notify City Housing Manager and former tenants of intent to return unit to residential rental market; and
tenant displaced by withdrawal has right of first refusal to return to the unit under the original lease terms. The displaced tenant and the City can sue for exemplary damages.
Within 2 years of withdrawal PMC Section 6.60.090(A)-(B)
If the rental unit is returned to the rental market within 5 years of the withdrawal date,  the displaced tenant has a right of first refusal to return to the unit at a rent the that does not exceed the lawful rent at the time the unit was withdrawn, subject to allowable adjustments under the Tenant Protection Act. Within 5 years of withdrawal PMC Section 6.60.090(A)
Owner must notify the City Housing Manager of intent to return the unit to the residential rental market; and
The displaced tenant has a right of first refusal to return to the unit.
Within 10 years of withdrawal PMC Section 6.60.090(A) & (C)

 

What tenant protections does the Ordinance provide?

The tenant protections ordinance requires the following:

  • Property owners/landlords must provide notice to tenants about their rights under the Ordinance: within thirty days of the Ordinance taking effect; when entering a new rental agreement; when renewing a rental agreement; when giving notice of a rent increase; and within thirty days of amendments to the Ordinance that affect tenants’ rights  (PMC Section 6.60.040).
  • All notices required by the Ordinance must be in English and Spanish, and if the rental agreement is in a language other than English or Spanish, the notices must also be in the language of the lease. (PMC Section 6.60.040(C) & 6.60.060(B)).
  • A tenant/tenant household that is evicted for “no-fault” is entitled to receive a payment or rent credit equal to100% of their monthly rent as relocation assistance. If the tenant qualifies as a low income tenant under the Ordinance, is over 62 years old, is disabled, or has a child, the tenant/tenant household is entitled to an additional relocation assistance payment or rent credit in an amount equal to 50% of their monthly rent.
  • The Ordinance establishes a defense against “no-fault” evictions for notices of termination fall within the school year for tenants and tenant households that have a school aged child (in kindergarten through 12th grade) and for tenants who are employed as educators in a school in Petaluma. (PMC Section 6.60.050(E)).
  • The Ordinance establishes a defense against eviction if the tenant can demonstrate that the eviction was in retaliation of the tenant exercising their rights under the Ordinance. (PMC Section 6.60.110).
  • Requires notice of rights of tenants to tenants before and after sale of rental units.
  • The Ordinance creates a civil cause of action for tenants to sue landlords for violations of the Ordinance. (PMC Section 6.60.100(B)) The Ordinance creates a cause of action for the City for injunctive relief for violations of the Ordinance, and any of the other remedies listed in Chapters 1.10-1.16 of the Petaluma Municipal Code, which include civil and criminal enforcement. (PMC Section 6.60.100(C))
  • The Ordinance authorizes tenants to bring civil actions to determine the applicability of the Ordinance to their tenancy (PMC Section 6.60.100(D))
  • The Ordinance provides that tenants who prevail in wrongful eviction actions are able to recover their costs and attorney’s fees. (PMC Section 6.60.100(A))

What are the “Just Causes” that justify terminating a tenancy and evicting a tenant under the Ordinance?

Like the Tenant Protection Act, the Ordinance separates the “just causes” for terminating a tenancy into “for cause” and “no-fault” just causes. 

“For Cause” Just Causes 

  1. Failure to pay rent within three days of receiving written notice from the landlord demanding payment. 
  2. Continuing violation of material terms of the rental agreement after written notice to cure. 
  3. Tenant illegal activity that occurred during the tenancy at or within on thousand feet of the dwelling unit or the lot where the dwelling unit is located.  
  4. Threat of violent crime made by a tenant or at their direction to any person who is on the lot that includes the dwelling unit or to the landlord, or to the landlord’s agent.
  5. The tenant or tenant household creating or permitting a nuisance at or within one thousand feet of the dwelling unit or the lot where the dwelling unit is located after written notice to cease, and the passage of a reasonable period of time to cure the nuisance. 
  6. Failure to give the landlord reasonable landlord access to the unit after the landlord has served written notice. 

“No Fault” just causes

  1. Permanent withdrawal of a residential unit from the rental market. in accordance with the Ellis Act.
  2. The owner or one of the owner’s relatives intends to reside in the dwelling unit as their primary residence .  
  3. Substantial rehabilitation for health and safety that cannot be completed while the unit is occupied of a dwelling unit that qualifies for the protections of the Ordinance when the landlord has obtained all necessary permits for the work. 

The “just causes” in the Ordinance mirror the “just causes” in the Tenant Protections Act. If the eviction is based on a “no-fault” “just cause” the tenant will be entitled to relocation benefits described here.

What is required for a landlord to file a lawful notice of termination under the Ordinance?

Before a landlord can issue a notice of termination of a tenancy in accordance with the Ordinance, the landlord must: 

  1. Provide notice of tenant rights guaranteed by the Ordinance (If the City Council adopts the Ordinance a link to the City’s tenant rights notice form will be added here); and 
  2. Serve a notice of termination that gives at least one “just cause” for terminating the tenancy that is a permitted basis for termination under the Ordinance.

A sample of acceptable notices will be available starting in October 2022.

Does this ordinance affect my residence?

The Ordinance applies to all residential rental units in Petaluma in which a tenant has lawfully resided for a continuous period of six months or more, except for:

  1. Dwelling units
    a. that are owned by a government agency; or
    b. that receive rent subsidies from a government agency so that the tenant’s portion of the rent does not exceed thirty percent of household income; 
  2. Dwelling units in developments in which at least forty-nine percent of the dwelling units are subject to affordable housing deed restrictions in accordance with California Health and Safety Code Section 50053. 
  3. Dwelling units with tenant managers. and
  4. Dwelling units in which the owner resides with a tenant as the owner’s primary residence.

The protections in the Ordinance take effect after a tenant has lawfully and continuously resided in the unit for at least a year for the following:

  1. Accessory Dwelling Units and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units as defined in the City’s Implementing Zoning Ordinance; and
  2. Units on the same property where the owner resides. 

When does this Ordinance take effect and when does it expire?

The City Council is scheduled to consider adoption of the Ordinance at the September 12, 2022, City Council meeting. If adopted the Ordinance will take effect thirty days later on October 12, 2022.  

When the City Council introduced the Ordinance on August 1, 2022, they included a sunset provision.  As a result, if the Ordinance is adopted it will expire on March 1, 2023.  The City Council indicated they wanted City staff to use the time before the Ordinance expires to perform additional outreach to the community, speak with community members affected by the Ordinance and collect data on the Petaluma rental market and the needs of tenants and landlords. Continuation of local tenant protections like those in the Ordinance will require the City Council to amend the Ordinance to extend or eliminate the expiration date or to introduce and adopt a new ordinance.  The City Council could choose to amend the provisions of the Ordinance based on the feedback received from the community before it expires. 

Why was the Ordinance enacted?

On May 2, 2022, the City Council voted to include “Adoption of Tenant Protection Ordinance Package” as one of its Top Ten Goals for Fiscal Years 2022-2024. The Ordinance helps fulfill this Council goal.  The tenant protections in the Ordinance include limits on tenant evictions in addition to the eviction restrictions in the Tenant Protection Act.  The Ordinance makes qualifying tenants eligible for eviction protections sooner than the Tenant Protection Act.  The Ordinance also includes notice requirements, relocation assistance and rights to return to a rental property for qualifying tenants as permitted by the Ellis Act when landlords withdraw their property from the residential market.

How do I film in Petaluma?

Filming in Petaluma requires a film permit. Go to cityofpetaluma.org/permits to apply.

More info about film permits:

  • Required for all types of film shoot — traditional camera, digital camera, drone, etc.
  • Submit at least 21 calendar days before desired film date. Please plan ahead!
  • If filming downtown, please also contact Marie McCusker, Petaluma Downtown Association, (707) 762-9348
  • Issued by the Police Department. For more information, contact [email protected].

Any additional questions?

Any further questions can be directed to Ken Eichstaedt at [email protected]

Where can I report potholes or sidewalk damage?

To report issues including potholes or sidewalk concerns click here.

Where can I find the Petaluma Bike and Pedestrian Master plan?

The Petaluma Bike and Pedestrian Master plan provides a thorough glimpse into City plans which can be accessed here. Sign up here to stay informed and share your thoughts!

Where can I find information about electric bikes and scooters?

Electric bikes and scooters are treated as bicycles and are subject to the same regulations and provisions within the city. For more information click here.

How can I join the Pedestrian & Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC)?

If you are interested in joining the PBAC or any other commission, committee, or board click here.

What is the Pedestrian & Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC)?

The Pedestrian & Bicycle Advisory Committee makes walking and biking safer and more enjoyable by developing new bike and pedestrian projects, providing recommendations for bicycle and pedestrian facilities, reviewing development applications and more. Additional information about the PBAC can be found here.

How do I register my bike?

Registering your bike with the Petaluma Police Department helps you get your bike back if it gets lost or stolen. For more information on why you should register your bike and to access the registration form click here.

Where can I find an updated bike facilities map?

Access the proposed and existing bike facilities maps here.

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 [email protected] 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, send email to [email protected] 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 firema[email protected] or by phone (707-778-4389).

Does the City offer Paratransit services?

The City has its own Transit division, which offers regular bus service as well as specialized transportation, called Paratransit, for individuals who do not have the functional ability to ride public transit.

There are eligibility requirements to ride Partransit. Please visit the City’s Paratransit website, or call (707) 541-7180 or TDD (707) 541-7184, for more information and to request an application and interview.

Petaluma Paratransit operates generally within the city limits of Petaluma, regardless of the existence (or lack) of Petaluma Transit (PT) fixed route service. It also includes areas outside the city limits that are within a ¾ mile of an active PT fixed route.

 

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)

Learn more about encroachment permits and download necessary forms here. For personal assistance, contact the Encroachment Permit Counter by phone (707-778-4303, option 6); email ([email protected]); or in person at 11 English Street (East wing, lower basement floor).

What are Petaluma’s laws about smoking in multi-tenant dwellings (like apartment buildings)? How do I file a smoking-related complaint?

Petaluma has a smoking ordinance that restricts smoking in multi-tenant dwellings as well as public spaces. Refer to the Municipal Code Section 8.20 for details. To file a smoking-related complaint, please contact the City Clerk’s office in person or by postal mail (11 English Street, Petaluma, CA, 94952) or by email ([email protected]).  

How do I file a housing complaint or understand my rights as a tenant?

Contact the Fair Housing Program at Petaluma People Services Center (PPSC) by phone (707) 765-8488, email ([email protected]), or in person at 1500A Petaluma Blvd S.  More info is available at PPSC’s website, petalumapeople.org. Note: the City does not provide legal advice about housing issues.

Does Petaluma have a rent control ordinance?

No, Petaluma does not have a rent control ordinance.  However, we do have a rent stabilization ordinance that covers mobile home parks.  Contact the City’s Housing Manager, Karen Shimuzu, (707.778.4555) if you have a mobile home rent question.

How do I find out if there are any affordable housing vacancies in Petaluma?

You need to call each of the affordable housing developments in Petaluma to learn if there are vacancies. Refer to the list of affordable housing developments for contact information.  Be sure to check eligibility requirements and consider putting your name on a waiting list if there are no vacancies currently.

How do I apply for Section 8 vouchers?

Sonoma County Housing Authority manages the Section 8 voucher program for all of Sonoma County, including Petaluma.  Please call (707) 565-7500 or visit their website.

How do I get help if I am homeless?

Contact the Committee on the Shelterless (COTS), at 707-765-6530 or [email protected].  COTS manages Petaluma’s two homeless shelters (the adults-only Mary Isaak Center and the Family Shelter) and can refer you to an array of services, including housing.  

Another resource is the County’s Coordinated Entry System, which matches people experiencing homelessness with available housing and other services. Call (866) 542-5480 or visit the Coordinated Entry System webpage at ttps://sonomacounty.ca.gov/CDC/Homeless-Services/Coordinated-Entry-System/.

Can I subdivide my property?

Potentially. Contact the Planning Division by phone (707.778.4470), email ([email protected]) 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.

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 ([email protected]) 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 [email protected] 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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