In response to community concerns about noise the San Rafael and Novato City Councils have established a Quiet Zone effective immediately. The train horn will not blow at railroad crossings.

Make it happen

Start by researching your business idea with San Rafael data.  Create a space and place that is right for you.

1. Develop a Plan

To help you clarify your goals and create some action steps, develop a solid business plan.  One that identifies potential issues, estimates costs, and provides concrete action items and milestones for your business.

Check out these resources to get you started

2. Research Zoning Requirements

If your business requires a commercial location,  contact our Planning Department before you sign a lease. You'll need to know the zoning regulations for the building or location you're considering so you don't get stuck with a space that you can't use.

The planner will discuss these five key questions with you:

1. Is your type of business allowed at the address where you want to locate?

2. Will your business prompt any parking requirements?

3. Will your business require a use permit?

4. What is the process for getting any other required permits?

5. Do I need a sign permit?

3. Take these steps to make it legal.

Name your business

If you're not doing business under your name you'll need to file a Fictitious Business Name through the County of Marin.

Register your business

If you choose a partnership, corporation, or limited liability company (LLC) as your business structure you must register or incorporate with the CA Secretary of State.

Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) through the Internal Revenue Service.

Before hiring your first employee, you must obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN). This number is used for reporting taxes and other documents to the IRS, as well as for reporting information about your employees to state agencies.

The EIN is also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, Employer Tax ID or Form SS-4.

You may want to consult with an attorney on any other legal considerations for your new business.

Business License (Tax Certificate)

If you plan to conduct business within San Rafael city limits or your business is based in San Rafael, you must obtain a business license. When you register for a business license (also known as a Business Tax Certificate) you'll automatically pay your business tax. Remember though to renew your Business Tax Certificate each year.

4. Talk with us about your project

If you anticipate construction, even if minor, or a change in use from the previous occupancy at your location, it's important to understand the permit requirements and potential cost. After meeting with your architect or contractor to review your plans, contact our Building Division to discuss your project. Once we provide comments on the plans, you'll revise them and resubmit them to us. If there is a change in use at the proposed site, the Fire Department may also need to review the plans.

Make sure you discuss with a design professional the requirement regarding the  California Building Code, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and the Fire Code. Depending on the nature of your project you may need approval from the Design Review Commission and/or the Planning Commission. 

5. If you're starting a restaurant, take these additional steps

You'll need to take a few extra steps to get your restaurant ready in order to provide a safe and sanitary dining experience for your customers. Check out our Restaurants page to get more information on the steps listed below.

1. Make sure you comply with Marin County's health permit process

2. Submit construction plans to the County first and then to the City

3. Find out the water rates for your proposed location

 4. Find out the status of the Grease Collection System

 5. If you're selling alcohol, get a liquor license.

6. Apply for a Seller’s Permit

6. Taxes and Regulations

You'll  need to register with the state and federal government and comply with all regulations related to corporate, payroll, income and sales taxes. Contact the state Franchise Tax Board and the federal Internal Revenue Service for their requirements. If you sell a product, the California Board of Equalization will help you determine whether you need a Seller’s Permit.

7. Reach out for some help

We know that starting a business is overwhelming. Check out these organizations that can assist you with training, networking and other resources to help get you on your way to starting and managing a successful business.

For general questions, contact our Economic Development Department 

For training and advice contact the Small Business Development Center 

For marketing, networking and advocacy contact the local chambers of commerce including:

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