At about 9:35 a.m., a citizen reported the plane next to the Buchanan Field Golf Course on a grassy section that is part of airport property, the sheriff's office said.
The pilot lost power over Walnut Creek and tried to glide the plane down and to the airport, but he fell about 700 feet short of the runway. The pilot was alone in the plane and escaped unharmed. The plane had some minor damage after it crashed into a chain link fence.
A landing gear was down when the pilot was descending to the airport and the sheriff's office said no one was injured.
The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation of the incident, according to the sheriff's office.
KGO contributed to this report.