Frequently Asked Questions
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. Because the deadlines have passed to apply for either option, you should have a plan in place for this step already. If this is not the case, please call the Resilient City Permit Center right away at 707-543-4649.
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 and also by visiting the Permit Center in Room 6 at City Hall.
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 in person at the Resilient Permit Center in Room 6 at City Hall (100 Santa Rosa Avenue) or online at https://srcity.org/DocumentCenter/View/2614
If you need help with completing the permit application, staff are available to assist at the Resilient City Permit Center or you may call 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 in Room 3 at City Hall (100 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa). 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. The County Assessor’s office is located at 585 Fiscal Drive, Room 104F, or you may also call 707-565-1888. If you 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?
Applications can be submitted at the Resilient City Permit Center located at 100 Santa Rosa Avenue, Room 6, Monday - Friday, 8:00am to 5:00 pm.
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.
I signed up for the state-sponsored debris removal program, who do I contact with questions about my property related to that process?
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been tasked with fire debris removal for the state-sponsored program in Sonoma County. Please contact the USACE Debris Removal Information Line at 877-875-7681 to speak to a USACE representative. Residential property owners who are registered for the program can also email USACESupportToSonoma@usace.army.mil. Additional information about Debris Removal can be found at www.sonomacountyrecovers.org
Do I need a permit to remove damaged tree(s) on my property?
No, discretionary tree removal permits are not required within the wildfire impacted areas (Resilient City overlay district). However, you will need to photograph the tree’s condition prior to its removal. The photographs must then be presented at the time of building permit or entitlement application submittal. Planning and Economic Development staff members will evaluate the submitted photographic information, as well as the pre-fire tree conditions through a review of the historical permit record and/or an examination of historical aerial photographs, and work with property owners to encourage, or require in the case of discretionary permits such as Hillside Development Permits or Design Review applications, an appropriate and proportionate tree replanting program commensurate with the pre-fire tree conditions for each parcel.
Will my insurance pay for damaged tree removal on my property?
For questions about using insurance debris removal funds for private debris removal work, including burnt trees, please review the Debris Removal Insurance Reimbursement Information.
Is it okay to keep a fire-damaged tree on my property?
Who is responsible for the removal of burned trees along streets and in sidewalk areas?
The City will remove burned trees that will not regenerate from the sidewalk and other public right-of-way landscape areas; however, property owners may elect to remove burned trees from the planter areas to improve access for contractors or other aesthetic reasons. There is no reimbursement should a property owner remove their own trees.
Who will be responsible for replanting trees along streets and in sidewalk areas?
Though the City currently does not have a landscaping restoration program, the Planning and Economic Development and Recreation & Parks departments are working to formulate a plan for tree replanting and restoration of landscape areas in the public right of way. Additional updates on a plan will be provided in the future.
Who is responsible for replacing sidewalks in the burn areas?
Normally, maintenance of sidewalks immediately in front of a property is the responsibility of the property owner. Given the potential scale of damage to the sidewalks in the fire impacted areas and the potential safety hazards in the public right-of-way, the City intends to work with FEMA to fund a comprehensive City-led sidewalk replacement program. In that regard, the City has begun assessing the sidewalk damage with FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and utility partners, to determine the scale and scope of the sidewalk damage. It is unclear at this time how much sidewalk replacement will be funded by FEMA and where those approved locations will be located. Property owners may elect to remove and replace the sidewalk along their property frontage; however, those costs will not be reimbursed by either the City or FEMA. Additionally, property owners will be responsible for replacing and/or repairing their own driveways and driveway approaches if needed. These will not be part of the City’s program.
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 cleanup by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Yes, if you choose to remove the debris yourself or through a contractor, a demolition permit 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 1,800 square foot home, is estimated at around $5,000 ($3,000 for plan review and $2,000 for inspections). If the home is smaller, it would likely be less; if the home is larger, it would likely be more.
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 400 square feet. In this case, the impact fee will be assessed on the additional square footage only.
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.
Building Permit Requirements
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? *added 2/20/18*
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? *added 2/20/18*
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.
Other Permit Requirements (Non-Building)
Is a permit required for partial/ minor fire damaged structures?
For non‐residential structures less than 120 Sq.Ft, fences, and non‐structural wood material, no work plan is required as long as the structures did not contain paint, pesticides, herbicides, propane, or other similar hazardous substances, and so long as the requirements listed in the document below are followed. This exemption does not apply to parcels with asbestos or parcels that the EPA has flagged as potentially not cleared of household hazardous waste (HHW).Click here to view requirements for minor burn debris removal and cleanup. See sonomacountyrecovers.org/debris-removal for more info.
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.
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)? *updated 2/20/18*
Yes. Residential fire sprinkler systems are required as mandated by the 2016 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.
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 2016 California Residential 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.
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.
Can I live in a trailer or RV on my property while rebuilding a home? *updated 2/20/18*
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.