Structural Review by Committee vs. DBI Director – Proposed Legislative Amendments to the Slope Protection Act In the Works

Currently under review by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is 171284 – an ordinance to amend and clarify the City’s Slope Protection Act (SPA).  The ordinance would expand the existing SPA to include construction projects proposed on properties whose average slope exceeds 25% grade (excluding properties already subject to the Edgehill Mountain Slope Protection Area or the Northwest Mt. Sutro Slope Protection Area), the properties within SPA are presently identified by the Earthquake Induced Landslide Zone.

The proposed amendments create a heightened layer of review by a Structural Review Committee; include additional mapped areas of the City, update map references, augment the title to be The Slope and Seismic Hazard Zone Protection Act; and implement a Structural Advisory Committee to review written reports from representatives of the Department of Planning and Public Works, and the Fire Department –  each of whom would perform a site visit and then submit their reports to the building official regarding the safety and integrity of the proposed design and construction in relation to slope instability mitigation and drainage as well as other geotechnical issues.

The enhanced peer review by committee would apply to permit applications seeking to perform construction of new buildings or structures with over 1,000 square feet of new projected roof area and horizontal or vertical additions having over 500 square feet of new projected roof area and would be implemented for any permits related to the proposed project including: shoring, underpinning, excavation, or retaining wall work; grading; excavation or fill, of over 50 cubic yards of earth materials; “or any other construction activity that in the opinion of the Building Official, may have a substantial impact on the slope stability of any property.” The impact on properties within the vicinity of the proposed project will be considered as part of the review.

As drafted, these amendments would have a substantial effect on small residential project timelines for permitting. Given the extensive documentation by structural and geotechnical engineers already required for these projects at the Planning review phase; and then again at the peer review currently in place and required by the Building Department Director– the revisions proposed to this ordinance are important issues for consideration and further discussion before adoption. With the potential to critically overburden an already robust review cycle, the public should have more clarity on the level of authority that the Structural Advisory Committee would be given to impact design and scope of a proposed project and at what stage in the permitting phase. Broad steps towards multi-agency site visits and additional written reports without recognizing the established measures in place should have a further assessment to account for the seemingly ever lengthening road to entitlement and final construction.


Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP  Permit Consulting Manager, Gillian Allen

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.