Frequently Asked Questions
- START HERE
- Building Code Compliance
- Building Permit Requirements
- Damaged Trees
- Debris Removal
- Fire Safety
- Other Permit Requirements (Non-Building)
- Rebuilding Process
- Temporary Housing
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to frequently asked questions on a given topic.
Building Code Compliance
When I rebuild my home, does it have to be in compliance with current building codes?
Yes. All buildings must meet the 2019 California Residential Building Standards Code, as amended and adopted by the City of Santa Rosa.
Is a new owner required to meet all development standards, including setbacks?
Yes. The same standards apply to existing and new lot owners. An exception is if the original home was determined to be legal non-conforming and a building permit application is submitted within one year of the fire.
Building Permit Requirements
Is a Building Permit required to repair damage to a structure?
Yes. A permit is required for repairs and construction pursuant to State Code (2016 California Residential Code, Section R105.1 or California Building Code, Section 105.1). Review of repair permit applications will be expedited and Building Inspectors are available to inspect your structure before you file a building permit to assist in damage assessment and provide information on Building Code requirements applicable. We may have complete damage assessment information already on-hand when you come in. However, some situations may necessitate that a Registered Engineer evaluate the condition of the damaged home and provide engineered plans for the repair. The Construction Documents Submittal Requirements for Remodels and/or Additions to Residential Projects shall be followed for repair permit submittals.
What documents do I need for a Building Permit?
All plans and documents required for a rebuild permit are identified on the Construction Document Submittal Requirements. Applications require three (3) copies of signed plans. If the structure is commercial, non-wood framed, a residence higher than two stories, non-conventional construction (metal, concrete or masonry), or a residential project with more than four (4) dwellings on a single parcel, the plans must be signed by a licensed engineer or architect.
Can building plans be submitted electronically?
The City encourages electronic plan submittal and requests that property owners submit one hard copy of the plans and one electronic copy in PDF form using a flash/external drive. Both sets of plans must include the required supporting documents.
After the electronic plans have been completed and approved, two sets of paper plans will be submitted – the job copy and the assessor copy – to the City prior to permit issuance. Once the master plan is approved, that plan can be used on any lot that meets the setback requirements. Check with the Resilient City Permit Center staff for electronic plan review requirements for each lot that the plans will be used for.
A complete submittal and detailed building plans often translate into quicker review times. The site plan must be drawn to scale and include all improvements. Multiple departments and agencies may need to review these plans prior to permit issuance.
How do I track my project’s permit?
You can apply for and monitor the progress of your permit, as well as schedule inspections at srcity.org/Permit.
If my structure(s) cannot meet current setback requirements due to lot sizes or topography, will the City still issue building permits?
The City will make every effort to accommodate challenging lot setback issues. Setbacks can be adjusted under certain circumstances with a Zoning Permit. All fire safety building regulations, environment, and other health and safety ordinances and standards shall apply.
Will the City require evidence of a legal lot prior to issuance of a new Building Permit?
Yes. Be aware that one legal lot may have several Assessor Parcel Numbers (APNs), and that APNs do not establish legal lot status. Therefore, the legal lot lines and status must be confirmed prior to issuance of building permits. The City will accept evidence of a prior Building Permit on your property as establishing legal lot status. If you cannot provide that, you must have your property surveyed.
What kind of lot survey will the City accept?
The City will accept stake (foundation only), corner, or monument lot surveys. Wood staking of the foundation corners will require a surveyor to provide a letter certifying the location of the building before or at the time of first foundation inspection. We recommend that you consult with a professional land surveyor/engineer to get an accurate determination of where your legal property lines fall. Additional information may be included in your deed and in the Assessor’s maps.
Will building permits be issued for structures in a Floodway or Floodplain?
Floodways are the drainage areas necessary for a 100-year floodplain (also indicated as “F2” on Zoning Map). No permits will be issued for structures within floodways (F1). This is a health and safety issue and all structures must be located outside of the floodway. Habitable structures in the floodplain must conform to the flood control ordinance and have a building pad, or finished floor elevation, elevated above the 100-year flood level.
Can my house be built on the existing foundation?
Yes, provided you have an approved “suitability analysis” of the existing foundation performed by a registered civil or structural engineer. This analysis shall state that the engineer has visited the site and investigated the condition of the existing building elements. It shall also state that the remaining foundation is suitable for the support of the new structure, and that all under-slab utility systems (such as drain, waste, vent, water, mechanical, electrical, etc.) are suitable for continued use. Electrical conduits may remain but all under-slab electrical conductors must be replaced.
Please be advised that if soil was disturbed to a depth greater than 12 inches, a compaction report to address re-compaction of the lot after foundation removal may be needed depending on new building elevations. A licensed geotechnical or civil engineer may be needed to prepare the compaction report.
How is the City of Santa Rosa determining the square footage of structures that were on my property prior to the fire?
When determining square footage, City staff will refer to building permit history records and Assessor's records. The City does not retain building plan sets in most cases, but may have permit application forms and inspection records for permitted structures built after 1950. The City will consider the square footages in other formal documents, such as insurance papers or old building plans on a case-by-case basis.
Can I rebuild a garage or other accessory structure or continue an accessory use prior to rebuilding my home?
The City of Santa Rosa can authorize reconstruction of an accessory structure on a case-by-case basis. In most cases, all proposed structures would be submitted with the site plan required with any building plan sets. The site plan and building permits for all associated structures can then be approved at the same time.
(FOR TREES ON PRIVATE PROPERTY)
What is the process for removing fire-damaged tree(s) on my property?
If you believe you have trees on your property that are dead or likely to die within five years as a result of the fire, and present a threat to the public Right of Way (ROW), such as roadways, sidewalks, and/or public infrastructure (fire hydrants, water meters, etc.), you may submit a Right of Entry (ROE) form to the County of Sonoma to opt into the state-operated Consolidated Debris Removal Program for potential removal. The State will use a certified arborist to determine whether the trees on your property present a threat to the ROW or public infrastructure and are eligible for removal through the program. The deadline to submit an ROE for consideration for the State’s removal program is February 1. Learn more here: srcity.org/DebrisRemoval.
If you do not wish to opt into the State’s debris (tree) removal program or your fire-damaged trees do not present a threat to the public ROW/infrastructure but are still at risk of falling and need to be removed, you must follow the City's guidance for private property tree removal for trees damaged or suspected to be damaged by the Glass Fire. This guidance is outlined here: srcity.org/3434/Damaged-Trees
Is it okay to keep a fire-damaged tree on my property?
If you are attempting to retain any trees that clearly exhibit fire damage, it is recommended that an arborist report be obtained to determine the long-term health of the tree.
Will my insurance pay for damaged tree removal on my property?
It is advised that you check with your insurance provider as each policy is different. Oftentimes tree removal insurance coverage is nominal; therefore, if you believe your trees are eligible for the State’s debris removal program, it is strongly recommended that you sign up for the program by submitting an ROE form. The State’s certified arborist will ultimately determine if your tree is eligible for removal through the State program after you submit your ROE. Learn more here: srcity.org/DebrisRemoval
(FOR STREET TREES AND TREES IN THE PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAY)
Who is responsible for the removal of burned trees along streets and in sidewalk areas?
Normally, the owner of a lot fronting or adjacent to any portion of a street is responsible for maintaining trees and other landscaping along the street or within the street right-of-way adjacent to their property. In the fire-impacted areas, the City removed any trees determined to be hazardous that were planted along streets, sidewalks, and other public right-of-way landscape areas within the fire impacted areas.
Who will be responsible for replanting trees along streets and in sidewalk areas?
Property owners are responsible for the replanting of trees, shrubs, hedges and other landscaping along streets and in sidewalk areas adjacent to their property. A list of approved street trees is provided by the City and available at: srcity.org/DocumentCenter/View/7670/Street-Tree-List-PDF. The City will provide an inspection of the tree once it is planted, upon property owner request. This inspection is optional. Please call 707-543-3770 to request an inspection.
I signed up for the state-sponsored debris removal program, who do I contact with questions about my property related to that process?
Property owners can call the the County of Sonoma Environmental Health Services Division at (707) 565-6700 or [email protected] for questions regarding the application process.
Additional information about Debris Removal can be found at srcity.org/DebrisRemoval.
Is a demolition permit required for removal of a building, or portions of a building, that were damaged or destroyed by a fire?
No, if a Right of Entry (ROE) has been submitted to the County's Department of Environmental Health and your property is on the list for the State’s cleanup.
Yes, if you choose to remove the debris yourself or through a contractor, a demolition permit (obtained by completing the City of Santa Rosa Glass Fire Debris Removal Application) is required pursuant to State Code (2016 California Residential Code, Section R105.1). CAL OSHA Standards for handling and disposal of the debris still apply. Demolition permits for residences are issued over-the-counter, without delay. Receipts for debris disposal and post clean-up soil analysis are needed before issuance of building permits.
What is the average cost for rebuilding permits?
The average cost of building permits, based on a 3,000- to 4,000-square-foot home, is estimated at around $6,000 to $7,000 for plan review and for inspections. If the home is smaller, it would likely be less; if the home is larger, it would likely be more. If an encroachment permit is needed in order to perform proposed or required work within the public right-of-way (public street and sidewalk areas), a fee of approximately $400 will be associated with the issuance of the encroachment permit.
It is important to note that the permit fees will generally not include impact fees, which are usually the largest costs associated with development of a new building. Impact fees typically cover costs associated with providing public services to a new property development. For residents who are rebuilding, impact fee costs will not apply since those fees were paid during the property’s original development. Impact fees will only apply if a property owner is planning to increase the size of their original structure by over 500 square feet. In this case, the impact fee will be assessed by the school districts.
What other agencies and fees might be involved in the Building Permit Process?
All coordination with other agencies will be managed by the City:
- Water (water and sewer services and fees)
- City of Santa Rosa Environmental Compliance (primarily commercial applications)
- Fire (some residential applications and all commercial applications)
- Sonoma County Environmental Health (septic and well systems, if applicable)
- Local School District (mitigation fees if expanding the size of former residence)
Note: Many of these departmental reviews will be greatly reduced or eliminated if the proposed rebuild is substantially similar to the previous configuration.
Will I need a new encroachment permit with fee?
It depends upon the condition and location of your current (past) driveway encroachment.
What fire safe/ fireproof measures are being incorporated into rebuilding?
The City is working with developers, builders and architects on all approaches to the rebuild, including evaluating and supporting the innovative use of new fire-resistant building materials and construction methodologies. In addition, all new construction within a Wildland-Urban-Interface Fire Area shall meet construction requirements as set forth in Chapter 7A of the most current adopted California Building Code (CBC). This addresses venting, roofing materials, siding, and other fire-resistant construction methodologies.
Are fire sprinklers required for my new structure(s)?
Yes. Residential fire sprinkler systems are required as mandated by the 2019 Residential Code Section R313. And in accordance with locally adopted ordinances.
Most water meters in burn areas are 5/8 inch, with ¾ inch service lines into the main water line. The water meter can be upgraded to ¾ inch at a minimal cost to residents. Information pertaining to your specific water meter and its fire flow is available at the City of Santa Rosa’s Resilient City Permit Center. In most cases, upgrading from 5/8 inch to ¾ inch and running larger piping from the backflow preventer to the house will allow enough flow to operate and residential fire sprinkler system. Contact you C-16 licensed fire sprinkler contractor for design considerations.
Do I need a licensed fire protection contractor (C-16) to design and install the sprinkler system?
Not necessarily, however it is highly recommended. Owner-builders may assume all liabilities of the entire construction project and apply for all permits under the provisions of the State as it relates to owner-builder allowances and thus design and install their own systems as approved by the Fire Department. If a licensed C-16 fire protection contractor is used they shall install their own design. A C-16 fire protection contractor CANNOT design a system they do not install.
Who enforces the regulations regarding clearance of fuel around buildings?
The Santa Rosa Fire Department will enforce weed abatement programs, requiring the clearance of flammable vegetation from around buildings (Santa Rosa City Code Title 9, Chapter 9-08). Recommendations regarding larger fuel modifications can also be made and reference materials can be found at srcity.org/596/Wildland-Urban-Interface.
Am I responsible for clearing the brush from around buildings?
Yes. The property owner is responsible for clearing brush from around buildings.
I’ve heard that the design of my fire sprinkler system is very dependent on the water pressure in the City’s public system. How do I determine the water pressure at my property?
The best way to determine the available pressure at the property is to reactivate the water service and attach a pressure gauge to the plumbing behind the water meter.
General static pressures are also typically displayed towards the base of fire hydrants. Properties at a higher elevation than the hydrant will likely experience lower water pressures and properties at a lower elevation will likely experience higher pressures. Water pressure increases or decreases at a rate of 0.433 pounds per square inch for every foot of elevation change. A rough calculation can be performed if the elevation differential between the house and the hydrant is known. This method only generates an approximate result if both the property and the hydrant are in the same pressure zone.
A pressure reading is a snapshot of the conditions present in the water system at the time the reading was taken. Factors such as demand on the system and the height of the water level in the reservoir can cause the pressure to fluctuate throughout the day. It is strongly recommended that the sprinkler design factor in the potential pressure fluctuations, specifically pressure reductions, that can occur during times of peak demand on the system.
Contact Water Engineering Services at 707-543-4200 to discuss the reactivation of the water service or to obtain additional information regarding the pressure zone boundaries.
Can the City increase the pressure if my fire sprinkle designer determines that additional pressure is needed to support the system?
The City’s water system varies in pressure in part due to topography and whether or not the area is served by a reservoir. Properties in the Skyhawk areas tend to be served by reservoirs. Depending on the elevation of the property and how close it is to a reservoir, the pressure will be much lower at properties at a higher elevation and much higher at properties at a lower elevation. Increasing the pressure throughout entire zones is not feasible as it would cause pressure levels to rise above a safe level at homes that are at lower elevations and properties would have to install pressure reduction valves.
What options do I have if the available pressure in the public water system is not high enough to meet the fire sprinkler demand?
Low pressure is typically overcome with the installation of a pressure booster pump on the fire sprinkler system, or potentially the installation of both a pressure booster pump and water tank designed to increase flow. Your Fire Sprinkler Contractor will develop a site-specific solution to address this issue.
Can I avoid the installation of a tank and a pump if the water service in the street is enlarged?
Upsizing the water service to the property will increase the volume of water available to the property, but it will not increase the pressure. Prior to allowing an upsize of the water service line, the Fire Sprinkler Contractor must justify the need. The upsize is not performed by the City. The property owner will be required to hire a private contractor to perform the installation and will be responsible for the full cost of the improvement. Water service upsizes can trigger a significant cost. Your Fire Sprinkler Contractor can assist with determining the most cost-effective method to address lower pressures and flows. Upsizing water service lines is not needed in the Coffey Park area and will not be allowed.
Am I required to install a backflow device due to the fire sprinklers?
The presence of a fire sprinkler system within the home typically requires the installation of a backflow device. Water within the automatic fire protection system does not circulate and may degrade overtime. The purpose of the backflow device is to prevent water within the sprinkler system from back siphoning into the public water supply.
It is possible to design the sprinkler system in a fashion that reduces water stagnation. If a toilet supply line is connected to the end of the fire sprinkler main line and the system avoids any lateral connections (no dead-end sections of pipe running off the main line), the flushing of the toilet will cause water to circulate through the system. This type of design is referred to as a passive purge or multipurpose system. A backflow device is not required in this situation.
There may be additional features on the property, other than fire sprinklers, that require the installation of a backflow device. Please review the Backflow Device Requirements guide posted at in the Document Library for a full description of all the potential backflow requirements.
What size backflow do I install?
Your Fire Sprinkler Contractor will size the backflow device to ensure that the necessary pressures and water flow rates are provided to the sprinkler system. Backflow devices for residential sprinkler systems tend to be either 1” or 1 ½”.
What size does the plumbing from the meter to the backflow device need to be?
The plumbing between the meter and the backflow device shall be the same size as the backflow. If a backflow device is not required, the plumbing will be sized by your Fire Sprinkler Contractor to meet flow requirements for the system.
Do I need an encroachment permit for the installation of the backflow device?
The installation of the backflow device typically falls under the building permit process. This work may be included in the building permit associated with the reconstruction of the home or performed under a separate building permit. Backflow devices are typically installed along the property owner’s edge of the sidewalk. If the plumbing of the water line for the backflow device involves any work underneath the sidewalk or disturbs the existing water meter box or meter, an encroachment permit will be required. Encroachment permits cover any work in the street, planter strip or sidewalk areas. Contact the Permit Center at 707-543-4649 for additional details.
Who do I talk to if I have additional questions about my fire sprinklers?
Contact the Fire Department directly at 707-543-3500.
Who do I talk to if I have specific questions regarding backflow device requirements?
Contact the Water Department at 707-543-4200.
Other Permit Requirements (Non-Building)
Is a permit required for partial/ minor fire damaged structures?
Properties containing ONLY minor burned debris will need to apply for an exemption from the Phase 2 debris removal process and follow ALL cleanup protocols outlined by the City of Santa Rosa. Minor burned debris includes the following:
- A fence
- Non-structural wood material
- Non-residential structure(s) that combined total less than 120 square feet
- Miscellaneous burned items such as patio furniture, barbecues and covers, trampolines, kids toys and play structures, or other recreational/ sporting equipment.
A property falling within the above listed circumstances may apply to the City of Santa Rosa to receive an exemption from the Phase 2 debris removal process and follow the exemption requirements. Go here for more info: https://srcity.org/3416/Debris-Removal#phase2cond
Do I need a Grading Permit to rebuild?
If a homeowner wishes to rebuild structures in approximately the pre-fire footprint, with minor additional grading, then a Grading Permit, in most cases, will not be required. Best Management Practices (BMPs) for site stabilization methods will be required. If a homeowner is rebuilding using a different footprint from the original, pre-fire footprint, a Grading Permit will be required.
Are any permits required to clear up to 100 feet away (defensible space) from an existing residence?
Maybe. Clearing for fire protection purposes can be done within 100 feet of existing dwelling units without a permit, provided that clearing is not performed by an excavator or bulldozer. This does not authorize off-site clearing; although, clearing in cooperation with your neighbors is encouraged. The removal of some heritage trees is prohibited and verification from the Planning Department will be required before removing trees.
Where do I start with rebuilding?
Step 1: Debris Removal – Debris removal is the first step in the rebuilding process. Property owners have the option of either the state-sponsored debris removal program or private clean-up with properly licensed/certified individuals performing the functions required by law. The deadline to submit paperwork to enroll in either program is Jan. 15. srcity.org/DebrisRemoval.
Step 2: Permit Submittal – The next step in rebuilding is to submit your house plans to the Resilient City Permit Center. The requirements for plan submittals can be found online at srcity.org/2753/Plan-Submittal-Requirements.
Step 3: Requesting Inspections – Once you receive a permit for construction, inspections will be needed at various milestones. To schedule an inspection, you or your contractor can visit https://citizen.srcity.org/citizenaccess/ or call the inspection hotline at 707-543-3006.
Step 4: Certificate of Occupancy – Once construction is complete, the inspector does a final walk-through. Your permit will be finalized and closed out by the City of Santa Rosa. A Certificate of Occupancy will be issued, and you may move into your new home.
What can I do while I wait for debris removal to be completed?
Although your building permit can only be issued once debris removal on your property is complete, it is encouraged that you move forward with the rebuilding permit application process in the meantime. The permit application can be obtained online at https://srcity.org/DocumentCenter/View/2614.
If you need help with completing the permit application, permit center staff are available to assist by calling 707-543-4649.
Where can I find my home’s original house plans?
The City may have your original house plans on file. Please visit the Planning and Economic Development Department Virtual Counter page to set up an appointment to speak with someone. If the City does not have your plans, you might be able to obtain your building plans from the original developer or design professionals. If your original house plans are not located at the City, you can identify the footprint of your property by contacting the County Assessor’s Office and requesting information on your parcel at 707-565-1888. If your original house plans cannot be located, you may need to have plans redrawn.
Once I have all building permit plans ready, how do I submit them?
Due to the Sonoma County Health Officer’s Health Order, applications can be submitted by emailing [email protected] or you can call (707) 543-4649, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to have a representative assist you.
How long do I have to rebuild my permanent residence?
There is no timeline for when you have to start rebuilding your home provided that your property is zoned residential or agricultural and the number of homes on your property is consistent with zoning.
If your home was considered legal non-conforming, you will need to file the building permit application within one year of the fire.
Building and grading permits issued by the City of Santa Rosa expire one (1) year from the date of permit issuance. We encourage property owners to complete construction as quickly as is practical and not wait until the last minute to call for the next inspection. Extensions will be considered as necessary.
Who is responsible for replacing sidewalks in the burn areas?
Maintenance of sidewalks immediately in front of a property is the responsibility of the property owner. Property owners are also responsible for replacing and/or repairing their own driveways and driveway approaches if needed.
Can I live in a trailer or RV on my property while rebuilding a home?
Yes, provided that:
- The City of Santa Rosa has issued a Building Permit for the trailer or RV
- Basic conditions can be met, such as provisions for electrical connection, and any necessary hook-ups
- Wastewater methods are approved
- The site is not at risk for landslides or debris flow
- The placement of the temporary home does not preclude rebuilding
The permit may be revoked if the terms and conditions of the permit have been violated. The permit will expire once the final inspection of your new home is complete, or 2 years from permit issuance, whichever comes first. Water/Wastewater connection fees will be waived during permit period.
The City will authorize a temporary power pole on your property, but only after plans for the main residence are submitted, or after a Building Permit for temporary housing has been granted. Additionally, a temporary power pole will be allowed when there is a public health need, such as filtering a swimming pool for vector control. Temporary power poles are not allowed on vacant lots.