Planning FAQs

Rules Regarding Rent Increases

The City’s Ordinance does not address rental increases. However, the California Tenant Protection Act (TPA) does limit rent increases. Under the TPA, annual rent increases are limited to 5% plus a cost of living adjustment or 10%, whichever is less. This CA guide for tenants and landlords includes all state rules describing these limits.

The TPA exempts the following properties from its rent control protections:

  • Housing that has been issued a certificate of occupancy within the past 15 years (this is a rolling date)
  • Owner-occupied duplexes
  • Student occupants of higher education dormitories
  • Residential real property that is alienable separately from the title to any other dwelling unit (i.e., single family homes and townhomes), with certain ownership restrictions (i.e., not owned by a corporation or investment trust);
  • Affordable housing; and
  • Assisted housing developments.

Special Rights Afforded to Tenants

The City of Petaluma’s tenant protection ordinance authorizes tenants to bring civil actions to determine the applicability of the Ordinance to their tenancy. If the tenants prevail in a wrongful eviction action, they may recover their attorneys’ fees from the owner.

Where to Send Notices Required by the City

The following notices must be submitted to the City:

  • The notice required when a unit is removed from the rental market.
  • Copy of the recorded memorandum
  • Notice that the owner intents to return the unit to the residential rental market

Submit forms in person or by mail to:  11 English St, Petaluma, 94952; or by email to: [email protected].

What Steps Are Required to Terminate a Tenancy?

  1. Provide Tenants with a Notice of Termination: ENGLISH  |  ESPAÑOL
    • Landlord must provide this notice to the tenant(s) in the language used to negotiate the lease.
    • The Notice of Termination must be provided to the tenant(s) in advance of the proposed move out date. The timing of the notice depends on several factors and must be at least:
      • 3 days prior to move-out date: for any tenant who fails to pay rent or fails to resolve issue(s) that breach the lease
      • 30 days prior to move out date: for tenant living in unit for less than one year
      • 60 days prior to move out date: for tenant living in unit for at least one year
      • 120 days if the termination constitutes a “withdrawal from the rental market”
      • 365 days if the termination constitutes a “withdrawal from the rental market” and at the request of the tenant (within 60 days of notice date) who has resided in the unit for at least a year and is over the age of 62 or is disabled.
      • Timing dependent: if the termination constitutes a “withdrawal from the rental market” or “owner to occupy dwelling unit” and the household includes a child under the age of 18 or an educator, the move out date cited on the Notice of Termination may not be during their school year.
  2. Additional Noticing: The “No-fault” reasons for terminating a tenancy permitted under the TPA include the following and require additional noticing as noted below:
    • Permanent withdrawal from rental market. Require Notice 6G: English | Español
      • Additional memorandum is also needed. The City is working with the County Recorder’s Office to create this memorandum and will be linked here once available.
    • Owner to occupy dwelling unit. Require Notice 6H: EnglishEspañol
    • Substantial rehabilitation for health and safety. Require Notice 6I: – English | Español
  3. Stop Accepting Rent
    • If you have provided your tenant with the Notice of Termination, you may not collect rent beyond the intended move-out date.

Pay Relocation

If Landlord terminates a tenancy without cause (to permanently remove a unit from the market, owner to occupy a unit, or for substantial rehabilitation) the tenant is entitled to relocation assistance. The assistance can be a direct payment or credit towards payments due.

Amount of relocation assistance: 

  • 100% of one month of rent; or
  • 150% of one month rent if the tenant household:
  • Qualifies as low income; or
  • Includes a member with a disability; or
  • Includes a member over the age of 62; or
  • Includes a child below the age of 18; or
  • The tenancy commenced prior to January 1, 2010

Offer Unit to Original Tenant

Owner must re-offer the dwelling unit to the displaced tenant at the same rent and subject to the same terms as when the tenancy was terminated if:

  • The owner or owner’s relative fails to occupy the dwelling unit within 90 days of the tenant household vacating the dwelling unit; or
  • The owner or owner’s relative fails to occupy the residential unit for at least three consecutive years following the move out date.
  • The unit was returned to the market within 5 years of the withdrawal date. In this case the tenant has a right of first refusal to return to the unit at a rent that does not exceed the lawful rent at the time the unit was withdrawn, subject to adjustments for cost of living.

Record Memorandum

If you remove the unit from the rental market, you are required to record a summary memorandum encumbering the unit for 10 years and provide a copy of the recorded memorandum to the City.

Notice of Tenant Rights and When Is It Required?

NOTICE OF TENANT RIGHTSENGLISH  |  ESPAÑOL

Landlords must notify their tenants about their rights when:

  • Entering, or changing, a lease
  • Raising the rent
  • Before and after the sale of a unit

If the City updates applicable laws – Subscribe Here to be notified.

When Can a Landlord Terminate a Tenancy?

“For Cause” reasons to terminate a tenancy include when a tenant: 

  • Fails to pay rent
  • Breaches rental agreement
  • Is convicted of Illegal activity on property
  • Threatens violence
  • Fails to cease activities causing nuisance
  • Fails to give access to landlord

Landlord can terminate a tenancy without cause (“no cause”) when:

  • Owner wants to remove a unit from the rental market
  • Owner or family member wants to occupy unit (see exceptions below
  • Substantial rehabilitation to the unit is needed for health and safety purposes

Exceptions:

    • Owner may not terminate a tenancy under the reason of “owner or family member wants to occupy unit” if:
      • The owner or owner’s relative who intends to move into the unit as their primary residence already occupies another dwelling unit on the same property unless the owner or owner’s relative is disabled and needs the unit for their disability. In such a case, the tenant being evicted shall have first right of refusal to rent the other unit.
      • The tenant is 62 years of age or older or is disabled, and has been residing in the unit for at least 10 years; or
      • The tenant is disabled and catastrophically ill and has been residing in the unit for at least one year.
    • Owner may not terminate a tenancy in retaliation of the tenant exercising their rights under the Ordinance

When does the Ordinance apply?

The Ordinance applies when tenants have continuously and lawfully occupied a rental unit within the City of Petaluma for:

  • 6 months – when owner does not live on the same property as the tenant
  • 12 months – when the owner lives on the same property as the tenant or if the tenant rents an accessory or junior accessory dwelling unit.

Exceptions:
The following situations are not subject to the Petaluma rules:

  • Dwelling units owned or subsidized by a government agency where the rent does not exceed 30% of household income.
  • Dwelling units in developments in which at least forty-nine percent of the dwelling units are subject to affordable housing deed restrictions
  • Dwelling units with tenant managers and
  • Dwelling units in which the owner resides with a tenant as the owner’s primary residence.

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.
  • Please plan ahead!
    • Productions that require street closures or City staffing – submit applications at least 60 days before filming date.
    • Productions without street closures or City staffing – submit applications at least 21 days before for filming date.
  • Filming in the downtown area has special requirements and requires approval of Petaluma Downtown Association. Contact Marie McCusker, Petaluma Downtown Association, 707-762-9348, or [email protected].
  • Issued by the Economic Development Division. For more information, contact Nancy Sands, [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.

Where can I find an updated bike facilities map?

Access the proposed and existing bike facilities maps 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.

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 [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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