Business Start-Up & Relocation

Business Start-Up and Relocation Guidelines

1) What are my first steps?
Answer: First, create a business plan, make financial projections, and consult professionals, such as an attorney, accountant and insurance agent to help determine your business structure. There are several options including: Sole-Proprietorship, Partnership, Incorporation (S or C Corporation) and Limited Liability Corporation (LLC).


If you determine that your business will be a Corporation or Partnership, you will need to apply for a Federal Tax ID Number

Contact: Federal Tax ID Number
Federal Building
450 Golden Gate Avenue, 1st Floor, Suite #5403
San Francisco, CA 94102
(800) 829-1040


If you are forming a Corporation, you must file Articles of Incorporation with the California Secretary of State.
Secretary of State
1500 11th Street, 3rd floor
Sacramento, CA. 95814

Corporate Filing & Services Division (916) 357-5488
Limited Partnership Division (916) 653-3365
Trademark Division (916) 653-4984

Of course, consult your attorney and/or accountant regarding the above.
2) What are the Local Requirements for Zoning and Permits?

Answer: Before starting your business, verify that planned use and regulation comply with local zoning regulations and/or apply for a zoning permit for your special circumstance. The following are questions to consider as you look at the zoning regulations for your business:

Are there restrictions on where can I locate my business in Burlingame?
Answer: Yes. Before leasing or buying a building or tenant space, check the City’s website or check with the Planning Department to make sure the proposed use will be allowed on the subject property. Determine what zone you’re in and what’s allowed to be there and what the specific requirements are. The City of Burlingame’s zoning is divided into several commercial and industrial zones. There are also “sub areas” and “overlay” zones which apply to the Burlingame Avenue and Broadway commercial districts. Each area allows a different mix of uses with different requirements. In some cases, some uses will be allowed with an approved “conditional use permit”, which requires Planning Commission review. The Planning Department staff will be able to provide information on the approval process and required submittal documents

Burlingame Planning Department-Zoning
501 Primrose Rd.
Burlingame, CA 94010
Tel: (650) 558-7250

Answer: The Planning Commission must review and approve plans for a new business if it involves a special request such as a “Conditional Use Permit” (certain uses), or a Variance (parking, etc.). Additionally, Planning Commission approval is necessary in cases where design review is required or for special signage requests. The planning staff can review your preliminary plans and give you precise information about the necessary approval process.

Burlingame Planning Department-Zoning
501 Primrose Rd.
Burlingame, CA 94010
Tel: (650) 558-7250

What if I have multiple uses?
Answer: Multiple uses, or varying uses, are becoming more common in Burlingame. They can extend a lively business’s presence on the street after typical closing hours, benefiting the environment of the downtown as well as many other businesses. Examples might include an evening Pilates or spin class at a sports clothing store, a cooking class at a gourmet grocery store. Please keep in mind that these additional uses may create other issues such as exiting or parking requirements. Therefore, it is beneficial to anticipate as much as possible, these types of activities in advance. Start by discussing your multiple uses with city planning staff who can help determine if a conditional use permit will be needed from the Planning Commission.

 Does the number of employees I have make any difference?
Answer: If you have a single use, and meet all of the parking and other planning criteria, then probably not; however, multiple or varying uses as described above might make a difference. If you propose other functions or uses that are not typically allowed in that zone, and therefore require Planning Commission approval, the Planning Commission may review the parking requirements for these various uses. Check with City planning staff to determine.

What triggers design review?

Answer: Buildings in C-1 and C-2 zones are subject to Commercial Design review when:

  • Substantial construction
  • Change to more than 50% of a front façade or of any façade facing a street (public or private) or parking lot.
  • A façade with less than 25 feet of street or parking lot frontage may be exempt from Design Review.
  • Within Sub-area A of the Burlingame Avenue Commercial Area, any change to front façade or a façade facing a public or private street or parking lot.

Contact the Planning Department with questions regarding design review, procedures, and submittal requirements for Planning Commission approvals.

Burlingame Planning Department-Zoning
501 Primrose Rd.
Burlingame, CA 94010
Tel: (650) 558-7250

What is the Sign Ordinance?
Answer: The City of Burlingame regulates the types of signs, and their location, number, and height. All new signs require sign permits; some may also require Planning Commission approval. Requirements vary depending upon which zone the proposed business is located, but control size, location, height, illumination etc., for the sign. Please contact the Planning Department to review your specific sign proposal and apply for a sign permit.

Burlingame Planning Department-Zoning
501 Primrose Rd.
Burlingame, CA 94010
Tel: (650) 558-7250

What are the parking requirements for a new business?
Answer: The City of Burlingame typically requires adequate off-street parking for new, expanded, or intensification of uses. Before leasing or buying a building or tenant space, be sure to review the total parking requirements for the proposed use, and the available parking on site.  Examples of typical parking requirements are:

  • Health services: 1 space for each 250 sf of gross floor area.
  • Retail: 1 space for each 400 sf of gross floor area.
  • Office: 1 space for each 300 sf of gross floor area.
  • Food and beverage establishments: 1 space for each 200 sf of gross floor area.
  • Check with the Planning Department for other uses, or to confirm your requirements.

Burlingame Planning Department-Zoning
501 Primrose Rd. Burlingame, CA 94010
Tel: (650) 558-7250

What information is required for a Planning Commission application submittal?

Answer: Not all projects require Planning Commission review. The specific requirements for Planning Commission applications vary depending upon the type of application. For all projects, the planning staff can assist you with the specific requirements. Most plan sets will include: a site plan showing the building outline and setbacks, property dimensions, streets, sidewalks, landscape features, on-site parking, and tabulations showing square footages and parking requirements, building floor plans showing the proposed layouts and functions of the different areas and building elevations showing the street frontage.

Projects subject to design review will require additional detail as necessary to adequately illustrate the design intent of the proposal, as well as exterior color and material selection. If an application includes a conditional use permit or variance, a separate form must be submitted for that aspect of the review, and includes justification for the findings that the Planning Commission must make. One must not underestimate the importance of making a solid case (especially in the case of a variance), as it may be used as the foundation of any decision by the Planning Commission.

Burlingame Planning Department-Zoning
501 Primrose Rd.
Burlingame, CA 94010
Tel: (650) 558-7250

Do I need a building permit?
Answer: Most renovation or alteration projects require building permits, unless the work is strictly cosmetic such as new carpeting and paint. Any project that involves electrical, mechanical, plumbing, or structural alterations requires a building permit. Also, one should be aware that any remodeling typically triggers (by state law) a certain percentage of Americans with Disabilities (ADA) upgrades if the building doesn’t currently comply. Meeting these requirements could generate the necessity of a building permit as well.

What is required for building permit submittals?
Answer: Like the Planning Commission submittal, the requirements for a building permit will vary with the scope and type of project. The Burlingame Building Department staff will guide and assist an applicant with the requirements and application. One should pay a visit to the building department in person to discuss your project prior to committing major amounts of time and resources to your application. The Building Department staff can point out any potential issues up front and this can help avoid delays in getting your business open. However, the typical submittal will require the basic drawings that were outlined above under Question #8, Planning Commission submittal, along with enough documentation to adequately convey the scope of the electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and structural work to be done. One must also adequately detail other code and life safety requirements such as occupancy loads, exiting, travel path, Title 24 energy requirements etc. While daunting to the untrained individual, these requirements are routine to trained professionals and we recommend hiring the necessary qualified individuals to compile these documents for you.

Burlingame Building Department
501 Primrose Rd.
Burlingame, CA 94010
Tel: (650) 558-7260

What about fire sprinklers?

Answer: Fire sprinkler requirements are becoming more stringent across the state, but are controlled by individual municipalities. Burlingame’s requirements have recently undergone changes; not in how the systems are designed as much as when an installation will be required. At some point, when a certain percentage of a building is being renovated, the fire marshal will require the installation of a fire sprinkler system. Prospective tenants in a building should make themselves aware of these requirements because if their own renovation work reaches a certain percentage of the entire building, the fire marshal can require the entire building to be sprinklered. The tenant should resolve the issue of fire sprinkler requirements with the building owner prior to signing a lease agreement. For detailed information about current requirements, you should contact the Central County Fire Department.

Fire Marshall, Rocque Yballa
1399 Rollins Rd.
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 558-7618

 What other agencies should I be in contact with?
Answer: Prospective restaurant or other food service establishments will likely have additional requirements that include approval by the San Mateo County Health Department. If your project involves work in the public right-of-way (like a driveway cut or sidewalk alteration), a new sewer connection, or a new water line and meter, it will require Public Works/Engineering approvals. These are typically handled as part of the building permit process, but any questions can be directed to the engineering department. If you intend to upgrade the electrical or gas supply to your space, which is a very common need, that work requires coordination with Pacific Gas &Electric (PG&E). We suggest contacting them about your project at the earliest possible stage, as they tend to be very backed up. If your project is along the Burlingame Bay Shore, you may need approvals from the state agency San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC).

San Mateo County Environmental Health Services
455 County Center
Redwood City, CA 94063
Tel: (650) 363-4305
Fax: (650) 363-7882

Burlingame Public Works Department
501 Primrose Rd.
Burlingame, CA 94010
Tel: (650) 558-7260

275 Industrial Road
San Carlos, CA 94070
Tel: (800) 468-4743 (Business Customer)

50 California Street, Suite 2600
San Francisco, CA 94111
Tel: (415) 352-3600
Fax: (415) 352-3606

If I will be selling products, what other permits may be required?
Answer: When involved in selling, you need to get a Seller’s Permit Number or Resale Number from the State Board of Equalization.

State Board of Equalization
455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 10500
San Francisco, CA. 94105
Tel: (415) 557-3000
Fax:  (415) 557-0287

If you are selling food items, contact the Environmental Board of Health. (Permits do not transfer if you take over an existing food business).

Environmental Board of Health
455 County Center, 4th Floor
Redwood City, CA. 94063
(650) 363-4305

When selling any liquor, beer, wine, etc., you must obtain a permit from

Alcoholic Beverage Control Board
Alcoholic Beverage Control Board
185 Berry Street
San Francisco, CA. 94107
(415) 557-3660

 If I am a solicitor, hawker, vendor, or masseuse, what process is required?
Answer: Applicants must first pay an investigation fee of $150 at Burlingame City Hall, complete the Special Business Permit and appropriate supplement. Massage Practitioners and Operators permits must first pay an investigation fee of $250 at City Hall, complete the Special Business Permit and appropriate supplement. In addition, solicitors, hawkers, vendors, and masseuses need a permit from the Police Department.

Burlingame Police Department
1111 Trousdale Drive
Burlingame, CA. 94010
(650) 777-4100

After the permit is approved by the Police Department, a city business license is required.

If I am a taxi cab company, what process is required?
Answer: Drivers must first pay an investigation fee at Burlingame City Hall ($150 for new drivers and $75.00 for renewal). Drivers must also obtain a taxicab permit issued by the Burlingame Police Department. In addition, if applicant is an owner or owner/driver, a city business license must also be obtained and pay a $25 decal fee per taxi. Also required is proof of insurance (naming City of Burlingame), Certificate of Compliance for Brake Adjustment and Certificate of Adjustment for Lamp Adjustment (issued from Bureau of Automotive Repair).

Burlingame Police Department
1111 Trousdale Drive
Burlingame, CA. 94010
(650) 777-4100
3) How do I register my new business?
Answer: First, obtain a business license. A business license is required by the city in which it is conducting business. A home business would require a Home Occupation Permit.

City of Burlingame
Business Licenses
401 Primrose Road
Burlingame, CA 94010
PH: (650) 558-7200

4) How do I register my new business?
Answer: When using a Fictitious Business name or “doing business as” (dba) you need to contact the County of San Mateo to register your business name. California law requires that every person who regularly transacts business for profit under a fictitious name, file and publish a fictitious business name statement. Contact the County Clerk for additional information.

San Mateo County Clerk, Hall of Justice and Records
555 County Center, 1st Floor
Redwood City, CA 94063
(650) 363-4500
5) Where do I publish my new Fictitious Business Name?
Answer: You should publish your new Fictitious Business Name in a court approved newspaper once per week for four weeks. Contact the County Clerk’s office noted above for information on approved newspapers.
6) What other resources may be helpful to me?
Answer: Contact the Burlingame Chamber of Commerce for more information on doing business in Burlingame.

Burlingame Chamber of Commerce
417 California Drive
Burlingame, CA 94010
Tel: (650) 344-1735
Fax: (650) 344-1763