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 even look at a space, it’s important to confirm what types of activities are allowed on the property, and during what times of the day.

Every building and plot of land in Petaluma is assigned a five zoning designations, such as residential, mixed use, commercial, industrial or agricultural.

Within those designations, different types of activities are considered permitted; permitted with a Conditional Use Permit and approval; or not permitted.

There are other limitations related to operating hours (which would influence your company’s ability to have a 24-hour operation), truck traffic (which might affect the ease with which you receive and ship products), hazardous materials storage, and fire and building codes.

Companies who store products on racks or cater to more than 50 guests may also trigger additional requirements for fire safety.

To be sure which requirements apply to you, contact our Planning Department by Email or via phone at (707-778-4470). To find out if your business will also need to meet additional Fire codes, contact Fire Prevention at 707-778-4389.

You can also try our online permit tool Open Counter to identify and estimate your permit requirements and costs.


Is there access to broadband, water and gas/electric?

There’s no question that Petaluma’s older buildings are charming. But 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. Contact local carriers for rates and coverage options, and then confirm that information with other businesses in the neighborhood as well as city staff. Also check out our tip sheet 5 Telecom Mistakes to Avoid.


Does the space support your wastewater, emissions, and hazardous waste disposal needs?

Do some research about fees 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.


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.

If you’re not experienced builder or engineer, invest in a consultant to ensure that any space you’re seriously considering will meet today’s earthquake codes, green building requirements, American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance issues, maximum occupancy regulations and other building codes.


Will renovations be required? If so, 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 by Petaluma city staff. Some companies hire consultants, in addition to contracting with a real estate broker, so that potential locations can be evaluated with Petaluma’s building codes and design review process in mind.

Petaluma’s interactive, online permit tool – Open Counter – can help get you started.