Landscape Design Templates FAQ


This page will be updated as we receive feedback and learn more about how the plans are being used.
Last updated September 10, 2018.

Are these plans permit ready for my site?

These front yard Landscape Design Templates are designed to be permit ready with your site specific modifications and user selectable options. However, there are some criteria that must be met in order for the plans to be applicable to your site:

  • The total front yard irrigated landscape area must be less than or equal to 2,500 square feet (SF), excluding hardscaping such as driveways, walkways and other non-irrigated areas.*
  • The slope of the landscape area must not exceed 8%.

Each plan has been carefully designed to meet local Water Efficient Landscape Ordinances in the City of Santa Rosa for sites rebuilding from the October fires and in the County of Sonoma. The plans may meet the requirements of other jurisdictions as well, but have not yet been verified. Consult directly with your local building officials for guidance.

*For sites with more than 2,500 SF of irrigated area, contact the permitting agency for guidance on applicability and any additional plan requirements.

How do can I get a hard copy of the plan that I want to use?

The templates are designed to be printed in a large format that is required for permit review. The print size of each page will be 24” x 36” which is the standard size for architectural blueprints. Full color printing is recommended for easier reading. Download the template you would like to use and save it on a thumb drive to take the file to a print shop to have the template printed. You may also be able to upload the files to the print shop to be printed for pick up if that service is available. A list of print shops familiar with the templates can be found here.

Will any of these plans fit my site?

The Landscape Design Templates were developed to fit common lot sizes and shapes, but adjustments will need to be made to fit your specific front yard landscape area and marked onto the printed plan. Materials and optional features will also need to be selected and indicated on your plan.

Each plan is broken up into eight sections. Within sections L-1 and L-2, follow the “Applicant Instructions”. In each of the remaining sections, indicate which features, materials and construction details will be used in building your landscape.

L-0.0 – Permit Cover Sheet
L-1.0 – Landscape Design and Planting Plan
L-2.0 – Irrigation Design Plan and Details
L-3.0 – Paving Details (Standard and Optional features)
L-3.1 – Low Impact Development (LID) Details (Optional features)
L-3.2 – Planting Details
GW-1.0 – Graywater/Laundry to Landscape Details (Optional features)
RW-1.0 – Rainwater Harvesting Details (Optional features)

I have already started the planning/building process. Is there anything I need do now?

Certain details will need to be coordinated with the architect and/or builder in advance of construction of the home and hardscape in order to avoid counter productive work:

  • Sleeving under driveways, sidewalks and walkways for irrigation water supply lines
  • Optional alternative driveway materials and design features
  • Location of water supply line for irrigation valves
  • Location of irrigation controller with electrical outlet
  • Optional graywater stub outs
  • Rain gutter drainage direction and down spout locations for disconnected downspouts and optional rainwater harvesting
  • Site grading for rain gardens and basins/swales

How much do these landscapes cost?

Cost options have been prepared to provide a ballpark idea of the cost to install the landscapes as designed in the templates. Visit the Cost Opinion page for details.

How can I reduce the cost of installing my landscape?


Plant fewer plants initially, filling in the rest over time as your budget allows. Prioritize plantings by installing trees and shrubs first, as they have longer lifespans and take longer to mature. Group plants in odd numbers for the best aesthetic appearance. Note: The City of Santa Rosa requires a minimum of one tree for every 200 SF of landscaped area and trees must be watered on a separate irrigation valve.

Use smaller plants than specified – 4-inch plants are significantly cheaper than 1-gallon plants. 2-inch plugs can also be used for grasses. The initial planting may look sparse, but they plants will fill in as they mature.

Hardscape and Pathways

Consider alternative hardscape and pathway materials that may be less expensive, more aesthetically appealing and better for the environment than concrete. See plan sheet L-3.0 in the template for optional pavement methods. Mulched areas can be converted to hardscape at a later date.

Some features, like driveways and landing pads, and tasks like site grading and soil preparation may already be budgeted or included in the cost of building your home and can be excluded from the landscaping costs. Coordinate with the architect and/or builder to include any design or material preferences.

Install mulch or gravel pathways in lieu of more expensive concrete, especially for paths that are less frequently used. The pathways can be redone with hardscape materials in the future if desired. Note: The City of Santa Rosa limits gravel areas to 15% of the landscape area.

Hiring Professionals and DIY

Break up the project and use a mix of professional and do-it-yourself (DIY) labor. Hire out hard to do tasks (needs specialized equipment, tools, or skills to perform) such as soil preparation and grading, irrigation system installation and hardscaping. Perform easier tasks like applying mulch and planting the plants yourself.

Parkway Strips

Defer the installation of the parkway strip (the area between the sidewalk and the street curb).  Due to ongoing construction and removal of existing fire damaged trees, the City of Santa Rosa will allow the deferral of the installation of landscaping in the parkway strip. Install irrigation sleeve and irrigation stub out now to reduce cost and disturbance to the main landscape when the parkway strip landscaping is ready for installation.

Existing Landscape Elements

If there are any existing features incorporate them into the plan such as driveways, walkways and trees. Typically, it is more cost effective to abandon or remove existing irrigation systems as they may be outdated, inefficient or damaged or leaking.

Can I change the plants in the plan if I don’t like them or if they are not available at the nursery?

Yes, there are plant substitution lists to choose alternate plants. When making plant substitutions, be sure to choose plants with the same water needs, similar sun exposure and similar size (height and spread) as the ones being replaced. Indicate these changes on the planting plan (L-1) for initial permit review or during final inspection.

Where can I find someone to help modify my plan and install my landscape?

A good plan makes a great landscape. If modifying the landscape design template to fit your site sounds complicated, consider hiring a landscape professional to assist you with the modifications. A small investment in help on the template will make big returns with successful installation. While we are not able to provide recommendations or referrals, the following resources are available:

American Society of Landscape Architects

California Landscape Contractors Association

Association of Professional Landscape Designers

California Law stipulates that work performed for $500.00 or more for labor and materials must be accomplished by a licensed contractor. Be sure to verify licenses with the Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board.

If hiring a landscape architect, licensure can be verified through the Department of Consumer Affairs Landscape Architects Technical Committee.

Trained Landscape Template Advisors – PDF file (94KB) Updated July 9, 2019

Where do I buy the plants and materials I need to build the landscape?

We’ve reached out to local supplies to help finding the materials you need a little easier. Below are local businesses who have responded to our request seeking the plants, materials, and equipment needed to build and install the designs in the Landscape Design Templates. While this list is not all inclusive or a recommendation/endorsement, it is a starting point to get you on your way.

Landscape Material Supplier List  – PDF file (85KB)

Trained Landscape Template Suppliers – PDF file (66KB)

Where can I find information about fire safety and Wildland Urban Interface requirements?

Fire Safe Sonoma website and their Living with Fire in Sonoma County guide book (PDF)

City of Santa Rosa Wildland Urban Interface information

County of Sonoma Wildland Urban Interface information

UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County Firewise Landscaping

There are so many abbreviations the plans. What do they mean?

O.C. – on center
SF – square feet
Sq Ft – square feet
FT – feet
LF – linear feet
“ – inch/inches
‘ – foot/feet
G – gallon
Min – minimum
NTS – not to scale
Typ. – typical

Still have questions?

Sonoma County Recovers – Official rebuild/permit information from the City of Santa Rosa and County of Sonoma

Contact the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership here or call (707) 547-1918.