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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Business Permits

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Can I operate a business from my home?

A small business operated from a home is called a "home occupation" and they are permitted in most zoning districts. A Zoning Permit for a home occupation can be issued "over-the-counter." The application requires a statement describing the business, a site plan, a floor plan of the dwelling, and the owner's signature. Home occupation criteria include: no employees; no more than 8 customers or clients in one day; must be conducted entirely within the residence; and cannot occupy more than 25% of the floor area. In the AR zoning district an employee is permitted subject to approval of a Use Permit.

Does Sonoma County issue or require business licenses?

No business license is required to conduct a business in the unincorporated areas of the County. You will need a home occupation Zoning Permit to operate a small-scale business from your home. If you would like to establish a new business or to occupy a vacant business location in a commercial or industrial zone, you will need to obtain Design Review approval. In some cases, a Use Permit may also be required. Fictitious business names can be obtained from the Sonoma County Clerk.

Do I need any permits/review to change the name or operators of a business on my property?

Planning approvals such as Use Permits and Design Review approvals “run with the land” and automatically transfer to any new owner or business operator. If you are selling a property or business that operates under a County planning approval, you should provide the new buyer with a copy of that approval, including any permit conditions. A new permit is only required if you change the nature of the business. If you're changing from one home occupation to another type of home occupation, you should obtain a new Zoning Permit. If it is a commercial business change, you may need Design Review approval and perhaps a Use Permit. You should also check building and health requirements.

Can I store business-related trucks on my residential property?

If you have an approved home occupation, you may have no more than one truck up to one-ton size. Other commercial vehicle equipment storage is not allowed in residential zones.