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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.

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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 CharacteristicPermit Type
Take place on a County roadEncroachment permit
Live amplified musicZoning permit
Charge an admission feeZoning permit
Extend beyond the hours of 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM or last more than one dayZoning permit
Overnight sleeping accommodationsZoning permit
Occur more than once in a 30-day periodZoning permit
Publicized to the public at large through printed advertisements, newspaper, radio, or TVZoning permit
Food or beverages to be soldZoning permit
Temporary structure with both a raised floor and a roofBuilding permit
Filming of movies, television, commercials, etc.Filming permit
Pyrotechnic displays and effects, such as fireworksFire permit
Tent 200 square feet or larger or a canopy 400 square feet or largerFire permit
Amusement buildingsFire permit
Carnival or fairFire permit
Food serviceFood permit
Catering vendor and/or cooking boothFood permit and
Fire permit
Portable toiletsWastewater permit
Occur in a State Park or County Regional ParkState Park or Regional Park
Take place on a highwayCaltrans

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.

Application form:
ENC-004 Application Special Event Encroachment Permit (PDF: 87 kB)

Zoning Permits

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.

Event Characteristics

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.

event ticketA zoning permit is required for events that have any one or more of the following characteristics:

  1. Live amplified music
  2. An admission fee
  3. More than one-day event or a one-day event beyond the hours of 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM
  4. Overnight sleeping accommodations
  5. An event occurring more than once in a 30-day period
  6. Publicized to the public at large through printed advertisements, newspaper, radio or television
  7. Sale of food or beverage

The following do not require a zoning permit:

  1. Events conducted entirely within dedicated rights-of-way where encroachment/special event permits are obtained from the County or State.
    Special Event Encroachment Permit (PDF: 87 kB)
  2. Events entirely within a building for which all necessary County permits have been obtained and which allow the particular use.
  3. Events at fairgrounds or outdoor spectator facilities where a use permit has already been obtained.

More Special Event Zoning Permit Information

Building Permit

A temporary Building Permit application (TEM) shall be obtained for any temporary structure with both a raised floor and a roof. Please visit the Building Plan Check cubicle in the main Permit Center to obtain information regarding required application material, dependent on the proposed use, occupancy, and duration of event.

Sonoma County Economic Development BoardView information about permits needed for filming in unincorporated Sonoma County.

The Sonoma County Film Office, operated by the Economic Development Board, provides assistance and support for crews seeking to film in the County.

Fire Prevention and Hazardous Materials

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.

Sonoma County Department of Health Services, Environmental Health and Safety

The County of Sonoma’s Health Services Department’s Food Safety Program provides permits for events that involve food.

Wastewater Disposal

The On-Site Wastewater Disposal Systems Criteria policy (PDF) determines wastewater flows and the use of portable toilets for special events.

Contact Information

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Special Permits