WatchSonoma Watch

County grants extension to get building permits


Homeowners and nonprofits with unpermitted construction in unincorporated areas of Sonoma County have another six months to apply for permits without risk of penalties after a vote this week by the Board of Supervisors.

The board voted Tuesday to extend a six-month-old program that waives fees penalties for owners who report illegal construction and then get it approved through the county’s planning process.

The program does not apply to commercial structures.

County planning officials said they extended the deadline to give property owners more time to come forward, go through inspections and get permits. About 14 projects are now engaged in that process and officials said they hope more will come forward and make it through before the program’s new sunset date, now in July.

“I think it’s in everyone’s interest that these projects get inspected and that they’re ensured to be safe,” said Pete Parkinson, head of the county’s Permit and Resource Management Department.

Parkinson said his staff would be putting more effort into advertising the program among homeowners and small-scale builders, who are behind much of the unpermitted construction.

Since the program’s inception in August, the planning department has issued permits for 11 previously unpermitted projects. Many of those were small additions or improvements. County officials said the next batch could include larger remodels and outbuilding construction, which generally require more time to complete design paperwork.

Penalties waived over the last six months as part of the program amount to about $240,000. Officials said that was not lost revenue because the projects likely never would have been found had the owners not come forward.

The county has also continued to collect fees on illegal construction discovered through complaints and investigations. The county typically receives about 1,000 tips on illegal construction annually.

Penalties collected on those projects generally amount to about $350,000 to $400,000 over a six-month period, said Ben Neuman, the county code enforcement division manager who oversees the penalty-relief program.

“We did not see any variation in that (total) in the last six months,” Neuman said.


Sonoma County Code Enforcement Penalty Relief Program

How to contact the Permit and Resource Management Department:



12 Responses to “County grants extension to get building permits”

  1. When property and small business owners share their code enforcement stories,it’s unbelievable.The Santa Rosa Neighborhood Coalition has held such meetings.We shake our heads in disbelief until it’s late and we run out of time.Poll the citizens,ask if they feel like ‘code enforcement’is in thier corner.Code enforcement has cost me hundreds of thousands!Last project was a small school/community center.Did’nt pull a permit to paint,replace bad windows and doors.It had been a private school for decades.The zoning had been changed to residential.This life changing abuse went on for almost 4 yrs.!Wife had a nervous breakdown.Had to sell a great vacation rental,a nice business.In the end the school was reduced to such a low use,it won’t pencil.Guess they wanted to teach me a lesson.Now I have a new ‘project’,I want to be the most vocal property rights activiist I can be.

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  2. Sleepless on Stony Point says:

    Bear bear bear…

    While the basic theory behind obtaining building inspections is to ensure that everything is done up to code, it’s no guarantee- No more than assuming that everything done without inspections is \shoddy\ and about to kill someone’s children.

    I did my \illegal\ remodeling all up to code, had the plans engineered (yes, there’s a \wet stamp\), and was turned in by my neighbors. Nothing happened.

    There’s a guy down the street that bought an unbuildable lot, put a driveway culvert in with the blessing of the county, and turned the property into a junkyard. We’ve been complaining to the county for 7 or 8 years now. Nothing. Just a letter here and there.

    There are junkyards popping up on unbuildable lots all over out here. People living in trailers, garages, and chicken coops. No running water, no septic. The county does nothing.

    Why an amnesty program for people to turn themselves in? Why not go after the REAL problems and clean it up? Ridiculous…

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  3. bear says:

    Whiners! The service is FREE to criminals who may have already done shoddy construction and are at risk of serious consequences if their house blows up or NEIGHBORS object to their lawbreaking. And if they ever try to sell the house without a permit history, good luck.

    You might be killing your own family or the family of those who buy the house. The finance and insurance companies KNOW this!

    Building codes are there for the protection of all, NOT the profit of a few irresponsible losers. If your house is not up to code, you have serious issues.

    They’re giving you a free pass – why not take it? The only risk is that the work done is so horrible that it will cost a ton to fix it. But you could always sell your problem to someone else.

    Maybe only their kids will die?

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  4. Dogs Rule says:

    Build whatever you want around me because I would never turn anyone in. The government is way too big, totally out of control and void of all common sense. Every crack pot, expensive, time wasting thing they do is about “safety.”

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  5. To Working Man:well taken.Did you look at that stuff yet?

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  6. truth in news says:

    Evidently the sonoma county building department is trying to make work with this action. With Sonoma County coffers so deep in the red, here is an idea to save a bit of money. Close down the County building department and hire a private company to do plan checks and inspections. There are LOTS of out of work engineers and builders who would be happy for the work. Heck, I’ll bet they would be happy to show up on time rather than between this time and that!

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  7. Working Man says:

    @ James B.

    Actually low-quality work,(electrical in particular)more often then not,CANNOT be discovered.My home inspection did nothing to determine that the previous owner of my home poured an improper concrete slab in my den,or that he had miswired my kitchen(both very costly situations to address when we finally had the money to remodel.

    As a limited gov’t kinda guy,I empathize with the desire to resist “sustainability” efforts(for instance).But I do believe inspections are necessary,as a matter of ethics and consumer protection.

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  8. Chris says:

    We do need cops and fireman, just not at 100k+ a year.
    Too bad reality left california about 25 years ago.

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  9. Working Man says:

    @ Bill

    As a contractor,who has seen shoddy(even dangerous)unlicensed electrical work,I think inspections matter.However,building permits and the cost of compliance are only getting higher,and new State EPA lead-abatement requirements are particularly onerous.

    We need code enforcement,but without being fleeced.

    Let’s incentivize compliance by making it affordable.

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  10. We pay a ‘public servant’ to scrutinize improvements to OUR property(and charge us every step of the way). They create an environment where neighbors can ‘turn each other in’. Reminds me of Gestapos. If a property owner does low quality work on THEIR home, it will come up in a good home inspection when they sell. Property Rights are one of the corner stones of our Civil Rights. Very important stuff, our forefathers knew it. The restrictions, the constant attacks on our freedoms, almost like some kind of agenda against us. If you sense it, your not paranoid. It has big plans for you. It was not taken to a public vote. It is the biggest secret of our time. Our leaders literally signed us up for it! It is changing everything. IT…is AGENDA 21. It should be the subject of our study and resistance.
    Google :DemocratsagainstUNAgenda21,
    FreedomAdvocates, Senate Bill1619.
    It isn’t right(s).

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  11. The Hammer says:

    Government is way too big. It seems like government spends a lot of time figuring ways to get into the taxpayers pockets. Time to downsize.

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  12. bill says:

    Let’s see. The county wants to extract money from its citizens. But the county is bankrupt. So time to extort. Do we need so many cops and firemen? Who are we really safe from?

    Do we really need these code enforcements?

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