Business Certificates

The City of Poway welcomes your business. A business certificate is required in the City of Poway for any person who transacts, engages in or carries on any business within the city limits.  

Starting a Business in Poway

Any business or individual conducting business in the City of Poway is required to obtain a business certificate. This includes businesses licensed in another jurisdiction conducting business in the City of Poway. For instance, contractors who are based in another city and are performing a contracted job in the City of Poway are also required to obtain a City of Poway business certificate. The issuance of a business certificate does not supersede the zoning or building regulations of the City (e.g., a business certificate for a restaurant does not authorize a new drive-through or tenant improvements). It is highly recommended that you verify compliance with the City zoning and building codes before applying for a business certificate or signing a lease. It is the business owner’s responsibility to ensure the business meets all applicable zoning and building codes before conducting business.   If you are contemplating construction work (tenant improvement) at your business, you may need a building permit. For more information on zoning, building, and signage requirements, see the City of Poway Municipal Code or contact City staff at (858) 668-4659.

Zoning – Prior to signing a lease or contract you should contact the City’s Planning Division to confirm the type of business you plan to operate complies with all zoning regulations of the desired location. Several business types are prohibited in certain zones or subject to certain zoning requirements (e.g., conditional use permits or other restrictions). 

Building Use – Prior to signing a lease or contract you should contact the City’s Building Division to confirm the building where your business is proposed to be located meets all applicable building codes. Building modifications or construction may require a building permit. 

Sign Permit – All business signs must be approved by the City and comply with standards in the Comprehensive Sign Regulations (Poway Municipal Code (PMC) Chapter 17.40). All signs must be approved before installation.  Some signs, such as change of sign face or copy, permanent window signage, and temporary advertising signage, are exempt from sign permit requirements, although a building permit may still be required. A sign permit application must be signed by the property owner, include the size of the proposed sign(s), and show the construction details. Temporary signs must also be approved and permitted by the City Planning Division. Contact the Development Services Department for further information (858) 668-4600.

Home Businesses

For home-based businesses, a Home Occupation Permit is required. The City's municipal code requires that the business must be secondary to the primary use of the home as a resident. Please visit the Home Occupation Permit page for more information.

Application for Business Certificate

To obtain a business certificate for a new business or to renew your certificate, submit a completed application online or fill out a Business Certificate Application (PDF) to file in person or by mail. Upon review of your application, additional information may be required to help the City understand the nature of your business.

New business certificate applications and renewals are now required to prove their compliance with the industrial storm water permit described below.

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Storm Water Industrial Permit (SB 205) Notice

Senate Bill (SB) 205 requires a person or entity conducting a business operation that is subject to the State Industrial General Storm Water Permit (IGP), 2014-0057-DWQ, to demonstrate enrollment when applying for an initial business certificate or business certificate renewal.  

Starting on January 1, 2020, applicable facilities are required to prove their compliance with the industrial stormwater permit when applying for or renewing their business certificate.  For more information regarding the State Industrial General Storm Water Permit (IGP), view our Guidance Handout or visit the website of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration

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Change of Address, Owner, or Business Name

Business certificates are approved for a specific location, owner, business type and business and are not transferable. If any of this information changes, a new application/ certificate is required. 

Location of Business

Contractors and other similar businesses who are based in another city and are performing a contracted job in the City of Poway are also required to obtain a City of Poway business certificate. They must also have a business license from the city in which their business is based.

Processing Time

The normal processing time for a complete application is approximately 10 working days.  Applications are reviewed by Building, Planning, Stormwater/Engineering Divisions and the Fire Department. 

Fire Inspection

Upon issuance of a new Business Certificate, the Poway Fire Department will perform an initial inspection of your business and premises to verify compliance with the California Fire Code. If you have questions, please call the Poway Fire Department Fire Prevention Division at 858-668-4470. 


The total initial application cost  is $147.42. The total biannual renewal cost is $52.42. These costs  are non-refundable and includes a Storm Water Processing Fee (SB-205), and a  State Disability Access and Education Fee (SB-1186).  Credit cards are required for online applications or renewals. When applying in person, cash, checks, and money orders are accepted.

The business certificate fee recovers a portion of the administrative costs of processing the application for the issuance or renewal.   A City of Poway business certificate  protects the public interest, health, welfare, and safety by ensuring that all new and existing businesses in the city are made aware of and conform to all city zoning, fire, and public safety ordinances, rules, and regulations.

City Municipal Code Requirements

The City of Poway’s business certificate requirement is available in the Poway Municipal Code Title 5, Business Licenses and Regulations. For information on permissible businesses, signage, and parking, please reference PMC Chapters 17.10, 17.40, and 17.42 respectively, and review any applicable specific plan regulations ( e.g. Poway Road Specific Plan, South Poway Specific Plan). If you need additional information, please call 858-668-4401.

Additional Information