What to Ask Before Signing a Lease

Choosing a business location in Petaluma involves many factors. Here are five questions to ask as you go through the process–and BEFORE you sign a business lease or purchase agreement.

How and when can the space be used?

Before you seriously consider a space to lease or purchase, it’s important to confirm the types of business activities allowed there.

As a first step, you’ll want to check the location’s zoning designation and see whether your business would be permitted; permitted with a conditional use permit (CUP); or prohibited. You can do that through the Zoning Portal at petaluma.opencounter.com or by contacting the City’s Planning Division, in person or via email at petalumaplanning@ci.petaluma.ca.us.

Planning can also help you identify if there are limitations related to operating hours (which would influence your company’s ability to have a 24-hour operation); or truck traffic (which might affect the ease with which you receive and ship products).

How will your proposed use of the space affect its compliance with local, state and federal building codes?

A space might have the right vibe and the right location, but it won’t be the right location for you if it requires a large investment of time and money to bring it “up to code” for your business needs.

Be sure to spend extra time on due diligence to identify whether a property would be subject to codes related to:

  • Zoning, such as needing a conditional use permit (CUP)
  • Changes in use, e.g., from retail to restaurant
  • Location within a historic district
  • Changes in occupancy (triggers the need for sprinklers)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance

Will Renovations Be Required? What Permits and Fees Will be Triggered?

Renovations take time and money, not just to get designs sketched and construction finished, but also to get plans reviewed, permits pulled and inspections completed.

Some businesses will hire a licensed design or construction professional, such as an architect or a contractor, to help them evaluate potential locations with Petaluma’s permit requirements and design review in mind.

Other ways to scope permit requirements and estimate fees include:

How Does the Space Support Your Wastewater, Emissions and Hazardous Disposal Needs?

Do some research about fees and requirements related to what you put down the drain, in the air or in the hazardous waste bin. Think about how the space might increase your environmental footprint–or minimize it through better workflow on the manufacturing floor or closer proximity to employees and transportation.

If your business involves food and/or beverages, contact the City’s Environmental Services Division to learn about sewer and water requirements.

Is there access to Broadband, Water and Gas/Electric?

A building that hasn’t been updated since the 1950s might pose challenges to a company with 21st century plumbing and gas/electrical needs. Another issue, even in newer buildings, is broadband. Get details from your broker, and then confirm the information with other businesses in the neighborhood as well as city staff. Contact local carriers for more information.