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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Agriculture/Animals/Trees

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Last updated: May 20, 2018

What is the Williamson Act (Agricultural Preserve)?

A program created by State law whereby the County gives the property owner a property tax break for maintaining their property in agriculture as an "agricultural preserve." An application is required to enter into a Williamson Act contract with the county. The contract period is for ten years and renews automatically each year unless the property owner requests and receives county approval to phase out, which takes ten years to complete.

What are the requirements for a Williamson Act contract?

Williamson Act Contract TypeMinimum Parcel Size RequirementMinimum Income Requirement
Type I (Vineyard or Orchard)10 acres$200.00 gross income per acre
Type II (Grazing of Livestock)40 acres$2,000.00 gross annual income and a minimum of $2.50 gross income per acre, per farm operation
Type II (Open Space)40 acresNone

What information is available about the of Phase Out of Substandard Parcels in Agricultural Preserves?

What types of farm worker housing programs are permitted?


  • Seasonal (180 days) and year-round farm worker housing and agricultural employee dwelling units are allowed in most Agricultural and Resources zoning districts. Certain minimum acreage and/or agricultural activities are required.
  • Farm family dwelling units are allowed in the LIA and LEA zoning districts, provided that the parcel is under an existing Williamson Act Contract.


  • Construction permits (including well and septic approval) are required for these housing units.
  • Zoning Permit is required.

How many horses and livestock animals can I have on my property?

It depends on your zoning district and the size of the parcel.


  • In the Rural Residential (RR) zoning district, for example, you can have one horse or cow or 5 goats or 50 chickens for every 20,000 square feet of parcel area.
  • In the AR (Agriculture and Residential) and agricultural zoning districts, the same limits apply to parcels of two acres or less, but there are no limits on larger parcels.

For more specific information, refer to the appropriate zoning district in the Zoning Ordinance.

What permits are required to board or train horses?

No Permits

In the agricultural zoning districts, a property owner can raise, board and train their own horses without any required permits.

Required Permits

Zoning Permit

In the agricultural zoning districts, boarding of other people's horses is allowed only with approval of a Zoning Permit. In the AR (Agriculture and Residential) zoning district, no more than five horses can be boarded with a Zoning Permit.

Use Permit

Shows, group lessons, clinics and similar horse-related group activities require a Use Permit. A Use Permit is required for boarding or training six or more horses.

Septic Permit

Septic permit approval is required and restroom facilities that are accessible to persons with disabilities must be provided. Additionally, manure management plan must also be submitted for review and approval.

Building Permit

Building permits are required for structures such as stables, barns and covered arenas.

Grading Permit

Grading permits and drainage review may be needed for earthwork and to address stormwater runoff.

How many cats and dogs can I have? What permits are needed?

The keeping of dogs and cats is primarily regulated by Sonoma County Animal Services.

No Permits

No permits are required to keep up to 4 dogs and/or 4 cats on a property.

Permits Required

  • A commercial kennel, defined as keeping 5 or more dogs and/or cats for commercial purposes, is allowed with a Use Permit and a license from the Animal Regulation Division only in commercial and agricultural zoning districts.
  • Keeping 5 to 10 dogs or cats for personal, non-commercial purposes, called a "pet fancier facility" is allowed in the agricultural and rural residential zoning districts with a license from the Health Department's Animal Services Division.

Where can I find information about the Tree Protection Ordinance?

This ordinance can be found in Section 26-88-010(m) of the Zoning Code. A list of protected tree species can be found in Section 26-02-140.