Guide to Starting a Business in Santee

Doing Business in Santee

  • Before purchasing or leasing a business location, confirm that your business will comply with city zoning and land use regulations. 619-258-4100 ext. 152.
  • Consider the business' sign requirements and compare with sign regulations. If required, apply for a sign permit. 619-258-4100 ext. 152.
  • Based on the nature of the business, the site and any proposed construction, determine if a building permit is required. Submit plans for a building permit as required. 619-258-4100 ext.154.
  • Determine a business name and file a Fictitious Business Name Statement with the County of San Diego as applicable.
  • Obtain any special insurance, licenses, or permits for specific business types from the appropriate county or state agency.
  • Obtain a Federal Identification Number and the necessary information to file your state and federal income, state, and employment taxes
  • Obtain a city business license certificate.

Business Licensing

 Apply for a business license on Santee's Permitting & Licensing Portal.

Zoning/Land Use Regulations

619-258-4100 ext.152

Building Code Regulations

619-258-4100 ext.154

Sign Permit Regulations

619-258-4100 ext.152

Fire Department

619-258-4100 ext.184


Steps to Starting a Business


Businesses or individuals conducting business within the City limits or licensed in another jurisdiction but conducting business in Santee, are required to have a business license. Additionally, residential rental properties consisting of four or more units are also required to have a business license.

The issuance of a business license does not supersede any zoning or building regulations of the city. It is highly recommended you verify compliance with City zoning and building codes before applying for a business license. Licensing fees are not refundable. It is the business owner’s responsibility to ensure it meets all applicable zoning and building codes before conducting business. If you are contemplating construction work at your business, you may need a building permit. If your business is found to be in non-compliance with zoning or building codes you may receive a citation and/or your business license may be revoked without a refund.

The City's Economic Development Manager can assist with information on marketing demographics, available commercial sites, tenant / business recruitment, and background information on the Santee community. Please call 619-258-4100 ext. 223 for more information.

1.  Confirm City Zoning and Land Use Regulations

Prior to signing a lease or contract, you should contact the City’s Planning & Building Department to confirm that your proposed business complies with the zoning regulations of the desired location.

2.  Determine Sign Requirements and Apply for a Sign Permit

Most business signs must be approved and permitted by the City. Permanent commercial signs can generally be classified as either wall or freestanding. The City regulates the size and placement of signs. Larger commercial centers have approved comprehensive sign programs that regulate the size, placement, and type of allowable signs.

In general, the allowable area of wall signs is driven by the length of the building frontage. Signs that are located on the roof or extend over the building wall are prohibited. Freestanding signs have defined maximum signage area that is dependent on the type of business and its location. New wall and freestanding sign structures will require a building permit. A one-time building permit and sign permit fee would apply.

Temporary signs are allowed with approval of a temporary sign permit. Temporary signs include banners and attention-getting devices and may be displayed for a maximum of 90 days in a calendar year. There is an annual fee associated with a temporary sign permit.

Permanent window signs which display business name, service or use, hours or operation, address and emergency information and which do not exceed 25% of the window area are exempt from sign permit requirements.  Things to address with the City of Santee planning staff:

  • Does the property have a comprehensive sign program?
  • What type of permanent signs are allowed? New permanent signs require a building permit.
  • What are the limitations on temporary signs? New freestanding signs require a complete site plan. (drawn to a legible engineering scale e.g. 1”=10’ or 1”=20’).

See Chapter 13.32 of the Santee Municipal Code for more information on signage or contact City staff at:

City of Santee, Planning and Building Department
10601 Magnolia Ave, Santee CA 92071
619-258-4100 ext.152

3.  Determine if a Building Permit is Required

Prior to signing a lease or contract, please confirm with the city’s Planning & Building Department (619-258-4100 ext. 154) that your proposed business can occupy the existing suite as it currently exists. For example: restaurants, schools, meeting places have specialized building requirements that must be met prior to opening. Building modifications or construction at your business may require a building permit. Please use the below check-list of items to consider:

  • Is any construction or demolition proposed?
  • Will you add / remove walls or windows?
  • Will you add or remove any plumbing fixtures?
  • Will you add or remove any electrical outlets?
  • Will the use of the suite or building change?
  • Are you adding new equipment?
  • Are you adding/replacing a sign?

Generally, improvements to a commercial office suite require plans that fully describe the work to be done. The plans should be drawn to scale and should include a site plan, floor plan, and additional sheets as required to fully depict the work.  The first review of plans will take approximately two weeks.  The individual departments (building, fire, planning, and engineering) will either approve the plans or provide a list of required corrections.  If corrections are required then the plans will be given back to the applicant. The more accurate and complete the plans, the shorter the review process.

Please contact the Planning & Building Department for more information at:  619-258-4100 ext. 154.

4.  File a Fictitious Business Name Statement with the County of San Diego

The name you choose for your business is very important. If the name you choose is your own legal surname and a one-word description (such as John Smith Roofing) then you are not required to register a fictitious business name. However, if you choose a business name that does not meet these parameters (such as JS Expert Roofing) you must file a Fictitious Business Name Statement with the County of San Diego.  You can file your Fictitious Business Name Statement with the County Recorder at:

San Diego location: 
1600 Pacific Highway, #260
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 237-0502

Santee location
10144 Mission Gorge Road
Santee, CA 92071
(619) 237-0502

For more information, visit the San Diego County Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk website
5.  Obtain any Special Insurance, Licenses or Permits for specific business types from the appropriate agency

Workers’ Compensation Insurance – In California, every employer is required to carry insurance to cover the cost of occupational injuries and illnesses if they have employees (other than the business owner). If you have employees (even if you have only one part-time employee) it is mandatory to have workers’ compensation insurance. For more information on Workers’ Compensation contact an insurance agent or:

State Compensation Insurance Fund
P.O Box 8192
Pleasanton, CA 94588

Special Licenses and Permits – The business activity type chosen determines the licenses and permits needed to operate a business legally. Some of the more typical special permits or licenses include those for being a reseller of goods, selling alcohol, selling food, selling goods by weight or volume, daycare services, construction, real estate services, or working with hazardous materials.

To view a list of more than 200 State regulated Occupations and Professional Services that require a special license or permit, see the State Department of Consumer Affairs website at: www.dca.ca.gov.

Seller’s Permit – Businesses selling tangible personal property in the state of California need to apply for a Seller’s Permit from the: 

CA Department of Tax and Fee Administration
Monday-Friday 8am-5pm
15015 Ave of Science #200

Alcohol Beverage License  – Apply for an Alcoholic Beverage License if your business will sell alcohol by contacting:

State of California - Department of Alcohol Beverage Control 
San Diego District Office
1350 Front St. Rm. 5056
San Diego, CA 92101

Selling goods by weight or volume – Businesses engaged in selling goods by weight or volume must register the devices with the County Agriculture, Weights and Measures Office:

County of San Diego - Agricultural, Weights and Measures Department
9325 Hazard Way Suite 100
San Diego, CA 92123

Public and Environmental Health – Business engaged in selling or handling food products, operating a pool or spa, handling hazardous materials, underground storage tanks, medical wastes, x-ray equipment, or waste handling must obtain a permit with the County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health:

County of San Diego – Department of Environmental Health
5500 Overland Ave
San Diego, CA 92123
Monday-Friday 8am - 4:30pm
Phone: 858-505-6900
Fax: 800-253-9933  

Automobile Repair – use must comply with the City’s Zoning Ordinance and is also regulated by the State of California, Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR - Industry Page): www.bar.ca.gov. The Industry Help Desk is open Monday-Friday, 8 am to 5 pm and can be reached at 800-952-5210.

Barbers, beauticians, estheticians, etc. are regulated by the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology: visit www.barbercosmo.ca.gov or call 1-800-952-5210.

Building Contractors – Contractors in the State of California are licensed and regulated by the Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB) (www.cslb.ca.gov). There are over 40 different types of contractor license categories. Business owners should ensure that their contractor is licensed to the particular type of work to be performed. Note: All contractors working within the City of Santee will require a City business license. Call 1-800-321-2752 to learn more.

7.  Complete a City of Santee Business License Application

All businesses or individuals conducting business within the City limits must have a current business license. This includes: businesses licensed in another jurisdiction but are conducting business in Santee, all residential rental properties of four or more units, and businesses being conducted out of a residence. An application for a business license can be obtained from the City’s Finance Department online.

A City Business License Application is required to be filed for a new business, change of address for an existing business, change of ownership, and a change of business name. The business license application fee is $108, which includes a $4 State fee for disability access (AB-1379). Once a business has a valid Business License, the City will email an annual renewal notice to the business contact. The annual business license renewal fee is currently $42, which includes a $4 State fee for disability access (AB-1379).

Home Occupation Business License – A City business license is required for any business conducted within a residential dwelling by the inhabitants of the dwelling. Home based businesses are regulated by Section 13.06.060 of the Santee Municipal Code. The application fee for a home occupation business is $58, which includes a $4 State fee for disability access (AB-1379). The annual business license renewal fee is currently $42, which includes a $4 State fee for disability access (AB-1379). The following restrictions apply to home based businesses:

  • No persons, other than residents of the dwelling unit, shall be engaged in such activity.
  • Create any conditions that are detrimental to the residential neighborhood such as significantly increased traffic; or
  • Cause increased noise, dust, lighting, odor, smoke, fumes, vibration, electrical, radio or television disturbances or violate any applicable ordinances or laws; or
  • Cause a change in the building code occupancy in the structure where it is located. Examples of uses that do not qualify as home occupation include automotive repair and/or engine rebuilding, upholstering, machine or welding shop or similar uses that are not compatible with residential uses.
  • The activities conducted and equipment, material or hazardous materials used shall be identified on the business license application and shall not change the fire safety or residential occupancy classifications of the premises.
  • No home occupation shall be conducted in an accessory building. Normal use of the garage may be permitted if such use does not obstruct required parking.
  • The use shall not involve storage of materials or supplies in an accessory building or outside any structures.
  • No signs shall be displayed in conjunction with the home occupation.
  • The use shall not involve the use of commercial vehicles for delivery of materials to or from the premises, other than a vehicle not to exceed a capacity of one and one half tons owned by the operator of such home occupation.
  • If an applicant is not the owner of the property where a home occupation is to be conducted, then a signed statement from the owner approving such use of the dwelling must be submitted with the application.

Applications and forms related to the home based business can be found online

Additional Resources

Cottage Food Operation

Allows minor food production and sales at residences. These are regulated by the County of San Diego, Department of Environmental Health, Food and Housing Division (858- 505-6900). These operations do require a Home Occupation business license from the City of Santee, currently $58, which includes a $4 State fee for disability access (AB-1379).  Annual business license renewal is currently $42, which includes a $4 State fee for disability access (AB-1379).

Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKO) -- This San Diego County program requires application. Santee Municipal Code 13.06.060 regulates home occupations.

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City of Santee
10601 Magnolia Ave.
Santee, CA 92071

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