Aquaponic Gardening

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Hi everyone. I read somewhere that Sacramento had changed their permit requirments for small greenhouses. My county does not require a permit for a shade structure but does not include a greenhouse in this permit exemption. Can someone help me find the verbage so that I can submit to our Board of Supervisors a change in our ordinance/ Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

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Hi Ken,

Maybe the city of Sacramento could help you with that. If you send an e-mail to the address below, they will be happy to supply you with the the actual permit requirements and might be able to advise you re: how to approach your county.  It sometimes takes a few days for them to get back to you but they have always responded to my questions in a fairly timely manner.



Thanks Kathie. I'll send them an email. 

I have sent the email and will keep everyone informed of the progress in case you are interested.


The City of Sacramento Community Development Department appreciates receiving your email. This email is an automatic response acknowledging receipt of your message and is currently being processed. We will work hard to respond to your inquiry within two business days of receiving it. In some cases, your e-mail may be referred to a specific division or section for further investigation. Thank you again for contacting us, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Community Development Department 

My response from ezpermit address in March was that greenhouses do NOT require a building permit, as specified in the State building code.  Electrical in a GH, however, would require a permit.  Also, I had a conversation with three City Planning staff Monday in which they said that "City generally supports allowing built structures for urban agriculture....'accessory structures' are currently regulated in the Planning and Development Code.  Existing code requires Site Plan and Design Review if structure requires a building permit, and is visible from street."  I asked them about 120 square foot maximum for accessory structures not requiring a building permit.  That used to be specified in City code and now is not, but the 120 sf limit still applies, they said, because that's in the State building code as well.  We did not delve into whether greenhouses are considered "accessory structures" or not.  Before the March email, I figured they were, and staff may indeed consider them to be, I don't know.  Additional conversation with one of the Planning staff scheduled for today at 4:30 with more anticipated.  Will keep you posted, and I hope anyone else with any contact or experiences in this will do so as well, as you have, Ken.

Excellent. Urban Agriculture or Self Sufficiency are a good way to present this in my opinion. Do you have the State building code verbage?

Also, do you have the response from EZPermit?

I don't have the State building code verbage - have not figured out how to delve into that (and would appreciate tips from anyone familiar with doing so).  Here's the March email thread from EZPermit:

EZPermit <>

Mar 10
to me

A Greenhouse does not require a permit. No matter how large it is. If there is any electrical installed in the greenhouse then a permit would be required for that only.

An Accessory Structure over 120 sqft would require a permit.


EZ Permit


From: Planning 
Sent: Friday, March 07, 2014 1:23 PM
To: EZPermit
Subject: FW: building department: accessory structure size?




Thank you,


Pamela Morgan

Associate Planner


From: 311 Call Center 
Sent: Friday, March 07, 2014 1:05 PM
To: Planning
Subject: FW: building department: accessory structure size?




From: Paul Trudeau [
Sent: Thursday, March 06, 2014 3:40 PM
To: 311 Call Center
Subject: building department: accessory structure size?



Can you tell me the maximum size an accessory structure such as a shed or greenhouse can be on a residential parcel without needing a building permit?  I seem to recall that before the 2013 planning code revision, the cutoff was 120 square feet.  But now I cannot find reference to any such cutoff in city code.  

Thanks very much.

Paul Trudeau

Ken McCown said:

Also, do you have the response from EZPermit?

Interesting. In the first response they differentiated between a greenhouse and an accessory structure. This is similar to a shade structure being specifically named in the building code as not needing a permit.


The State Building code references the 120 sq ft rule. R105.2

Ken, thanks for the building code reference.

Interesting phone call with City of Sac Planning just now.  I am part of a group promoting revisions to City code to facilitate Urban Agriculture in general, an umbrella that covers aquaponics.  Planning want to know more about aquaponics in order to make informed decisions about proposed code changes.  We didn't touch on whether they currently view GH's as accessory structures or not, but I did confirm their statement "Existing code requires Site Plan and Design Review if structure requires a building permit, and is visible from street."  That is, if your proposed structure does not require a building permit, then it does not require Site Plan and Design Review, regardless of visibility from the street.  That's a bit of a loophole - technically someone could put up a row of crappy-looking sheds, each under 120 sf, all within view of the street, and there would be no Site Plan and Design Review to catch that.  So, aquaponics folks, you can avoid some of the bureaucracy by keeping your GH(s) under 120 sf each, but please don't put up some garbage that will give us a bad name with the neighbors and potentially the City.

More hurdles. The definitions section of the California Building Code

(8) Greenhouse. An accessory structure constructed mainly of translucent or transparent materials used for the cultivation of plants.

Excellent Ken.  Nice to have someone familiar with navigating the building code chiming in here.


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