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PJR-058 Design Review - Commercial & Industrial Projects

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This handout identifies the procedure and application requirements for commercial and industrial design review applications requiring approval by the Sonoma County Design Review Committee. These requirements apply to projects that do not qualify for Administrative Design Review (form PJR-059) because they either involve new development or significant changes or additions to existing buildings and/or uses. 


Permit Sonoma’s Planning Division evaluates design review applications with emphasis on site planning, circulation, architectural design, quality and type of materials, colors, and landscaping, as provided under Article 82 (Design Review) of the Sonoma County Zoning Ordinance. Planning also reviews the application to ensure consistency with applicable policies of the General Plan, specific and area plans, and the Zoning Ordinance.

Application Filing

The first step is to submit a complete application to Permit Sonoma’s Planning Division. A project planner will be assigned to review the application for completeness within thirty days. You will be notified if the application is found to be incomplete. Incomplete means that either all information required was not submitted or some of that information was found inadequate. You will be told what information we need to make your application complete. After you submit a complete application, the assigned planner will refer your preliminary plans to other Permit Sonoma departments and appropriate outside agencies for review.

Environmental Review

Design review applications may require environmental review unless otherwise determined exempt in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Design Review Committee

After the project referral process is completed, the Planner will prepare your item for scheduling on an upcoming Design Review Committee agenda. You will be notified of the date and time your item is scheduled. You or your architect should attend the meeting to present your project.

Preliminary Design Review

Preliminary design review is a formal meeting with a public hearing before the Sonoma County Design Review Committee (DRC). The DRC conducts design review and recommends approval to other decision-making bodies or grants approval. The DRC is comprised of an architect, landscape architect, and a land use planner. If a project is within the Sphere of Influence of an incorporated city, the committee will include a representative of that city. At the meeting, the Committee may make suggested changes to your project, which must be added to your plans before returning to the Committee for final design review. You will receive a summary of the Committee’s Record of Action after completing each level of review. Actions taken may include approval, denial, or continuance for redesign.

Final Design Review

After preliminary design review, and once you have met the Committee's requests for more information and/or plan changes, your project can go back to the Design Review Committee at the next available meeting for final design review. Before the meeting, a staff report will be prepared for the Committee. At the final design review, the Committee will either approve the project as submitted with conditions, deny the project, or send it back for further revision.

The Committee's decision is final unless action by another decision body is required on related land use entitlements, such as a use permit or zone change. In these cases, the Committee’s action is forwarded to the next authority as a recommendation. When there are no additional approvals required for the project, the Committee’s decision is final. The Committee may also take action on the project’s environmental review. Any member of the public may appeal the decision to the Planning Commission within ten days of the final action date.

Required Application Materials

A complete application shall include the following items. Incomplete applications will not be accepted. Note: All documents must be submitted electronically. Permit Sonoma staff may, upon request, provide some assistance with electronic submittal if required.

  1. Application Forms:
    1. PJR-001 Planning Application(PDF), signed by the applicant and property owner(s).
    2. PJR-011 Indemnification Agreement (PDF), signed by owner or agent with owner’s written authorization. A separate indemnification agreement must be signed by each property owner.
    3. PJR-095 At-Cost Agreement (PDF). PROJECT TYPE projects are processed on an at-cost basis. An At-cost Agreement is required at the time of submittal to provide a minimum fee and deposit sufficient to cover the cost of staff work on the project. Deposits must be maintained to cover staff costs or work may be halted on the project.
  2. Proposal statement, a comprehensive and detailed description of the current use of the property and the complete scope of all proposed changes and improvements to the site. Include information regarding the type of use, size and height of new structures, all site improvements, and overall lot coverage. Any planned future use of the site must also be described and incorporated on a conceptual basis as part of the current design proposal. Include tabulation of site coverage and parking, both required and provided, etc.
  3. Site plan meeting the requirements of PJR-129, Site Plan Requirements for Planning Applications. Include a tabulation of the required and proposed lot coverage and parking.
  4. Preliminary building plans, including elevations, floor plans, and sections. Elevations must identify exterior colors and materials, and all mechanical equipment, exterior lights, trash enclosures and other exterior structures. Building height must be identified on the section (measured from the average of the highest and lowest points of the lot covered by the structure to the highest roof point). Structural plans are not required until application is made for building permits.
  5. Preliminary site grading plans, dimensioned in the same scale as the site plan, and clearly identifying existing and proposed contour lines and limits of grading across the building site, use of dashed or lighter-weight lines for depicting existing contours depicted with solid heavier-weight lines for proposed contours, proposed excavation and fill amounts in cubic yards and the location of any off-site deposition and/or collection sites, location of any existing wetlands, waterways and drainage, and proposed areas for required storm water treatment.. Note: not all projects will require grading plans. Consult the Permit Sonoma Grading and Storm Water section for requirements.
  6. Preliminary landscaping plans, showing location, species, common name, and size of plants to be planted. Landscaping should be compliant with the Water-Efficient Landscaping Ordinance (WELO) in Section 7D3 of Sonoma County Code
  7. Tree protection plan. On a site plan, locate and identify all existing trees by name in the development area of the property. The dripline of tree masses in the development area, with species identified, shall be shown on the site plan. More detailed information may be required during processing of the application. An arborist report may be required. Mitigation may be required by the Sonoma County Tree Protection Ordinance (Section 26-88-010(m)).
  8. Preliminary lighting plans. Provide the manufacturer’s specification sheet for each light fixture proposed for the exterior of the building(s) and the site. Include the location of fixtures on a site plan, floor plan, or elevations.
  9. Materials and colors. Provide a diagram with material and colors details for the roof, siding, trim, and windows. Include proposed paint and finish as appropriate. Provide color photographs of the materials.
  10. Advisory Items:Your project may be subject to comply with the following requirements, which may directly affect the design of your project. Please proceed accordingly. 
    1. Parking. New and/or expanded uses must meet Parking Regulations under Article 86, and parking lot layout dimensions shown in the Off-Street Parking Design Standards under Article 82. Compliance with accessibility elements within the California Building Code is required. 
    2. SUSMP Requirements. If the project is subject to Standard Urban Storm Water Management Plan (SUSMP) requirements, a Preliminary Storm Water Mitigation Plan is required. Applicants are responsible for consulting the Permit Sonoma Grading and Storm Water section to discuss storm water applicability and requirements prior to submitting their design review application.
    3. Accessibility Requirements.New construction and remodeling of, or additions to, existing facilities must meet State of California disabled accessibility requirements. Please consult with the Permit Sonoma Building section for specific details.
    4. Utility Certificate application. If the project will be served by City of Santa Rosa utilities, applicants must submit a Utility Certificate application to the City of Santa Rosa, and a copy of the receipt of this submittal must be included with the design review application.
  11. Filing fee. See the current Permit Sonoma Project Review Fee Schedule. Fees will be determined once the full scope of a project is evaluated by Permit Sonoma staff at the time of application submittal. If paying by check, please do not fill in amounts on checks prior to application acceptance. 

Filing Fee

See the current Permit Sonoma Project Review Fee Schedule.