For Business Owners

Business Improvement District Map

Business Licenses

Apply For A Business License

Please do not submit an application if you are a Contractor or Sub Contractor. Instead, contact the Building Department at 707-823-8597.

Business License applications are filed online only. Click on a link below to apply for an appropriate application.

Renew A Business License

Secure, Convenient, & Green

Sebastopol offers online payments for Business license Renewal. You will be directed to a secure, cloud-based, off-site portal where you can log in and use the security code provided on your renewal notice.

Formula Business Ordinance

Overview of Sebastopol’s Formula Business Ordinance

Sebastopol has a ‘formula business’ or chain store ordinance. Before you consider opening a new business, we urge you to investigate whether your business is subject to the special formula business review Use Permit process.
In any case, as part of the Business License process, all applicants for new Business Licenses are required to complete a ‘formula business checklist.’  This helps determine if a Formula Use Permit is required or not. 

What types of businesses are regulated?

With a couple of exceptions, the formula business ordinance does not ban formula businesses. It takes a balanced approach to protect the local economy and unique character of Sebastopol: 

  • Allows for some types of formula businesses in several shopping centers without special approval;
  • Prohibits just a few types of businesses in the Downtown Area;
  • Rrequires a special Formula Business Use Permit review process for most types of formula businesses.

What is a Formula Business?

A formula business is defined as a business with 25 or more establishments in the U.S. This may include substantially similar products, signs, decor, uniforms, and other characteristics.

Three types of formula business are prohibited in Sebastopol’s Downtown only:

  • Formula motels and hotels
  • Formula restaurants
  • Formula offices on the first floor of a structure (allowed on upper floors).

These types of businesses may be allowed in other parts of town, either with a use permit or based on location as outlined below.

The Downtown area is defined in the map below:


The ordinance has a number of exemptions.  For example, offices outside of downtown, tax preparation services, banks and credit unions, and are not subject to the regulations.  

In addition, formula businesses of less than 10,000 square feet are allowed without a Use Permit at any of four existing shopping centers:

Redwood Marketplace; Fiesta; Gravenstein; and Southpoint. 

Additionally, existing formula businesses can remodel or construct small additions without triggering the formula business Use Permit requirement.

Formula Business Use Permit

If a business is defined as a formula business and does not qualify for one of the exemptions, a formula business Use Permit is required. 

This entails filing an application with the Planning Department, including a processing fee, and a discretionary public hearing before the Planning Commission. From filing of a complete application with Planning, and depending on a number of factors, this process may take approximately eight to twelve weeks to obtain a final decision.

Other Regulations

While a particular business may or may not need a formula business Use Permit, other permits may be needed.  For more information, or if you have any questions, please contact the Planning Department at (707) 823-6167.


Sebastopol Polystyrene and Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance

New Ordinance

The City of Sebastopol is enacting a new Ordinance, effective November 25, 2019 written to:

  • Prohibit use and sale of disposable food service ware and other products containing polystyrene foam.
  • Require food providers to use compostable or recyclable disposable food service ware when such products are commercially available.

For questions please call the City of Sebastopol Engineering Department, (707) 823-2151

A copy of the full ordinance is posted on the City website.


The City has a duty to protect the natural environment, our economy, and the health of its citizens. On May 21, 2019, the City passed a Zero Waste Resolution committing to reducing the total pounds of garbage sent to landfill per person per day, currently at 4.6 pounds, by 10% each year.  To help achieve this goal, the City is enacting the polystyrene and disposable food service ware ordinance.  Polystyrene products and non-recyclable, non-compostable disposable food service ware constitute a significant and avoidable source of garbage generated in Sebastopol; furthermore,

  • Products made from expanded polystyrene foam are not biodegradable, returnable or recyclable.
  • There is a prevalence of polystyrene foam debris littering our parks and public places, streets and roads, waterways, storm drains and beaches. When polystyrene debris enters waterways, riparian and marine animals confuse polystyrene foam pieces for food; ingesting polystyrene can lead to death for these animals.
  • Eliminating the use of polystyrene foam and other non-compostable and non-recyclable items will maximize the operating life of our landfills and will lessen the economic and environmental costs of waste management for businesses and citizens of Sonoma County.

Provisions of the Ordinance

Polystyrene Foam

  • All food providers shall not sell, hand out, give away, distribute or otherwise make available for public or customer use prepared food in disposable food service ware that contains polystyrene foam. 
  • No retail vendor or special event promoter shall sell, rent or otherwise provide any disposable food service ware which is composed in whole or in part of polystyrene foam (except as exempted). In addition, no retail vendor shall sell, rent or otherwise provide the following:
    • A-coolers, ice chests, or similar containers unless they are wholly encapsulated or encased within a more durable material so as to be reusable.
    • B-pool or beach toys, not including personal floatation devices such as life jackets.
    • C- packing peanuts or other packaging materials. (Exception: packaging/mailing stores may reuse polystyrene packing peanuts donated by residents)
  • City facilities, and any person renting a city facility, shall not provide prepared food in disposable food service ware that contains polystyrene foam.
  • City departments may not purchase, acquire or use disposable food service ware that contains polystyrene foam.
  • City contractors and lessees may not use disposable food service ware that contains polystyrene foam.

Required compostable or recyclable disposable food service ware

  • All food providers utilizing any disposable food service ware shall use, when such products are commercially available, a compostable product that is accepted at local compost facilities or recyclable product.
  • All food providers shall only provide lids, cutlery, to-go condiment packages, and paper straws upon request of customers.
  • All food providers are encouraged to provide up to $0.25 credit for customers bringing their own reusable containers for to-go items.
  • All food providers are encouraged to charge a ‘take out fee’ of up to $0.10 for any combination of disposable cups, lids, straws, and/or utensils. This fee is intended to offset the potential cost difference of compostable or recyclable food service ware.
  • All City facilities and departments using any disposable food service ware shall use compostable or recyclable disposable food service ware.
  • City contractors and lessees using any disposable food service ware shall use compostable or recyclable disposable food service ware in City facilities while performing under a City contract or lease.


  • The City Manager or his or her designee may exempt a food provider, retail vendor or special event promoter from the requirements of this chapter for a one-year period upon showing that this chapter would create an undue hardship or practical difficulty not generally applicable to other persons in similar circumstances.  Extensions may only be granted for intervals not to exceed one year.
  • Foods prepared or packaged outside the City and sold inside the City are exempt from the provisions of this chapter.  This exemption shall not apply to food providers operating in City facilities, pursuant to City contracts, or as a special event promoter in the City.
  • Notwithstanding the prohibition on retail sales of products containing polystyrene foam, products which pose a small risk of becoming litter or in which polystyrene foam is included for insulating or flotation purposes and is completely encased in more durable material are exempt from the provisions of this chapter.
    • Examples include surfboards, boats, life preservers, construction materials, craft supplies and durable coolers not principally composed of polystyrene.
  • Packaging for meat and fish is exempt from the provisions of this chapter.

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