Supervisors Pass New EV Charging Rules

legislation

Back in March, we wrote about pending legislation that would amend the Planning Code to specifically address electric vehicle (“EV”) charging uses. At the time, the legislation was headed to the Planning Commission for initial consideration. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an amended version of that legislation on the first reading.

As we explained in our March update, the Planning Code does not currently contemplate EV charging at all—leaving operators to work with the Planning Department on a case-by-case basis to determine the permissibility and approval path for any new EV charging site.

In order to meet the City’s climate action targets (which include a goal of 100% registered private vehicle electrification by 2040), the legislation aims to create a Planning framework to streamline the approval of publicly accessible EV charging stations and to regulate (though not necessarily streamline) the approval of new fleet vehicle charging sites.

The legislation creates two new Planning Code use categories, both under the umbrella of “Automotive Use.” The new “Electric Vehicle Charging Location” (“EV Charging Location”) use covers public-facing charging locations and “Fleet Charging” covers EV charging facilities that are dedicated to a private entity and not available to the general public.

The initial draft of the legislation would have required Conditional Use (“CU”) Authorization for Fleet Charging in most zoning districts, except in PDR-1-D, PDR-1-G, and PDR-2 districts, where Fleet Charging would have been principally permitted. That draft also would have prohibited Fleet Charging in the Neighborhood Commercial Districts. The earlier version of the ordinance called for more permissibility related to EV Charging Locations, which would be permitted in most districts, and would be principally permitted wherever the existing use is already some type of Automotive Use. This provision remains in the version passed on Tuesday.

The legislation was heard by the Land Use and Transportation Committee three times after it came out of the Planning Commission on April 14 with a handful of recommended changes. Several more amendments were made at those three Committee hearings—mostly to further restrict the permissibility of Fleet Charging uses—as outlined here:

  1. While the initial version of ordinance would have allowed EV Charging Locations to dedicate up to 1/3 of spaces as accessory Fleet Charging, the final version of the ordinance prohibits Fleet Charging as an accessory use to EV Charging Locations or to any other use. I.e., no accessory Fleet Charging, period.
  2. Consistent with the Planning Commission’s recommendation, the final legislation permits Fleet Charging in most of the Neighborhood Commercial Districts with approval of a CU.
  3. The Land Use and Transportation Committee opted to require a CU for Fleet Charging in all of the PDR districts, primarily based on a concern that Fleet Charging uses could displace businesses that provide blue collar jobs. However, existing Private Parking Lots and Vehicle Storage Lots in the PDR-1-D, PDR-1-G, and PDR-2 districts will be able to convert to Fleet Charging without a CU. Supervisor Peskin explained that this minor exception would cover a limited number of properties located in District 10.

In addition to the above changes incorporated into the version of the legislation approved by the Board this week, the Land Use and Transportation Committee also created a duplicated version of the file in order to add a set of new CU findings that would apply to Fleet Charging projects. As drafted, a proposed Fleet Charging use would require consideration of the following criteria:

  1. The proposed Fleet Charging use will not induce demand for low occupancy vehicles in highly congested areas or in transit-rich areas.
  2. Vehicle movement on or around the Fleet Charging use will not unduly impact pedestrian spaces or movement, transit service, bicycle movement, or the overall traffic movement.
  3. If the vehicles accessing the proposed Fleet Charging use are owned by one ownership entity, that the ownership entity establishes that it has secured sufficient parking spaces for vehicles when not in operation within San Francisco or adjacent counties.

The second finding essentially codifies a question that a Fleet Charging project’s environmental review would already address—i.e., would a new vehicle-oriented use significantly impact traffic in the vicinity of the project? The Planning Department is experienced with traffic circulation issues and how they should be addressed as part of the land-use process. So, we don’t anticipate a significant amount of uncertainty related to this second finding.

The first and third findings, however, leave open some critical questions of interpretation.

The first finding speaks to low occupancy vehicles. The Planning Code doesn’t define that term, but it is generally understood to mean a vehicle with one or two people in it. It’s not clear what this finding would mean as applied to a Fleet Charging use serving EV rideshare vehicles—which may sometimes carry only one passenger at a time. Other types of fleets, including delivery vehicles and service vehicles, will often have a driver and no passengers. Depending on how it’s applied, this finding could actually discourage the electrification of rideshare fleets—contrary to a 2021 California Air Resources Board mandate that rideshare companies reach zero GHG emissions and ensure that 90% of their vehicle miles are fully electric by 2030.[1]

It’s also unclear what exactly the third proposed finding aims to accomplish. EV chargers are likely to be installed at parking facilities, such that vehicles can be parked and charged in one place. Discouraging a dual charging/parking use would seem to run contrary to vehicle miles traveled (“VMT”) reduction goals.

Hopefully, these questions will get answered as the duplicated version of the ordinance makes its way through the legislative process. The duplicated legislation has been referred back to the Planning Commission, but as the Commission and Board of Supervisors head into August recess, we’ll have to wait until the fall to see how this shakes out.

[1] California Air Resources Board, Resolution No. 21-10 (May 20, 2021); see also California Air Resources Board Bulletin, California requires zero-emissions vehicle use for ridesharing services, another step toward achieving the state’s climate goals (May 20, 2021), available at: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/CARB/bulletins/2da5a7a.

 

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.

Legislation Expands CUA Appeal Rights to Tenants

Appeal

On Tuesday June 14th, Supervisor Melgar introduced a new version of legislation (“Appeal Legislation”) that will change, and effectively lower the threshold, for appeals of Conditional Use Authorizations (or denial) by the Planning Commission.

A Conditional Use Authorization (“CUA”) refers to the use or development of a parcel that is not permitted as-of-right but requires additional scrutiny by the Planning Commission. These land uses have special characteristics or a unique nature that may be suitable only in certain locations or operated and arranged in a particular manner. As such, they have a higher threshold for approval. The San Francisco Planning Code states that a CUA can be approved if they are “necessary or desirable for, and compatible with, the neighborhood or the community” (Section 303(c)(1)), along with other specific findings. CUA appeals are acted upon by the Board of Supervisors.

Because the standard for granting CUA’s are highly subjective, public opinion and political pressures often come into play in determining the “necessity or desirability, and compatibility” of a project. While land use justifications are given for classifying certain uses as conditional, other motives are often in play: to protect existing, local businesses from competition by formula retail or an overconcentration of similar businesses; to preserve the amenity and value of existing buildings by making height above 40 or 50 feet a conditional use, even in high-density districts where height limits allow for taller buildings and tall buildings are prevalent. With subjective standards for both approvals and appeals at the Board of Supervisors, some decisions may effectively become a popularity contest and create a great deal of uncertainty for applicants, property owners, and tenants. This is particularly true for businesses requiring a conditional use. Prior to new state laws setting stricter standards for disapproving or reducing the density of housing developments, new residential construction was downsized more frequently for compatibility with adjacent buildings.

Currently, a decision by the Planning Commission on a CUA may only be appealed within 30 days by either 1) five members of the Board of Supervisors; or 2) the owners of at least 20% of the property within 300 feet of the exterior boundaries of the subject property. Where a property has joint ownership, the signature of each owner is calculated as representing the affected property in “direct proportion to the amount of total ownership of that property attributable to the owners subscribing to the notice of appeal” (Section 308.1(b)(4)). A CUA may only be overturned or modified by a 2/3 vote of the Board.

The primary substantive change in the Appeal Legislation would count the signature of “Verified Tenants” as well as those of property owners toward meeting the 20% threshold for filing an appeal (currently, only owners are eligible). After receiving the signatures, the Department of Public Works (“DPW”) would have five days to verify whether the 20% requirement had been fulfilled.

In a city where the vast majority of owners and businesses rent or lease, and many owners do not live or operate businesses on their property, the policy motivations of the Appeal Legislation are self-evident: to give the people living or running a business in a building who may be most affected by a CUA decision standing to file an appeal regardless of whether they own the affected property.

With some narrow exceptions (e.g., property owners voting to tax themselves for community benefit districts that provide additional services), conditioning public participation or voting on property ownership is an anachronism. (North Carolina, the last state to make property ownership a prerequisite to voting in presidential elections, abolished its requirement in 1856.) With that said, the Appeal Legislation does raise several questions about the relative weight given to verification of tenant signatures, tenant votes, and the potential for double-counting votes in some instances:

  • Verified Tenants or Honor System? Only a “Verified Tenant” may subscribe to an appeal. A Verified Tenant is a commercial or residential tenant who declares under penalty of perjury that they lease an entire property or a unit on the property with a lease term exceeding 32 days. A Verified Tenant must maintain proof of tenancy (lease or other government document showing residency/occupancy) and have occupancy longer than 32 days as of the date of signing the appeal.

However, the Department of Public Works is not required to verify tenant documentation; it “may” request documentation at its discretion. It also does not specify that the signature from a business must be an authorized signatory for the business. For example, during the installation of street seating under COVID emergency orders, there were instances of unauthorized employees granting permission for structures with seating for adjacent restaurants to encroach on another store’s frontage without the business owner’s knowledge or consent. Given that DPW only has five days to determine the validity of an appeal, the verification process seems more like an honor system with a bare minimum of time for DPW to calculate the percentages based on self-reporting by signatories.

Five days does not provide a reasonable amount of time for requesting and verifying even a random sample of documentation from Verified Tenants. Further, defining a Verified Tenant as one occupying a unit pursuant to a lease should require a tenant to provide a copy of the lease. Other documents (DMV records, federal income tax records, and utility bills) may demonstrate that a tenant lives somewhere, but not that they are an authorized occupant with a lease. Verifying property ownership, the current requirement for CUA appeals, is an easier process since ownership is a matter of public record. Under the Appeal Legislation, the relevant documents to prove up occupancy for Verified Tenants are not a matter of public record and an applicant has no right to demand an audit by DPW. At minimum, a random audit of a percentage of tenant signatories should be included and the overall total counted toward the appeal discounted accordingly. This could be accomplished without extending overall timelines for a 5-day preliminary acceptance of the appeal, subject to an additional period for DPW to conduct a random audit to determine the percentage of invalid signatures. If the rate of valid signatures in the sample would cause the overall number of signatures to fall below the 20% threshold, the appeal would be rejected. (This is similar to the approach used for a preliminary evaluation and rejection of signatures in support of ballot measures.)

  • One Tenant Speaks for All Tenants in a Unit & All Units Are Equal. Where a rental unit is occupied by more than one tenant, the signature of one tenant in a unit effectively speaks for all tenants in the space. Similarly, all rental units are counted equally toward the 20% threshold. For example, in a multi-unit property, a 10,000 square foot commercial rental unit would be given equal weight as a 500 square foot studio unit. Compare this to the treatment of jointly owned property, where only the portion of the property attributable to a single signatory is counted.
  • Potential for Double-Counting. Where a joint owner and a tenant sign on to an appeal, each signatory is counted according to the method laid out for each. As an example, if an owner of one unit in a 2-unit condo building has a 50% interest in the property and rents that unit out, their two signatures would be added together such that they would effectively represent 100% of the property for appeal purposes. If the other owner or tenant joined, the percentage counted toward the appeal would not increase beyond 100%. On the other hand, if the other owner also rented and both that owner and tenant opposed the appeal, they would effectively be disenfranchised in determining the appeal threshold.

Depending on the number of rental units and ownership structure of buildings near the project, the Appeal Legislation could significantly reduce the 20% threshold, effectively negate the voice of supportive property owners and tenants, and, without any mandatory verification mechanisms for tenants, undermine transparency and trust in the validity of an appeal.

With that said, the Appeal Legislation does include other terms that reduce confusion and promotes administrative efficiency. For example, it requires the Planning Commission’s final, signed approval to be transmitted to the Clerk of the Board within 10 days of the Planning Commission’s action. No such reporting is currently required, and final decisions are not always issued within 10 days. Thus, the 10-day limit should broadly benefit all recipients of CUA approvals and reduce the burden on the Clerk of verifying the Planning Commission’s action. Appeals may not be filed “earlier than ten business days” or later than 30 days from the date of action by the Planning Commission. Although this technically shortens the appeal window to 20 days, the overall 30-day time period remains unchanged and there is no tolling of the appeal period if the final Planning Commission decision is not transmitted to the Clerk within 10 days.

Since most CUA appeals are filed towards the end of the 30-day appeal period, the change should have minimal, if any, effect on the length of the CUA appeal process. It does, however, lower the bar for appeals and increases the risk of delay and cost overruns, particularly for small businesses.

Given San Francisco’s slower-than-average recovery from COVID-19 job losses, the broader question the Appeal Legislation raises is one of priorities and goals for the city’s future. Is this the time to introduce more uncertainty and procedural hurdles into the business and housing environment?

Or should policymakers be focused on bigger questions facing our city: the revival of downtown and Union Square, restoring the tourism sector, and creating space for more flexible models for living, working, and doing business in a post-pandemic (or COVID endemic) world. Is a CUA really necessary for banks, architect’s offices, or small-scale hotels in Neighborhood Commercial Districts? Or for enlarging a successful business into an adjacent storefront? Are minor changes like these worth the time and attention of San Francisco’s elected officials? On balance, does the extent of regulatory oversight strike the right balance between public participation, public policy goals, and the costs, both in time and money, to applicants.

Public participation in the Planning process should be—and is—a given. But right now, shouldn’t that participation be focused on how to fill vacant spaces and addressing a persistent housing shortage and widespread homelessness, rather than adding time, cost, and risk for businesses and projects that fulfill those goals? By making big moves to provide flexibility and fast, by right-approvals for new housing and new/expanding businesses, San Francisco can send a strong signal that it is still the adaptable, dynamic, creative city that will continue to be an economic and cultural powerhouse—and not the dystopia the national press has portrayed it as of late. Tenants—both residential and commercial—should of course have a place at the table when major changes are proposed. But that participation should be focused on major changes in zoning rules and large-scale projects that need exceptions from standard regulations. At a bare minimum, an expansion of the right to bring a CUA appeal should be accompanied with the elimination of CUA requirements that stand in the way of important public policy goals.

Regardless of where one stands on these amendments, if approved, they will change the CUA Appeal landscape. The legislation was introduced at the June 14th Board of Supervisors hearing and requires review and comment by the Planning Commission before it is taken up by the Supervisors. Stay tuned for updates on this legislation.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP.

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.

Mayor Proposes Increased Density on Auto-Focused Lots

Auto

Mayor London Breed’s “Cars to Casas” ordinance, introduced on October 19, 2021, would eliminate the Conditional Use requirement for the conversion of an Automotive Service Station and would create a new residential density exception for housing projects on sites previously used for auto-oriented uses.

The ordinance cites a wide-reaching set of policy goals: “missing middle” housing production, cutting auto emissions, and traffic safety consistent with the City’s Vision Zero policy. By encouraging the elimination of auto-oriented uses and reducing the amount of property in the city dedicated to cars, the ordinance seeks to decrease auto travel. And in increasing density and streamlining the approval process for eligible residential projects, the legislation hopes to chip away at the housing crisis and incentivize the construction of new apartment buildings—with a focus on small and medium sized projects with at least four units.

For starters, the legislation eliminates the Conditional Use Authorization requirement to convert an existing Automotive Service Station to some other use. This change applies regardless of whether the Auto Service Station would be converted to residential use or to some other non-residential use.

The ordinance zeros in on properties currently used for “Auto-Oriented Uses,” defined as those parcels with an accessory parking lot or garage, or any use defined as an Automotive Use. Planning Code Section 102 defines Automotive Use as follows:

“A Commercial Use category that includes Automotive Repair, Ambulance Services, Automobile Sale or Rental, Automotive Service Station, Automotive Wash, Gas Station, Parcel Delivery Service, Private Parking Garage, Private Parking Lot, Public Parking Garage, Public Parking Lot, Vehicle Storage Garage, Vehicle Storage Lot, and Motor Vehicle Tow Service.”

The legislation would not change this definition.

The Mayor’s proposed density exceptions would apply to all sites with an Auto-Oriented Use where residential use is permitted, except that sites with an existing residential use and those that have had a Legacy Business at any point during the 10 years prior to application submittal would not be eligible. As of today, the Legacy Business Registry lists seven automotive/motorcycle businesses as Legacy Businesses.

On eligible sites, the legislation would principally permit up to four dwelling units per lot within RH zoning districts. In other zoning districts, the legislation would eliminate dwelling unit maximums and would instead regulate the size of residential projects based on the applicable form-based controls (i.e., height, bulk, setbacks, exposure, and open space).

The legislation also proposes to limit the parking maximums that would apply to residential projects approved under the new density exception. Up to 0.25 spaces per unit would be principally permitted and up to 0.5 spaces per unit would be allowed with Conditional Use Authorization. Parking in excess of 0.5 spaces per unit and parking for non-residential components of projects utilizing the new density exception would be prohibited. Permitted parking varies by zoning district, but in most cases, the parking maximums proposed by the legislation represent a decrease from what is currently allowed.

So as to balance the current demand for new housing against the need to retain some of the city’s existing Auto-Oriented Uses—and likely in an effort to temper potential opposition—the legislation includes a sunset provision: once the Planning Department has approved a total of 5,000 units pursuant to the proposed density exception, the exception will expire.

 

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.

Size Restrictions Proposed on San Francisco Homes

size

San Francisco policy-makers continue to scrutinize the size of dwellings in an attempt to manage affordability and housing stock.  Merits aside, policy-makers have expressed a consistent concern about demolitions, expansions, and new large-home construction.  The latest measure is an ordinance introduced last month by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman (District 8), whose district includes the Castro, Noe Valley, Glen Park, and Bernal Heights.

Planning Code Section 317 already requires a conditional use authorization for residential demolitions, mergers, and removals.  Supervisor Mandelman’s proposal would discourage residential units over 2,500 square feet by requiring, with some limited exceptions, a conditional use for them in RH (residential, house) zoning districts:

Expansions

  • On a developed lot where no existing dwelling unit exceeds 2,500 square feet of gross floor area, expansion of the residential use that would result in an increase of more than 50% of gross floor area to any dwelling unit or would result in a dwelling unit exceeding 2,500 square feet of gross floor area, except where the total increase of gross floor area of any existing dwelling unit is not more than 10%.
  • On a developed lot where any existing dwelling unit exceeds 2,500 square feet of gross floor area, expansion of the residential use that would result in an increase of more than 10% of gross floor area of any dwelling unit.

New Construction

  • Residential development on a vacant lot, or demolition and new construction, where the development would result in only one dwelling unit on the lot or would result in any dwelling unit with a gross floor area exceeding 2,500 square feet.

New Conditional Use Criteria

In addition to the standard conditional use criteria, the Planning Commission must consider the following new criteria:

  • the property’s historic preservation status;
  • whether additional dwelling units are added;
  • whether the proposed development preserves or enhances the existing neighborhood character by retaining existing design elements;
  • whether the development proposes to remove more than 50% of the existing front façade; and
  • whether the project removes rent control units.

Exceptions

The legislation would except developments from the new conditional use authorization requirement where a complete development application was submitted before February 2, 2021. The legislation would also except developments that increase the number of dwelling units on the lot provided that no dwelling unit exceeds 2,500 square feet of gross floor area as a result of the development, no proposed dwelling unit is less than one third the gross floor area of the largest dwelling unit resulting on the lot, and that neither the property or any existing structure on the property: (i) is listed on or formally eligible for listing in the California Register of Historic Resources; (ii) has been adopted as a local landmark or a contributor to a local historic district under Articles 10 or 11 of the Planning Code; or (iii) has been determined to appear eligible for listing in the California Register of Historic Resources.

The legislation has been referred to the Planning Department for review and consideration by the Planning Commission.  To date, there is no estimate of how many projects would be affected by this requirement in a typical year, how many hours of staff time it would take to process them, or how the volume of new conditional uses would affect backlogs for all projects. No hearing date has been set for the Commission to consider the legislation, but we will continue to monitor and keep readers informed.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Thomas P. Tunny.

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.

New Interim Density Controls for Residential-Commercial Districts

interim zoning controls

In January the Board of Supervisors passed interim zoning controls for parcels in RC, RM, and RTO (excluding RTO-M) zoning districts. The controls require Conditional Use Authorization (“CU”) for most new construction or alterations that do not maximize residential density. Sponsored by Supervisor Peskin, the interim zoning controls became effective on January 21st and are in place for 18 months, until July 2022. They apply to all projects—even ones currently under review by the Planning Commission—where a final site or building permit has not been issued (i.e., any project currently on file with the City).

The controls aim to disincentivize low-density projects, restrict the construction of large residences, and prevent the loss or conversion of rent-stabilized housing units.  The zoning districts cited allow for a higher density (i.e., more units at a smaller size), but often are developed with larger units that are more suitable to higher-income families (i.e., less units at larger sizes).

The controls apply to any (i) new construction of a residential building or (ii) a proposed alteration that would result in the expansion of the building. A CU from the Planning Commission will be required if the residential building does not maximize the principally permitted residential density while meeting minimum unit size requirements. The following minimum unit sizes must be used in density studies under the interim controls: 450 sf for 1-bedrooms, 700 sf for 2-bedrooms, 900 sf for 3-bedrooms, and 1,100 sf for 4-bedroom units.

There are exceptions to the Conditional Use requirement where site constraints prevent a project from maximizing density or for certain minor expansions. To fall under the site constraints exception, a project must meet the following criteria:

  1. Existing lot conditions or form-based restrictions on development (e.g., height, bulk, rear yard requirements) prevent a project from maximizing density without seeking a variance or subdividing units (while adhering to the minimum unit sizes in the Planning Code);
  2. The proposed project increases density on a subject lot; and
  3. No unit is greater than 2,000 square feet in size.

Expansions of existing residential buildings are permitted without a CU if the proposed expansion is 25% or less of the existing residential building and:

  1. Does not increase the size of any units that is already larger than 2,000 square feet in size;
  2. Does not create a new unit larger than 2,000 square feet, or
  3. Cause an existing unit less than 2,000 square feet in size to exceed 2,000 square feet.

It is unclear how many projects the interim zoning controls will impact, or whether it will result in changes to proposed development. Until the Planning Department or Planning Commission adopt clear guidelines for implementing the controls, including standards for density studies, the impact of the interim zoning controls remains uncertain. Reuben, Junius & Rose LLP will continue to monitor the implementation of the interim controls.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Tara Sullivan.

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.

A Handful of San Francisco Planning Updates

Planning

Final Passage of UMU Office Legislation

Back in February, we covered Supervisor Ronen’s proposal to substantially limit office uses within Urban Mixed Use (“UMU”) districts. You can revisit our prior update here. As originally introduced, the legislation would have prohibited office use on the upper floors throughout the UMU district (where currently permitted), and would have maintained exceptions for qualifying landmark buildings. The first version of the legislation also proposed allowing limited professional service, financial service, and medical service uses that serve the general public at the ground floor, but only with approval of a Conditional Use Authorization from the Planning Commission.

The Board of Supervisors finally passed that legislation on August 11, 2020 with a major substantive change—limiting the prohibition of general office use to the Mission Area Plan portion of the UMU district.

As approved, the legislation provides that in the Mission Area Plan portion of the UMU district, general office uses not in a landmark building are prohibited outright. Professional service, financial service, and medical service uses are prohibited above the ground floor, but are permitted on the ground floor with a conditional use authorization if primarily open to the general public on a client-oriented basis.

Office uses within the UMU district that are not within the Mission Area Plan remain subject to the vertical controls that apply currently. And outside the Mission Area Plan, professional service, financial service, and medical service uses are permitted on the ground floor if primarily open to the general public on a client-oriented basis, and are permitted on upper floors subject to vertical controls.

The final legislation can be reviewed here.

Conditional Use Streamlining Ordinance

In other San Francisco legislative news, the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance on Tuesday in an effort to streamline the Conditional Use process for certain types of commercial uses. At that hearing, Supervisor Peskin also requested that the file be duplicated and sent back to committee to allow an opportunity for community groups to weigh in on the changes.

Under the new ordinance, applications that are eligible for streamlining are entitled to a Planning Commission hearing within 90 days from the date the Planning Department deems the application complete and such projects would be calendared for approval via the Planning Commission’s consent calendar. Projects eligible for the program would also be eligible for a reduced application fee—at a rate of 50% of the otherwise applicable fee.

The Planning Commission is entitled to a one-time extension of the 90-day hearing deadline. An extension cannot be for more than 60 days and can only be issued for one of the following three reasons:

  1. The Planning Director or the Director’s designee requests in writing that the item be removed from the Commission’s consent calendar;
  2. Any member of the Planning Commission requests that the item be removed from the Commission’s consent calendar; or
  3. Any neighborhood organization (included on a Planning Department neighborhood organizations list) submits a letter of opposition or written request that the item be removed from the Commission’s consent calendar.

In order to qualify for the streamlining program, a project must comply with the following criteria: 1) propose non-residential use only; 2) be limited to interior or store-front work; 3) not involve a formula retail use; 4) not involve the removal of any dwelling units; 5) not propose the consolidation of multiple storefronts; 6) not seek additional off-street parking, or the expansion or intensification of hours of use, beyond those principally permitted; 7) not involve the sale of alcoholic beverages except for beer or wine sold in conjunction with a Bona Fide Eating Place; and 8) not seek to establish or expand an adult entertainment use, bar, drive-up facility, fringe financial service, medical cannabis dispensary, nighttime entertainment, non-retail sales and service closed to the public, a tobacco paraphernalia establishment, or a wireless communication facility. Projects within the Calle 24 Special Use District would also not be eligible for the streamlining program.

New Application Fee Schedule

On August 31, the Planning Department’s application fee schedule for 2020-2021 will go into effect. Application fees are adjusted annually based on the consumer price index. The 2020-2021 fee schedule preview is available here.

 

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.