San Francisco, CA, Muncipal Code

Updated June 2022

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Table of Contents

Affordable Housing Programs

The city’s codified ordinances lay out a comprehensive affordable housing program. Chapter 41B outlines a process that gives qualified nonprofits in the community the right of first refusal when a multi-family residential building goes on the market. Chapter 47 describes that residents who have been or are about to be displaced from their neighborhoods are given preference in qualifying for affordable housing. Chapter 60 reviews the city’s efforts to preserve existing affordable housing and addresses the process for complying with required relocation assistance. Chapter 109 discusses the expedited review given to 100% affordable housing projects and Chapter 120 describes how affordable housing funds are administered. §416, §417, and §424 discuss the affordable housing requirements associated with specific subarea plans: the Market and Octavia Area Plan and Upper Market Neighborhood Commercial District, the Eastern Neighborhoods Area Plan, and the Van Ness and Market Residential Special Use District.

Biophilic Planning

This city’s planning code addresses green roofs and bird-friendly buildings which can both increase biophilia in a city. The city’s Better Roofs; Living Roof Alternative requires certain new residential and nonresidential buildings to have 15% of the roof available to install solar energy systems and adds a living roof option to fulfil those requirements (§149). The city also has bird-friendly building standards to prevent bird mortalities (§139). This code applies to buildings that are in a location with a higher risk of bird-building strikes and buildings that have features that are hazardous to birds.

Climate Change

The city’s Environment Code addresses greenhouse gas emissions targets and departmental action plans (§9). It presents the city's climate action goals (§902), sets a date by which the city must submit a climate action plan (§904), and sets roles and responsibilities for several city departments (§905).

Creative Placemaking

The city’s administrative code supports a variety of creative placemaking efforts through a music and culture ordinance. It calls for cultural event space to be preserved and enhanced, encourages the development of affordable housing for artists, and supports educational programs for students (§90A.1). It enables the planning commission to make amendments to the general plan that support the music and culture sustainability policy through a district element or through existing elements of the plan (§90A.6).

Green Building

The city’s code of ordinances adopts the California Green Buildings Standards Code with amendments. It requires major renovations to provide electric vehicle charging stations at on-site parking (§4.106.4§ 

Shared Mobility

The city’s codified ordinances contain permit requirements, parking standards, and other regulations that address shared mobility devices and programs. 

Its transportation code requires a permit for the operation of all shared mobility devices (§7.2.110) and sets parking restrictions for shared mobility(§7.2.52). It presents the permit process for rideshare parking (§907), docked and dockeless bike-sharing programs (§909), shared vehicle parking (§911), and for shared electric moped parking (§915). The transportation code also authorizes the director of transportation to establish a program to grant permits for shared scooters (§916).

The planning code encourages the adoption of carsharing to mitigate the negative impacts of car ownership (§166). It provides definitions, permit requirements, and determines the number of carshare parking spaces required in new or existing developments. 

Its environment code authorizes the city administrator to enter into agreements with carsharing companies to offer the services to authorized officers and employers of the city (§412). 

Small Wireless Facilities and Wireless Facilities in the ROW

The city's Public Works code establishes a detailed and robust permitting process for personal wireless service facilities in the public right-of-way (§1500 et seq.). The code establishes three tiers of PWSFs: Tier A for proposals for Unprotected locations, Tier B for proposals for Planning Protected or Zoning Protected Locations (historic or architecturally significant, landmarks, significant or important views, residential or neighborhood commercial districts), and Tier C for Park Protected locations (adjacent to a park). Applications require approval from the department of public health, as well as the planning or recreation and park departments based on tier category. The code provides detailed review, notice, and protest requirements, and addresses modification and removal of equipment.

Short-Term Residential Rentals

The city’s administrative code addresses short-term residential rentals (Chapter 41A).

The chapter includes a statement of findings (§41A.3) and a comprehensive definitions section (§41A.4). Regulations address conditions and requirements for offering a primary residence as a short-term residential rental, including registration in the city’s Short-Term Residential Rental Registry, as well as requirements for hosting platforms (§41A.5). Detailed administrative enforcement provisions are provided (§41A.6).

The code also establishes the city’s Office of Short-Term Residential Rentals and lays out its administration and enforcement duties (§41A.7).

Solar Energy

The city's Environment Code includes green building regulations, which include San Francisco-specific LEED credit requirements for municipal construction projects, one of which is for renewable energy: municipal projects must include space allocation and infrastructure for future renewable energy installations, and at least 1% of building energy costs must be offset by onsite renewable energy generation, including PV or solar thermal (§706(C)). The city's Planning Code exempts solar and wind energy collection devices along with other rooftop appurtenances from height limits (§260(b)(1)(A)). It also includes a section of Planning Interpretations, one of which addresses solar panels (Code Section: 260(b)(1)(A)), concluding that under state law, solar energy system applications must be approved administratively after health and safety reviews, even if the system exceeds height limits or is on an architecturally significant building. The city's Public Works Code includes a Tree Dispute Resolution article that lists the extent to which a tree interferes with preexisting solar energy systems as a consideration in dispute resolution (§16.1.824).

San Francisco, CA

2010 Population: 805,235

2010 Population Density: 17,179.08/square mile