Starting a Business in Alameda

1. Overview

If you're starting a business in Alameda, welcome to our community!

This section provides information to help you get started. Click through the steps above for a complete guide to starting a business in Alameda, or jump directly to the information you need.

This information is also included in our Starting Your Business Checklist - please click to download in English(PDF, 319KB), Spanish(PDF, 895KB) or Chinese(PDF, 1MB).


2. Create a Business Plan

Your Business Plan is a road map to success, and a key marketing tool for potential lenders and investors. We have partnered with the Alameda County Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and East Bay SCORE to assist new businesses with basic business planning.

The SBDC and East Bay SCORE have the tools and expertise to help you consider the viability of your idea, including general startup consultations.

For more information, please contact Economic Development staff at 510-747-6890, or sign up for a consultation by contacting SBDC at (510) 885-4801, or East Bay SCORE at (510)-273-6611.



3. Finance Your Business

Once you’ve developed your Business Plan, you must determine how much money you will need to start and run your business – and how you will get it.

 We recommend you reach out to the Alameda County Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at (510) 885-4801 to help you identify the right financial plan for your business. SBDC provides business financial planning and a wide range of information about financing sources.

 If you are starting a restaurant or retail business, keep in mind that the City of Alameda’s Façade Grant Program offers grants of up to $15,000 to fund storefront improvements. Please click here for more information



4. Find a Location

Alameda offers a wide variety of commercial spaces, from main street storefronts to industrial R&D facilities.

As a first step, we recommend you search for available commercial listings using a commercial real estate site, such as Loopnet.

Once you have a sense of the overall market, we recommend you consult with a local commercial real estate broker to discuss current and upcoming vacancies.

Economic Development staff are also available to provide local knowledge and insight into available space, and connections with highly qualified local brokers. We can also help you identify any required permits, fees or approvals for your location, and help you to research your permit history (don’t sign a lease or purchase property without this information!).

Contact us at 510-747-6890 for customized site selection assistance.



5. Register Your Business

All businesses that operate in Alameda must register with the City.  You may also need to register with the State, depending on your business type, and the Federal Government, if you plan to have employees.

Registering in Alameda

If you are conducting business in Alameda, you are required to obtain a Business License. This includes home-based and online businesses, residential and commercial real estate rentals, and vacation rentals.

 There are three basic steps to registering your business in Alameda:

  1. Obtain zoning clearance for your location. This ensures that your business is allowed in your proposed location. Please visit the Permit Center to apply for zoning clearance. Zoning clearance applications are accepted in the Permit Center Monday-Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  2. Apply for a business license. All business in Alameda are required to obtain and annually renew a City of Alameda business license, and pay a Business License Tax. You can apply for a business license online, or visit our Finance Counter on the second floor of City Hall (2263 Santa Clara Avenue, Room 220). The business license office is open Monday-Thursday from 8am-6pm.
  3. Pay your BIA Assessment (if applicable).  Businesses located in Business Improvement Areas are required to pay an additional annual assessment. This will be handled as part of your business license application.


Registering with the State of California

You may also need to register with the state, depending on your business structure. An attorney or tax accountant can best advise you on appropriate steps to establish the right business structure for you.

Typically, you must select one of the following business entity types:

  • Corporation (C or S type)
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Limited Partnership
  • General Partnership
  • Limited Liability Partnership
  • Sole Proprietorship

If you are forming a corporation, limited liability company, or certain types of partnerships, you must file formation documents with the California Secretary of State’s Office. For more information, contact the California Secretary of State at (916) 657-5448.


6. Permitting Your Space

Are you planning to build, or remodel an existing space? Put-up signs, or change anything about your current building? If so, you may need a permit before you start work.

 There are six basic steps to getting a permit in Alameda:

  1. Visit the Permit Center to get more information about what’s allowed in your space, and what kinds of permits you might need.  The Permit Center is located on the first floor of Alameda City Hall (2263 Santa Clara Avenue, Room 190), and is open from Monday-Thursday, 7:30am-3:30pm. Last call for walk-in permit submittals is 3:00 p.m. 
  2. Fill out the necessary permit forms and pay fees
  3. Review and respond to any comments
  4. Receive permit approval
  5. Complete work
  6. Schedule (and pass) final inspections

For the most current information, please contact the Permit Center at (510) 747-6800.


7. Employees, Insurance and Taxes

Employees: If you hire employees, you must obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and you will have to withhold certain federal taxes on behalf of your employees. Apply for an EIN from the IRS either online, by fax, or by mail. Please click here for more information. 

Insurance: As an employer, you are required to carry Worker’s Compensation Insurance through your own insurance agent or the State Compensation Insurance Fund. Certain businesses are also required to provide health care insurance to employees under the Affordable Care Act.

Taxes: As an employer in the state of California, you must register with the Employment Development Department (EDD), and you will have to withhold certain state taxes on behalf of your employees. Contact the EDD for specific guidance. Businesses may also need a Tax Identification Number (TIN) for tax, employment, and other purposes. Contact the state Franchise Tax Board. Residential vacation rentals and hotels are required to pay a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). Consult an attorney or accountant for tax advice.


8. Minimum Wage

 Please click here for information and requirements regarding minimum wage.

9. Other Permits & Licenses

Depending on your type of business, there are a variety of other permits you may need to prior to opening. The most common permits include:

Liquor License: If your business will manufacture, sell, or serve alcohol, you will need an Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) License. These can be obtained at the ABC Alameda County District Office at 1515 Clay Street, Suite 2208 in Oakland, or call (510) 622-4970 for more information.

Community Care License: If your business will care for children or adults, you may need a community care license. These can be obtained at the California Department of Social Services Regional Office at 1515 Clay Street, Suite 1102 in Oakland, or call (510) 622-2602 for more information.

Health Permit: If you are a restaurant, food vendor, salon or tattoo parlor, you will need to obtain a permit from the Alameda County Environmental Health Services. The Environmental Health Services Office is located at 1131 Harbor Bay Parkway, Alameda, CA 94602; 510-567-6700.

Fictitious Business Name: Businesses with business names that do not include the full names of the owner or name of the corporation must file a petition of fictitious name with the Alameda County Clerk-Recorder's Office. The County Clerk's Office is located at 1106 Madison Street, Oakland, CA 94607 (between 11th & 12th Street); 510-272-6363.

Importing and Exporting: In addition to the City business license, a special license is required for exportation. Information is available from the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security.

Seller's Permit/Resale Numbers: Retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers must obtain seller's permits from the California State Board of Equalization. The nearest location is at 1515 Clay Street, Suite 303, Oakland, CA 94612; (510) 622-4100. For questions regarding sales and use taxes, call (800) 400-7115. The board also issues resale permits which enable business owners to purchase supplies or merchandise used for resale.

10. Get Involved with the Local Business Community

Alameda is home to a number of active and supportive business organizations, which can provide you with valuable local context, business connections, and assistance with marketing your business to the Alameda community. These include:

11. Local Utilities and Other Services

Local utilities and service providers for Alameda include:


12. Recruit, Hire and Train Employees

The City of Alameda has partnered with a variety of organizations to help local businesses with hiring interns, training employees, pre-screening and interviewing of applicants, and with referrals of prequalified candidates. Please click here to learn more about our resources for employers.


13. Food Ware Ordinance (FWO)

If you are a food service business, visit Plastic Free Straws and Food Ware for all mandatory Food Ware Ordinance requirements.

For more information on all of Alameda's mandatory requirements and zero waste efforts visit: Zero Waste Program and Services