San Francisco Eliminates Parking Requirements Citywide

On December 11, 2018, the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance (the “Ordinance”) eliminating required parking minimums citywide for all uses. The vote was 7-4, with Supervisors Cohen, Safai, Stefani, and Yee voting against it. Mayor Breed signed the Ordinance on December 21 and it went into effect on January 21.

Those in favor of the measure called it a forward-thinking policy that brings the Planning Code in line with the City’s Transit-First Policy. Proponents also argued that parking increases the cost to build housing and takes up space that could otherwise be devoted to walk-up residences, retail spaces, or landscaped areas. Those against the change expressed concern that it would hurt seniors and those in parts of the city where public transit options are lacking. To that point, Supervisor Cohen at one point asked that District 10 be carved out from the Ordinance, citing the lack of reliable transit in the area. She later withdrew that request.

In reality, the Planning Department and Commissioners have long been pushing back against proposals that include large amounts of parking, and developers looking to build less than the required amount could already circumvent the minimums by providing increased bike parking instead.

The elimination of the parking requirements was initially recommended by the Planning Commission as part of legislation to amend Better Streets Plan improvement requirements and curb cut restrictions. That legislation aimed to modify the triggers that would require project sponsors to construct streetscape improvements and to expand curb cut restrictions for off-street parking and loading to most zoning districts and certain designated streets, including those on the Citywide Transit Network and any officially adopted bicycle routes or lanes. The substance of that ordinance (BOS File No. 180914) was approved by the mayor on November 20, 2018, and the elimination of parking requirements was pulled out as a separate piece of legislation.

Historically, new residential projects in R districts were generally required to provide one parking space for each dwelling unit. Required parking minimums also applied to most non-residential uses, depending on the specific use type and zoning district.

With the enactment of the new changes, parking will not be required for any use type anywhere in the city.  Accessory parking is still allowed, up to a maximum amount. Previously, a use that triggered a minimum parking requirement could typically include accessory parking up to an amount not exceeding 150% the required number of spaces. Now, there is no minimum number of spaces that must be provided, and most use types may provide up to 1.5 spaces for each one space that was required under the old rules. You can review the maximum parking ratios for each use established by the new ordinance here.

The Ordinance does not amend Section 151.1, which regulates permissible off-street parking in the following districts: NCT, RC, RCD, RTO, Mixed Use, M-1, PDR-1-D, PDR-1-G, and C-3 Districts, and to the Broadway, Excelsior Outer Mission Street, Japantown, North Beach, Polk, and Pacific Avenue Neighborhood Commercial Districts.

As always, parking in excess of the maximum accessory amounts may be permitted only as a separate use, where the zoning controls for the particular district allow.

Notably, the Ordinance includes a grandfathering provision which carves out any project that submitted an environmental or development application prior to the effective date of the Ordinance. Which means that if you already have an application on file, the old rules will continue to apply.


Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP  Attorney Chloe Angelis

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient. Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein. Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm. We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law. We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.