Petaluma is a Charter City, meaning it was incorporated by a Charter that acts like a constitution for the City. Cities that have not adopted a charter are general law cities. General law cities are bound by the state’s general law, even with respect to municipal affairs. Of California’s 478 cities, 108 of them are charter cities.
The charter city provision of the State Constitution, commonly referred to as the “home-rule” provision, is based on the principle that a city, rather than the state, is in the best position to know what it needs and how to satisfy those needs. The home-rule provision allows charter cities to conduct their own business and control their own affairs.
A charter maximizes local control. A city charter, in effect a city’s constitution, need not set out every municipal affair the city would like to govern. So long as the charter contains a declaration that the city intends to avail itself of the full power provided by the California Constitution, any city ordinance that regulates a municipal affair will govern over a general law of the state.