Business License/Registration
The City of Lake Forest does not require or issue business licenses. Instead, we ask businesses to complete a voluntary, no cost Business Registration Form that assists the City in maintaining vital records, emergency contact information and a business mailing list for future announcements of free business seminars and workshops. In lieu of a business license, most lenders, clients or other third parties will accept a copy of the City's letter explaining that business licenses are not issued in our community.

Click here to complete the City's online Business Registration Form
Click here to obtain a hard copy of the City's Business Registration Form
Click here to obtain the City's Letter verifying no business license is required

Contractors performing work in the City are not required to register their business with us and as stated above, no business license is required. Contractors will need to obtain the appropriate permits from the City's Planning, Building and Public Works Divisions for their project.

Zoning and Special Permits
Before you purchase property or sign a lease, we encourage you to contact the City's Planning Division to ensure that your intended use is allowed at that location. It is preferable to find a property with suitable zoning for your intended use as a zoning change can be a lengthy and costly process.

Special permits may be required. Additional on or off-site improvements such as parking, paving, landscaping and screening may be required when you open a business, build or alter existing structures, or change the use of the building or land. Proposed signage for your business must also be reviewed and approved. For assistance with all these permits, contact the City's Planning Division at (949) 461-3491.

Building Permits
Changes or modifications to existing buildings and installation of machinery and equipment may require building permits. Examples of changes that need prior City approval include adding a wall, enclosing a space, changing plumbing, and installing equipment weighing more than 200 pounds. The City will perform inspections throughout construction to ensure compliance with approved plans and adopted building codes. Plans requiring Fire Authority approval are forwarded by the City's Building Division to the Orange County Fire Authority for their review. You may occupy your building once construction is complete, a final inspection has been made, and you have received a Certificate of Occupancy. For information on building permit requirements, please contact the City's Building Division at (949) 461-3470. Applications can be downloaded from the City's website under the
Online Forms section.

Signs And Banners
Subject to advance approval, businesses may conduct special indoor and outdoor events and may display additional signs to promote these events. Applications for the following permits can be downloaded from the City's website under the
Online Forms section.

Special Events Permit ($65.00 fee)
Shopping centers and multiple businesses sharing a parking lot may temporarily display banners, flags, lighting and small balloon strings to promote a special event that the entire center is sponsoring. A Special Event Sign Program may be permitted for a maximum 14 day period each quarter, no more than four times per year. 
Any temporary event involving 30 or more persons, or that takes place on public property, must obtain a Special Event Permit. Special events include, but are not limited to, motorized vehicle races or contests; carnivals, fairs, festivals, and similar activities; any event with mechanical amusement rides; promotional or fundraising activities; outdoor shows, concerts, and exhibitions; and promotional or fundraising activities. Special events may not exceed 30 days, and applications for a Special Event Permit should be filed 30 days prior to the opening date of the proposed event.

Temporary Banner Permit ($25.00 fee)
Individual businesses may apply for a Temporary Banner Permit, which allows one banner not exceeding 50 square feet to be placed on their buildings. Temporary banners may be displayed for no more than 30 days, twice a year, for a total of 60 days.

The following are not permitted:
  • Portable/Freestanding signs (a-frame, t-frame, etc.) are not permitted on any exterior portion of any business.
  • Offsite signs are prohibited.
  • Outside display or storage of merchandise (All merchandise must be displayed and stored within the building)

    Law Enforcement Review
    If your business will conduct any of the following activities, you must contact the City's Planning Division at (949) 461-3491 and the Orange County Sheriff Department at (714) 647-1868 for a Law Enforcement Review.
    • Bingo
    • Coin dealer
    • Dance instructor/Dance studio
    • Escorts/Escort Bureau
    • Figure model, nude/Figure model studio
    • Gun dealer
    • Interlocutrix, nude
    • Introductory service
    • Junk collector/Junk dealer
    • Massage 
    • Peddler
    • Pool room
    • Public bath/Massage parlor
    • Public dance
    • Rap session, nude
    • Secondhand dealer/Thrift store/Pawnshop
    • Taxicab stand

    Home Occupations
    The City of Lake Forest currently includes over 1,400 home-based businesses and we strongly support our residents' entrepreneurial endeavors. The City's Home Occupation Ordinance is designed to protect the residential integrity of your neighborhood. Therefore, the Ordinance does not permit business activities that generate additional traffic in residential neighborhoods and all business operations must be conducted within the living quarters of residences. If you have questions about whether your business operations are permitted, call the City's Planning Division at (949) 461-3491.

    Daycare Facilities

  • Daycare for 1 to 6 children requires an application to the County Department of Social Services. Contact (714) 703-2800 for more information.
    Daycare for 7 to 12 children requires permits and inspections from the Department of Social Services, the Orange County Fire Authority, and the City's Building Division.

  • Daycare for 13 or more children requires a City Use Permit approval by the Planning Commission, and permits and inspections from the Department of Social Services and the Orange County Fire Authority.

    For additional information, contact the City's Planning Division at (949) 461-3491.