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BPC-004 Nonresidential & Multifamily Housing Submittal Guidelines

Permit and Resource Management Department Banner 750

Revised 04/27/2020

The following are guidelines to ensure a complete and accurate review of the proposed scope of work for construction and alterations of nonresidential buildings, commercial buildings, public buildings, transient lodging, and multifamily housing projects. Full compliance is required by reference to the following adopted codes:

2019 California Building Code (CBC)
2019 California Mechanical Code (CMC)
2019 California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen)
2019 California Energy Code
2019 California Electrical Code (CEC)
2019 California Plumbing Code (CPC)

All plans, specifications, and supporting documentation for projects other than those specifically exempted (multiple dwellings not exceeding four dwelling units, agricultural structures when not used by employees, nonstructural storefronts, interior alterations not affecting egress provisions, fixtures, cabinetwork, or other appliances or equipment) shall be prepared sealed, signed, and dated by a registered design professional (California licensed engineer or architect).

Where multiple design professionals consult on a project, the owner or the owner’s authorized agent shall engage and designate a registered design professional in responsible charge. The registered design professional in responsible charge shall be responsible for reviewing and coordinating submittal documents prepared by others, including phased and deferred submittal items, for compatibility with the design of the building.  The registered design professional in responsible charge shall be the individual responsible for the ultimate design, justification, and presentation of the construction documents in sufficient clarity and detail to demonstrate compliance with all applicable codes and all relevant laws, ordinances, rules and regulations, as determined by the building official. All responses to plan check comments shall be provided by the licensed design professional responsible for that portion of the scope of work. The design professional in responsible charge shall review and concur with all responses and code interpretations prior to submittal for review.

All Use Permit conditions of approval shall be listed in the plan set. All food preparation and storage areas intended for the use of public consumption shall have a separate application reviewed and approved by the Sonoma County Health Department, or an applicable exception shall be cited.

All applicable and referenced codes are available through the California Building Standards Commission. Adoption and amendments to the applicable codes and regulations by the County of Sonoma (Chapter 7), as well as zoning regulations (Chapter 26) and Fire Safe Standard requirements (Chapter 13) are available on the Permit Sonoma website.


Guidelines for All Submittals

Items to be considered at earliest possible stage of project development which could affect project:

  1. Use Permit Conditions of Approval – contact Planning Division
  2. Associated permit applications and concurrent review timelines
  3. Other agency approvals (Health Department, Water Agency, HCD for modular construction)
  4. Geotechnical investigations (Per CBC Chapter 18) are required for all new or altered foundation work
  5. Connections to utilities and the public way

Upload the digital construction plan file and separate files of all supporting documentation such as structural calculations, energy compliance forms, soils report, etc… Plans and justifying documents shall be of sufficient clarity and completeness to adequately justify the proposed design for all relevant code sections to the satisfaction of the building official.

Omission of any items in the following list may result in delay of the plan check approval process, requiring resubmission of documents and/or additional information. All documents must be digitally sealed, signed, and dated by the person responsible for preparing them. All plan views, elevations, and details shall be identified with an applicable scale; and a known dimension shall be provided on the associated plan, elevation, or detail to allow a plans examiner to digitally calibrate the referenced scale. All drawing sheets within the digital plan set shall be included in the same file and be identified with a unique sheet number.

Cover Sheet

  • Identify all applicable codes
  • identify a clear scope of work
  • type of construction
  • occupancy group(s)
  • proposed use(s)
  • sheet index
  • building address
  • parcel number
  • parcel size
  • number of stories
  • hazard category
  • if the structure contains or will contain an fire suppression system
  • the fire responsibility area
  • all project consultants and their contact information
  • project valuation and adjusted cost (as defined by CBC Section 202)
  • all related permits
  • itemized square footages (by occupancy group) of all existing, proposed, and altered building areas, including covered unenclosed building areas

Provide a justification of allowable building area based on the proposed construction type(s), occupancy group(s), and fire separation distances. Identify the risk category of each building and structure in accordance with CBC Table 1604.5. Identify if the proposed scope of work qualifies as public housing, as defined by CBC Section 202.  List required approvals from outside agencies. Identify contact information of all design consultants (including the designated design professional in responsible charge) and contractors, including the designated registered design professional in responsible charge. List all proposed deferred submittal items. List all related permits and permit applications.

Site Plan

Show property lines, easements and new and existing building locations. Dimension front, side and rear distances to property lines and between structures. Indicate finished and existing grade elevations, i.e. contour lines. Provide adequate drainage information, e.g. sub-drain and dissipation locations. A separate plan and details will be required identifying protection of storm water runoff during construction (i.e. BMPs). Show other relative information such as driveways, wells, septic systems, source of emergency water supply, and dimension emergency vehicle access. Provide North Arrow and drawing scale. See also requirements identified in the accessibility and egress sections for other site plan requirements, which may be shown on separate plan views of the overall site.


A plan showing compliance with accessible parking, route of travel, and access requirements shall be provided.  Include details of the existing accessible parking, including striping, signs, curb cuts and ramps showing dimensions, slopes and cross slopes.  Path of travel to the area of addition or alteration showing dimensions, slopes and cross-slopes, including the details of the accessible route(s) from the public way (if provided), accessible parking, and an accessible entrance(s). If a public way is not available to be connected to, the accessible route of travel shall be shown to the accessible parking and loading zone location(s), accessible drop-off locations, and area of safe dispersal or exterior area for assisted rescue. At least one accessible route shall connect accessible buildings, accessible facilities, accessible elements, and accessible spaces that are on the same site. Where more than one route is provided, all routes shall be accessible. General circulation paths shall be permitted when located in close proximity to an accessible route.

Newly-constructed covered multifamily dwellings shall adhere to the applicable requirements of CBC Chapter 11A. The standards of CBC Chapter 11A shall also apply to the alteration, repair, rehabilitation, and maintenance of covered multi-family dwelling units constructed for first occupancy on March 13, 1991 and later. Public housing facilities shall comply with requirements of CBC Section 11B-233.

For covered multifamily dwellings accessible parking and loading zones shall be provided, and justified, as required by CBC Section 1109A. In order to verify parking is compliant with CBC Chapter 11A, it must be noted on the parking plan if proposed parking locations will be assigned or unassigned to tenants. The minimum number and location for public uses (other than covered multifamily dwellings) shall be as required by CBC Section 11B-208.  All accessible parking locations shall be located on the shortest possible route to the accessible building it serves. Electric vehicle charging stations shall be provided on accessible routes and have accessible operable parts compliant with CBC Section 11B-812, where required by CBC Section 11B-228.3.

For transient lodging guest rooms, an accessible guest room matrix shall be required for all new construction and alterations. This matrix shall identify the number and type of proposed and/or existing guest rooms with mobility features, communication features, and their dispersion among the various classes of guest rooms, demonstrating compliance with CBC Section 11B-224.

For alterations or additions to existing facilities, adequate accessible upgrades to the path of travel serving the area(s) of alteration shall be identified and justified on an associated Application for Unreasonable Hardship Determination. An accessibility site review may be conducted by Permit Sonoma Building Plan Check staff to verify any existing conditions identified, and provide limited guidance to the extent of accessible upgrades required, per CBC Section 11B-202.4, to the path of travel to the area(s) alteration and accessible elements serving the area(s) of alteration. This site review does not alleviate the design professional in responsible charge from examination of the existing accessible path of travel elements at the proposed area(s) of alteration and/or addition.  The drawing sheet delineating the Path of Travel (POT) for the project shall demonstrate compliance with applicable provisions of CBC Section 11B-202.4. The method of demonstrating and justifying compliance with this code section is at the discretion of the responsible plan preparer, subject to review by the building official.  A suggested method to assist in verifying compliance with this code section is to include the following statement (or similar) on the drawing sheet delineating the Path of Travel (POT) for the proposed area of addition or alteration:

“Design Professional in Responsible Charge Statement: The Path of Travel (POT) identified in these construction documents is compliant with the current applicable California Building Code accessibility provisions for path of travel requirements for alterations, additions and structural repairs. As part of the design of this project, the POT was examined and any elements, components, or portions of the POT that were determined to be noncompliant

  1. have been identified; and
  2. the corrective work necessary to bring them into compliance has been included within the scope of this project’s work through details, drawings and specifications incorporated into these construction documents.

Any noncompliant elements, components or portions of the POT that will not be corrected by this project based on valuation threshold limitations or a finding of unreasonable hardship are so indicated in these construction documents. During construction, if POT items within the scope of the project represented as code compliant are found to be nonconforming beyond reasonable construction tolerances, they shall be brought into compliance with the CBC as a part of this project.  Any revision to the current permitted scope of work shall be submitted to Permit Sonoma as a revision to the permit.”

Floor Plan(s)

Show all proposed building dimensions (outside wall dimensions) and label the use (or uses) of each room. Provide separate floor plans if a room or space is to be used for different purposes at different times. Cross reference locations and sizes of windows and doors to window and door schedules. Justify and adequately provide and cross reference locations of adequate details of fire separations between adjacent occupancies, spaces, and shaft enclosures. Show accessible clearances at all proposed doors and accessible elements, and cross reference applicable details and elevations to all accessible elements.

Egress Plan and Justification(s)

Provide adequate egress plans, details, and justifying calculations for each level, structure, and each proposed room configuration, seating layout, or use of the space, per the applicable egress and life safety requirements of CBC Chapters 10, 11B, and 11A, as applicable.  Each use proposed must be associated with an applicable occupant load factor (See CBC Tale 1004.5), and the total occupant load for each room or space shall be calculated accordingly. Dimensions should be provided demonstrating exit access travel distances of each space are within allowable limits, based on occupancy group and type of construction, measured from the most remote point of each room to the entrance to an exit. The number and separation of required exits shall be justified. The widths of proposed egress elements, including doorways, hallways, stairways, and corridors shall be adequately justified. Exits shall discharge directly to the exterior of the building. All proposed egress pathways shall be adequately identified and detailed to provide a direct and unobstructed access to the public way or a safe dispersal area, permanently maintained and identified as a safe dispersal area.

Fire Safety Plans and Detail(s)

All required fire-resistance rated assemblies shall be clearly identified and detailed.  All listed assemblies shall be identified by the appropriate listing or file number. Details provided shall clearly identify all required material types, thickness, and fastener types and spaces. 

Proposed structures shall be justified for the proposed fire separation distance from adjacent existing, proposed structures, and adjacent property lines based on type(s) of construction, occupancy group(s), and fires separation distances. Adequate details and specifications shall be provided for all proposed penetrations, joints, column protections, shaft enclosures, draft stopping, fire doors, fire alarm systems, fire and smoke dampers, and other fire and smoke protection features, as required per CBC Chapter 7. Individual occupancies shall be separated from adjacent occupancies in accordance with CBC Table 508.4.

New buildings (and additions and alterations to structures submitted on or after July 1, 2008) located in the State Responsibility Area (SRA) shall be have adequate notes, details, and provide materials’ specifications to demonstrate compliance with the applicable requirements of the CBC Chapter 7A for exterior wildfire exposure. 

Structural Requirements

All structural loading criteria and calculation methodology shall be in accordance with CBC Chapter 16, ASCE 7-16, and all referenced standards identified in CBC Chapter 35. Every structure shall be designed to resist the effects of code prescribed loading, including overturning, uplift, and sliding. All new and altered building foundations shall be designed utilizing design recommendations based on the findings of a geotechnical investigation, meeting the requirements of CBC Section 1803. The geotechnical engineer of record shall review the proposed construction plans, details, and specifications and verify conformance with all applicable geotechnical recommendations.

Construction documents shall show the size section, and relative locations of all structural members, with floor levels, column centers and offsets dimensioned. All systems and methods of construction shall be analyzed via rational analysis and well-established principles of mechanics.  Plans and details shall be of sufficient detail and clarity to provide a complete load path capable transferring loads from their point of origin to the load-resisting elements.  The load path for all imposed vertical and lateral loads shall be continuous from the roof diaphragm to the foundation-soil interface.

The design loads (i.e. floor live load, roof live load, wind design data, earthquake design data, geotechnical information, flood design data, rain loads, and presence of any special loads) shall be indicated on the construction documents.

Wind design data required to be shown shall include the basic design wind speed (85 miles per hour for Risk Category I, 90 miles per hour for risk category II, 95 miles per hour for risk category III, and 100 miles per hour for risk category IV), risk category, wind exposure in each direction (B, C, or D), applicable internal pressure coefficient, and design wind pressures to be used for exterior component and cladding materials.

Earthquake design data required to be shown in the construction documents include risk category, seismic importance factor, site class, mapped and design spectral response acceleration parameters (SS, S1, SDS, and SD1), seismic design category, basic seismic force-resisting system(s), design base shear(s), seismic response coefficient(s) (CS), response modification coefficient(s) (R), and the analysis procedure used.

Deflection limits shall be justified to be within allowable limits of CBC Table 1604.3, and to not impact adjacent structures or elements. Lateral forces shall be distributed to the various vertical elements of the lateral-force resisting system in proportion to their rigidities, considering the rigidity of the horizontal diaphragm. Members shall have included in their analysis the effects of added deformations expected to occur in their service life.

Load combinations shall be in accordance with CBC 1605. Live loads shall be identified in accordance with CBC Table 1607.1. For occupancies and uses not designated the live load shall be determined in accordance with a method approved by the building official. For live loads exceeding 50 pounds per square foot, such design live loads shall be conspicuously posted in that part of each story in which they apply, using durable signs, per CBC Section 106.1.  It shall be unlawful to remove or deface such notices.

A statement of special inspections shall be provided for each Building Permit application, if required per CBC Chapter 17.  The design professional in responsible charge shall identify all required special inspections, tests, and observations, as well as the extent and frequency of each test (periodic or continuous) in the proposed statement of special inspections summary, and that adequate boxes have been checked on the applicable Permit Sonoma special inspection checklist and steel appendix. The special inspection agencies shall be approved by the County of Sonoma, and listed on the statement of specials provided.  The contractor responsible for the construction of the structural element(s) receiving special inspections and/or observations shall sign a statement verifying knowledge and awareness of the special requirements contained in the statement of special inspections.

Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing

All mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) plans shall be prepared by a licensed design professional acting within the scope of their licensure. A licensed contractor may sign MEP plans, such as shop and field drawings, for work they have been contracted to perform. All MEP plans shall be reviewed by the registered design professional in responsible charge of the project for conformance with the overall design and all associated code requirements.  This includes review of all proposed penetrations in fire-resistive assemblies, and verification penetrations have been adequately detailed via architectural plans and details to demonstrate and justify fire-resistive ratings of these penetrations. Any proposed or future penetrations in structural slabs shall be reviewed and approved by the engineer in responsible charge of the slab design.

All MEP plans shall reflect and document the applicable requirements in associated California Energy Code and California Green Building Standards Code documentation, and all other adopted code requirements. Identify electric outlet and receptacle types, locations, heights, and reach ranges. All occupied areas and structures shall be provided with adequate plumbing fixtures and shall be justified, per CPC Table 422.1 and Table A.

All plans for new potable water service to a new or altered structure shall be reviewed and approved in an associated Building Permit application.  These plans will require review and approval by the associated water service agency, prior to issuance. Plans for utilities other than the potable water serving a new or altered structure are reviewed and approved by the Engineering Division. A Fixture Count Declaration shall be submitted, documenting all proposed mechanical, electrical, and plumbing fixtures to be installed or altered in the proposed scope of work.