Home-based business

Home-based businesses are some of the simplest businesses to set up in San Francisco. Many only require a business registration. However, they still must follow the rules set by the Planning Department in the San Francisco Planning Code.

Some key things to know about a home office

  • You cannot have clients coming to the home.
  • You cannot have employees who do not live there coming to the home.
  • You cannot display advertising or any other physical alteration that is non-residential in character.
  • You cannot use more than 1/3 of the total floor area of the unit for commercial purposes.

NOTE: The Planning Department has created an Accessory Uses for Dwelling Guide about the rules and steps of using a home office or having a home-based business.

Food manufacturing at home

If you plan on manufacturing food for retail sale, the California Homemade Food Act (often referred to as the Cottage Food Law) allows some businesses to produce from home. However, you must meet certain qualifications. Be sure to check the California Department of Public Health Cottage Food Operations webpage and the San Francisco Department of Public Health Cottage Food Permit webpage for additional information.

Who qualifies?

  • Businesses producing “non-potentially hazardous” foods (ie. foods that do not require refrigeration to keep them safe from bacteria that could make people sick)
  • Class A operatore making under $75,000 or Class B operators making under $150,000 in annual gross sales
  • Businesses with no more than one full-time employee (not counting family or household members)

Who does inspections?

There are two classes of homemade food producers. The class you fall under depends on who you sell your goods to. Regardless of your class, you must attend a food processing class.

  • Class A (Direct sales only): If you only sell directly to the consumer, you may conduct your own health inspections. The SF Department of Public Health will only inspect if there are consumer complaints)
  • Class B (Direct and/or Indirect sales): If you sell directly to the consumer and/or sell to a retail food facility such as a market, bakery, or restaurant, your home kitchen must be inspected annually by the SF Department of Public Health

Some other key requirements

  • Sales must be delivered in person to the customer. CFO products may not be delivered via postal or delivery services.
  • The label must include the words "Made in a home kitchen" or "Repackaging in a home kitchen" (download PDF for additional cottage food labeling information.) See a food label example here
  • No infants, small children, or pets are allowed in the kitchen during cottage food preparation
Last updated December 27, 2023