• Building & Fire Code Updates in effect January 1, 2020

Updates Coming to Sonoma County Building & Fire Codes

Published:  December 10, 2019

construction workers at job siteThe new building and fire codes will go into effect on January 1, 2020. Permit applications received before December 31, 2019 will not need to meet the new codes, and will instead be reviewed and permitted according to the existing 2016 codes.

State Man­dated Code Change

The International Code Council (ICC) revises and publishes model building codes on a three year cycle. The California Building Standards Code was published on July 1, 2019, and local jurisdictions are obligated to implement the State codes, as adopted by the State within 180 days after State publication. These state-mandated codes govern the design and construction of structures and the maintenance of life safety systems within structures for fire prevention. Local jurisdictions can make local amendments that are equal to or more stringent, but local jurisdictions cannot relax the State codes. The State codes go into effect January 1, 2020.

Sonoma County Adoption of Codes

On November 12, 2019 and November 18, 2019, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) held public workshops/hearings to consider the proposed changes to the state model code updates for building and fire safety. The proposed local ordinances were approved for final adoption by the BOS on December 2, 2019.

Significant Local Code Changes

In each code cycle we see many changes from the state based on what has been learned in the previous three years. The changes run the gambit of minor to significant changes. In this code cycle the most significant change is within the California Energy Code and is the requirement for all new residential structures to have photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. Local amendments to the current code include:

  • Changes relative to specific administrative provisions such as the time limit of building applications and permits, projects that are exempt from needing a building permit, appeals, definitions, and to ensure the building codes are consistent with the fire code.
  • Extension of a long standing exemption to fire sprinklers in accessory and U occupancies 3,000 square feet and less to allow for greater water supplies and cost savings to property and business owners.
  • Clarification of the existing language regarding the use of easements within water scarce areas. This proposal does not create a new regulation nor relaxes existing regulations. This is a state definition.
  • Changes to the definition of ”substantial Improvement” – the county ordinance of residential and commercial fire sprinklers applies when the substantial improvement is over 75%.
  • Fire Safe Standards have been updated by Board of Forestry. The purpose to the changes was to bring the previous version up to model language.
  • Fireworks was amended from previous 2016 to include the ability for the Fire Marshal / Fire Warden to not allow for pyrotechnic displays in a fire district jurisdiction when the County Fire Marshal / Fire Warden believes that the display will propose a threat to life and property based on weather and topographical conditions or when located in the State Responsibility Area.

Effective Date for Codes

The new building and fire codes will go into effect on January 1, 2020. Permit applications received before December 31, 2019 will not need to meet the new codes, and will instead be reviewed and permitted according to the existing 2016 codes.