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Design Review for Historic Resources

When is a Landmarks Commission Design Review Required?

The level of Landmarks Commission Design Review varies based on whether the project involves a ministerial permit only or a project that includes a discretionary permit; and includes the activities below that may affect historic or potentially historic resources:

  1. Repair, alter, add to the exterior, or relocate an existing structure
  2. Construct a new structure
  3. Demolish an existing structure

Ministerial Permits

If property is a designated County Landmark or has Historic District (HD) Zoning, Landmarks Commission Design Review is required and the Landmarks Commission (or Landmarks Commission staff) is the decision making body. Examples of ministerial permits include building permits and demolition permits. Design Review approval must be obtained before the building permit can be issued.

Discretionary Permits

If property is a designated County Landmark, has Historic District (HD) Zoning, is in the Historic Resource Inventory indicating that it is potentially eligible for historic designation, or there is other evidence that it could be eligible for historic designation, then a referral to Landmarks Commission staff by the Project Review Planner is required.

The referral is to determine:

  1. if a Historic Resource Survey or Evaluation is required; and
  2. if the project requires review and recommendation at a Landmarks Commission meeting

For discretionary permits (e.g. Use Permits), the Landmarks Commission acts in an advisory role to the decision making body authorized to approve the discretionary permit – such as the Board of Zoning Adjustments. For discretionary projects that are referred to the Landmarks Commission for recommendation, no additional application or fee to the Landmarks Commission is required because such discretionary projects are typically processed on an “At-Cost” which recovers all of the Permit Sonoma staff’s time associated with the project review.

Conceptual Review (feedback only)

When Landmarks Commission Design Review is required, applicants are encouraged to meet with the Landmarks Commission staff for early input on proposed alterations prior to submitting the formal Design Review application. For more complex projects or major alterations, applicants are encouraged to get early input from the Landmarks Commission as a “Concept Design Review” item. In this case, a fee of approximately $165.00 (FY 2016-2017) is charged for file set-up, and the minimum submittal requirements are:

  1. Cover letter with project description
  2. Current site photos
  3. Any existing historical records or photos beyond what Permit Sonoma may have
  4. Existing & proposed site plan
  5. Conceptual elevations
  6. Proposed materials & colors
  7. Planning Application PJR-001 (PDF: 78 kB)

For Conceptual Review, staff analysis is limited to a cover page referencing relevant criteria. Comments given at Conceptual Review are non-binding and do not constitute an approval.

Application Materials & Fees

The required application materials for Landmarks Commission Design Review approval are:

Application fees are based on the current fiscal year Project Review Fee Schedule. As an example, below are the FY 2016-2017 fees based on the level of Design Review:

Design Review LevelFee Amount*Fee ID Number
Landmarks Commission staff approval for minor alteration$206.001039, 1052, 0140
Landmarks Commission approval
<= 1,000 square feet
$762.001048, 1052, 0140
Landmarks Commission approval
> 1,000 square feet
$1,659.001049, 1052, 0140
Landmarks Commission approval & CEQA review$3,126.00 Deposit
At-Cost Agreement requiring payment for staff time billed $149.00/hour prior to hearing
1041, 0140

*Fee Amounts are estimated totals of the fees listed in the Fee ID Number column. Fees shown assume project is exempt from environmental review. If environmental review is required, additional fees and costs apply.

Process (for approvals)

  1. Landmarks Commission staff level approvals.  There are two types of projects that staff can review and approve:
    1. Replacement in kind. Building permit clearance for projects consisting of “replacement in kind” using the same materials and colors in the same location. Foundation repairs, re-siding, re-roofing, replacement/repair of windows using the historical window type are examples of projects that Landmarks Commission staff can approve with no additional plans or applications beyond the building permit submittal. An Administrative Design Review application is required for documentation purposes.
    2. Minor alterations in a Historic District with guidelines.  Staff can also approve minor alterations when in conformance with HD Guidelines and the submittal of an application for Landmarks Commission Design Review. If there is any question on whether the alteration is “minor”, staff will schedule the item as a “Consent” item for the next Landmarks Commission meeting. If the LC determines the item should be brought back on the regular calendar, an additional processing fee will be charged for Commission approval.
  2. Landmarks Commission approvals.  If the project scope of work exceeds what can be approved at the staff level, the project applicant files a Landmarks Commission Design Review application and required supporting materials at Permit Sonoma along with applicable processing fees. The deadline for submitting for the monthly meetings is 3 weeks prior to the meeting date. If the project is not exempt from CEQA, a Landmarks Commission Design Review application is filed along with an initial deposit of the current Fiscal Year fee (example: $3,126.00 for FY 2016-2017) and an “At-Cost” reimbursement agreement (example: fees are billed at $149.00/hr for FY 2016-2017 after the initial deposit is used). The need to prepare and allow for public review of the environmental document will result in additional processing time – typically 6 to 8 weeks. In the case of a demolition of an historic structure, the demolition permit may be suspended for up to 6 months in order to evaluate alternatives to demolition, but may not be denied by the Landmarks Commission. The Landmarks Commission reviews the design of the proposed project at a meeting and may approve, approve with conditions or deny the project.

Standards and Criteria

The Landmarks Commission has adopted guidelines related to the alteration, relocation or demolition of existing designated (local, state or federal) historic structures, and for the construction of new structures on properties with Historic District (HD) zoning or on the same property as designated historic structures. The following guidelines should be reviewed by property owners prior to submitting a Design Review application for historic resources.


Decisions of the Landmarks Commission may be appealed within 10 calendar days of the decision to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. An appeal must be made on PJR-021 Planning Commission/Board of Zoning Adjustments Appeal Form (PDF: 70 kB) with the most current appeal fee (example: $1,164.00 for FY 2016-2017).

Contact Information

Contact us by Phone
2550 Ventura Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
38.465074, -122.723705

Landmarks Commission

Designates historic landmarks, reviews historic property development proposals, and administers the Historic Preservation Program.

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