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PJR-128 Housing Development Application Requirements

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To identify the information and materials required for an application for housing development projects that require design review only or design review with a use permit. 


The Sonoma County Zoning Ordinance requires that all multifamily residential projects are subject to design review, in addition to any other approvals that may be required. Design review applications are evaluated in accordance with the development standards found in the Article 82 (Design Review) of the Zoning Ordinance, any applicable local area or plan guidelines, and the standards of the applicable base zoning districts. Design review applications must also demonstrate consistency with applicable policies of the General Plan, applicable specific or area plans, and the Zoning Ordinance. 


After a complete application is submitted, a lead planner will be assigned to the project. Project applications are referred to various Permit Sonoma divisions, County departments, State agencies, and in some areas, a local citizen’s advisory committee for review, comments, and conditions. Environmental review in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is required, unless the proposed project is specifically exempt. If necessary, the lead planner will prepare an Initial Study under CEQA. If the planner determines that no significant environmental impact will result from the proposed project, a Negative Declaration, or Mitigated Negative Declaration, will be prepared incorporating any mitigation measures as conditions of approval. Additional information or studies may be required to complete processing of the application. 

Design Review Approval

The Sonoma County Design Review Committee (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 also include a representative of that city. After a DRC hearing or meeting, the applicant will be sent a written summary of the meeting, which will include any recommended design changes. 

Following the DRC’s decision, there is a ten-day appeal period. For approved design review applications, the applicant has 24 months to demonstrate implementation of the project. The applicant may apply for a one-year extension of time prior to the expiration of this 24-month period.

Design Review with Other Approvals

If a project requires other approvals beyond design review, the DRC will evaluate the project and make a recommendation to other decision-making bodies. This application checklist includes everything required for design review and a use permit. Please review the application requirements for other permit types if other approvals are required (i.e., a zone change or general plan amendment). One application may be submitted, but the application package should address requirements for all permit types.  

Preliminary Application 

The Housing Crisis Act of 2019 (SB 330) allows housing development projects to receive certain vesting rights through a preliminary application process. To qualify, a project must consist of:

  1. Residential units only (at least two);
  2. Mixed-use developments consisting of residential and nonresidential uses with at least two-thirds of the square footage designated for residential use; or
  3. Transitional housing or supportive housing.

See  PJR-131, Housing Development Preliminary Application, for more information on qualifications and application materials for qualifying projects.  

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). Housing development 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. Title report(s). A current title report (within the last 90 days). Detailed ownership must be provided, including a full listing of all “et al” owners. 
  3. Proposal Statement. This should be a detailed written description of the current and proposed uses of the property following the following outline. A thorough, detailed, and quantified project description is required for a complete application and will facilitate the permitting process and reduce processing timelines. The required elements of the proposal statement are:
    1. Describe the project location, size of the parcel, general topography and slope, existing land uses, and vegetation on the site and in the surrounding area.
    2. Describe the architectural style, design, materials, finishes, and colors for all buildings and structures, including roofs, fences, walls, or other site features. Include a discussion of the lighting plan. If the site is located in a Scenic Resource area, story poles and/or visual simulation may be required. Information should also be shown on architectural elevations.
    3. Identify the surrounding land uses and approximate distance from the nearest property line and the proposed use. Identify the proximity of other sensitive land uses including residences, hospitals, and schools.
    4. Identify the location, square footage, number of floors, and type of use for all existing and proposed structures and land uses on the parcel. Include all outdoor use areas, fences, driveways, patios, utilities, wells, septic systems, and parking areas.
    5. Discuss the proposed onsite circulation and the nearby circulation patterns. Identify and provide widths of roadway or pathways and length of site access for vehicles, trucks, bicycles, and pedestrians. Indicate whether the site access is from a public roadway or private road easement. Describe the condition of the roadway and any potential issues with sight distance at driveway entrances.
    6. Estimate the anticipated trip generation for all types of uses proposed. Include the peak period daily trips and the average daily trips. Trip generation rates for various types of land uses are published by the Institute of Traffic Engineers and can be used and compared with project specific trip estimates.
    7. Discuss the proximity to transit and transit headways, including rail and bus services. Describe existing pedestrian and bicycle access and how the access is planned in the County’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.
    8. Identify the total square footage and dimensions of all proposed parking areas, including overflow parking areas and the size, number, and type of parking spaces (include bicycle parking, accessible vehicle parking, and electric vehicle charging stations) and the type of surface proposed. New or expanded uses must meet on-site parking requirements contained in the Zoning Ordinance ( Article 86). Parking lot layouts must conform to the dimensions shown in the Off Street Parking Design Standards ( Article 82).
    9. Identify the type of water supply (public water, mutual water, or private well) and describe the location and depth of the supply well(s) for the use. A Groundwater Study may be required if located within a water scarce area (Groundwater Availability Class 3 and 4) or within a medium- or high-priority Groundwater Management Basin. View map showing groundwater availability areas and priority basins.
    10. Provide an estimate of the annual water demand for the use and a Water Conservation Plan including all reasonably feasible measures to reduce water and energy demand to the maximum extent feasible and enhance water resource recovery to maintain sustainable water supplies. Measures that must be evaluated include: installation of low-flow fixtures, best available conservation technologies for all water uses, rainwater and storm water collection systems, and graywater reuse.
    11. Describe the location, size, dimensions, and type of sewage disposal system (i.e., public sewer or on-site septic system).
    12. Provide description of storm water management including runoff, treatment, drainage, and flood control. If applicable, provide location and square footage of existing wetlands and identify measures to avoid them. An alternative analysis should be required demonstrating why the wetlands cannot be avoided.
    13. Provide description of storm water management including runoff, treatment, drainage, and flood control.
    14. Describe the solid waste disposal facilities (location, size, and access of trash enclosures and frequency of pick-up) at the site, and identify opportunities for source separation, recycling, reuse, composting, and minimization of waste. 
    15. Describe the type and location of emergency services relative to the project site. Is the site located in a high fire hazard area? Is the access adequate for fire and emergency vehicles?
    16. Describe all measures taken to reduce energy demand and incorporate renewable energy. A greenhouse gas emissions study may be required for significant projects.
    17. Describe the predominant vegetation on the site and within the development area. Identify the size and proximity of any wetlands, creeks or riparian areas, or woodlands and whether the project will require fill, crossings, or otherwise disturb these areas. A biotic assessment and wetland delineation may be required. 
    18. Identify all landscape and outdoor use areas, including dimensions and size of all turf areas, tree plantings, gardens, landscaping, patios, trash enclosures, type of irrigation proposed, fencing, walls, hedges and other landscape features (i.e., ponds, pools, berms, etc.).
    19. Provide details regarding the type and extent of construction required, the construction methods, extent of grading, quantities of cuts and fills, location of any deposits or spoils, the duration and hours of construction, and the location of staging areas. Note if any blasting or pile driving is proposed.
    20. Describe the existing ambient noise conditions (rural or urban) and sources of ambient noise. Describe the location and distance from noise sources. Depending on the noise source and the distance to property lines, a Noise Study prepared by a qualified professional may be required. Refer to the County’s Guidelines for Preparation of Noise Analysis.
    21. Discuss potential hazards and measures to mitigate those hazards including flood, wildfire, landslides, and earthquake. Maps illustrating hazard areas are found in the Sonoma County General Plan Public Safety Element.
    22. Indicate whether the subject property is located on a State list of sites containing hazardous materials compiled pursuant to Section 65962.5 of the Government Code or a hazardous waste site designated by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) pursuant to Section 25356 of the Health and Safety Code. For more information, see the DTSC's Hazardous Waste and Substances Site List (Cortese List).
    23. Describe the distance to property lines for all existing structures and outdoor use areas (i.e., outdoor storage, loading, and parking areas). Information should also be shown on site plan.
    24. Describe the height of all structures, including buildings, fences, retaining walls, and accessory structures. Information should also be shown on architectural elevations).
    25. Provide the total area in square feet of the lot covered by buildings and structures for the building lot coverage; provide the total area in square feet of the lot covered by impervious surfaces. Information should also be shown on site plan.
  4. Housing Proposal. A Housing Proposal meeting the requirements of Sec. 26-89-030(G) is required. The Housing Proposal must include a site plan and a detailed proposal statement describing how the project will comply with the provisions of Article 89 of the Sonoma County Zoning Ordinance (i.e., provision of units, payment of in-lieu fees, or alternative equivalent action). The Housing Proposal shall include a listing of the proposed number of units and their type, sizes, tenure, number of bedrooms, and proposed affordability level for each unit within the development. The Housing Proposal should also identify any existing units and their type, sizes, tenure, number of bedrooms, and whether they are currently occupied or when they became vacant. If an alternative equivalent action is proposed under Sec. 26-89-040(G), the Housing Proposal must demonstrate “how the requested alternative action will further affordable housing opportunities in the County to an equal or greater extent” than the other options for compliance. 
  5. Site plan meeting the requirements of  PJR-129, Site Plan Requirements for Planning Applications. Preparation of the required site plan by a draftsperson, architect, landscape architect, or engineer is strongly recommended. If the existing site is to be significantly modified by the proposed project (i.e., removal of existing buildings, extensive grading, and removal of vegetation), both an existing site plan and a proposed site plan should be submitted.
  6. Preliminary Site Grading and Drainage Plan
  7. Preliminary Architectural Plans and Elevations. Compliance with accessibility elements within the California Building Code is required. Structural plans are not required until application is made for building permits. Plans must show:  
    1. Type and color of roof and other exterior materials
    2. All mechanical equipment, exterior lights, trash enclosures, and other exterior structures
    3. Proposed fencing and walls
    4. A cross-section for each structure showing the location of natural grade underneath the structure; the building’s height must be identified on the cross-section (measured from the average of the highest and lowest points of the lot covered by the structure to the topmost point of the roof)
  8. Preliminary Landscape Plans. Show 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 the Sonoma County Code.
  9. Tree Protection Plan. On a site plan, locate and identify all existing trees by type and size (diameter at breast height) on the project site and any nearby trees on adjacent parcels. All existing trees not proposed to be removed must be shown to be protected during all ground-disturbing and construction activities. Protection measures should be reflected on the Tree Protection Plan and included in the Grading Plan submittal. The following trees are protected by the Sonoma County Tree Protection Ordinance ( Section 26-88-010(m) of the Zoning Ordinance): big leaf maple, black oak, blue oak, coast live oak, interior live oak, madrone, oracle oak, Oregon oak, redwood, valley oak, and California bay. 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.
  10. Preliminary Lighting Plans. Provide a photometric site plan along with one cut sheet for each light fixture proposed for the building(s) and the site. Lighting plans must comply with standards set forth in Article 82 of the Zoning Ordinance and project site’s applicable zoning districts.
  11. Parking Plan. Compliance with all Parking Regulations ( Article 86 of the Zoning Ordinance) must be shown on site plan. Include a calculation table that identifies the number of required parking spaces and the number of spaces provided. Parking lot layouts must conform to the dimensions shown in the Off-Street Parking Design Standards ( Article 82 of the Zoning Ordinance). Compliance with accessibility requirements of the California Building Code is required. 
  12. Materials and Colors. Provide color photographs of roof, siding, trim, and window materials. Include proposed paint and finish as appropriate.
  13. Photographs. Provide photographs of the site and surrounding area. Label photographs with the direction in which the view was taken. Photographs should be taken from appropriate public road locations from which the proposed development may be visible.
  14. Low-Impact Development (LID) Requirements. Complete a Low-Impact Development Determination worksheet to determine if the project is subject to LID requirements. The County uses the City of Santa Rosa’s worksheet. If determined to be subject to LID requirements, a Drainage Questionnaire (see  Grading Permits) with the initial Storm Water LID plan must be submitted.
  15. 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 housing development application.
  16. 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.