Special Event Permitting
Depending on the nature of your event, you may need to obtain permits or approvals to ensure a well-planned, safe event. Common special event permits include encroachment, zoning, fire prevention, filming, food, and wastewater disposal.
If certain events are permitted as a condition in a use permit for your property, you do not need additional zoning permits for these specific events.
Special Event Permitting Checklist
Will your event meet any of the following characteristics? If so, you will need to apply for the types of permits shown for each characteristic applicable to your event.
|Event Characteristic||Permit Type|
|Take place on a County road||Encroachment permit|
|Live amplified music||Zoning permit|
|Charge an admission fee||Zoning permit|
|Extend beyond the hours of 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM or last more than one day||Zoning permit|
|Overnight sleeping accommodations||Zoning permit|
|Occur more than once in a 30-day period||Zoning permit|
|Publicized to the public at large through printed advertisements, newspaper, radio, or TV||Zoning permit|
|Food or beverages to be sold||Zoning permit|
|Temporary structure with both a raised floor and a roof||Building permit|
|Filming of movies, television, commercials, etc.||Filming permit|
|Pyrotechnic displays and effects, such as fireworks||Fire permit|
|Tent 200 square feet or larger or a canopy 400 square feet or larger||Fire permit|
|Amusement buildings||Fire permit|
|Carnival or fair||Fire permit|
|Food service||Food permit|
|Catering vendor and/or cooking booth||Food permit and
|Portable toilets||Wastewater permit|
|Occur in a State Park or County Regional Park||State Park or Regional Park|
|Take place on a highway||Caltrans|
Special Event Encroachment Permit
If the special event will be conducted within a “public right of way,” which is public property in unincorporated Sonoma County (such as roadways, driveways, sidewalks, curbs, and gutters), you will need a Special Event Encroachment Permit. Examples of these events: Parades, marathons, bike races, street fairs, etc.
ENC-004 Application Special Event Encroachment Permit (PDF: 87 kB)
A zoning permit must be obtained from the Planning Division for special events which do not conform to a property's zoning or permitted usage.
Note: If certain events are permitted as a condition in a use permit for your property, you do not need additional zoning permits for these specific events.
Special Events are allowed with a zoning permit in the following zoning districts: AR, AS, C0, C1, C2, C3, DA, K, LC, LEA, LIA, M1, M2, M3, MP, PC, R1, R2, R3, RR, RRD, RRDWA, and TP. Special Events are not allowed at vacation rentals unless a use permit has been approved.
A zoning permit is required for events that have any one or more of the following characteristics:
- Live amplified music
- An admission fee
- More than one-day event or a one-day event beyond the hours of 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM
- Overnight sleeping accommodations
- An event occurring more than once in a 30-day period
- Publicized to the public at large through printed advertisements, newspaper, radio or television
- Sale of food or beverage
The following do not require a zoning permit:
- Events conducted entirely within dedicated rights-of-way where encroachment/special event permits are obtained from the County or State. Apply for a Special Event Encroachment Permit above.
- Events entirely within a building for which all necessary County permits have been obtained and which allow the particular use.
- Events at fairgrounds or outdoor spectator facilities where a use permit has already been obtained.
More Special Event Zoning Permit Information
- Event Characteristics
- Application Submission Process and Neighbor Appeals
- Permit Application Materials
A temporary Building Permit application (TEM) shall be obtained for any temporary structure with both a raised floor and a roof. To obtain information regarding required application material, dependent on the proposed use, occupancy, and duration of event email us or visit us in person:
- Email staff: PermitSonoma@sonoma-county.org
- Visit the Building Plan Check cubicle in the main Permit Center
View information about permits needed for filming in unincorporated Sonoma County.
Fire Prevention Permit
Pyrotechnics & Special Effects
A review and approval for the public display of fireworks and special effects is conducted by the Fire Prevention Division with the primary objective of increasing safety for the public, pyrotechnic crew, and fire personnel.
Tent Permitting and Inspections
All temporary tents and membrane structures greater then 400 square feet require a permit and inspection from the Fire Prevention Division. Tents when approved by the Fire Code Official may be exempt.
Vendor & Cooking Booth Inspections
The Fire Prevention Division performs the required catering vendor and cooking booth inspections at special and managed events.
The County of Sonoma’s Health Services Department’s Food Safety Program provides permits for events that involve food.
The On-Site Wastewater Disposal Systems Criteria policy (PDF) determines wastewater flows and the use of portable toilets for special events.
More Information: Well & Septic section