Terms and Definitions

Look up common, but confusing terms related to starting, maintaining, and growing your business.


Accessory Use

Accessory use means using a building or piece of land in a way that is different than its primary designation (See Primary Use). A musical rehearsal studio or massage therapy office located inside your house is an example of an accessory use. A "use" in city planning refers to the way a building or piece of land is designated to be used. For example, a piece of land may be designated as residential, meaning it can only be "used" as a home.

Accounts Receivable

Money that is owed by customers for goods or services that have not yet paid for.

Application Fee

A one-time fee paid at the time the application is submitted. Be aware that for some permits, you may have to pay for both the application and the permit. Application fees are usually not refundable and paying one does not guarantee you will receive the permit you applied for.


Assets are property that your business owns. This includes anything that has value, such as cash, accounts receivables, inventory, supplies, equipment, etc.


The identity for your product or service that differentiates it from competition.

Brick & Mortar

Brick and mortar refers to businesses that have physical (rather than virtual or online) presences - in other words, stores that you can physically enter to purchase merchandise. When the term came about, most buildings were made of brick and mortar. Though we use all kinds of building materials today, the term is still common.

Building Envelope

The maximum square footage and number of floors/building height allowed on a property by the City's zoning restrictions.

Cash Flow

A business's cash flow is the measurement of cash flowing into and out of the business within a set amount of time. For example, you might bring in $100 in sales, but spend $50 in supplies within a given month

Certificate of Occupancy

A document issued by the Department of Building and Safety, which verifies that a building complies with codes, laws and zoning and is thus approved for occupancy.