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.

Proposition H and New Processing for ADUs

Save Our Small Businesses Initiative

Proposition H Adopted by Voters

Proposition H was adopted by the voters at this November’s election.  Titled, “Save Our Small Businesses Initiative”, the initiative ordinance gives existing businesses more flexibility in their operations and speeds approvals for new businesses in the City’s Neighborhood Commercial (“NC”) Zoning Districts.  The initiative reduces the approval requirement for many uses from a conditional use authorization from the Planning Commission to an over-the-counter administrative approval.  Restrictions on office uses are relaxed.  The initiative eliminates neighborhood notification for changes to a principally permitted use and provides existing businesses with greater flexibility to adapt their operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and shifting retail landscape.  The initiative calls upon the City to streamline the approval for small businesses to 30 days.

In particular, the initiative provides as follows:

Neighborhood Notification

  • Eliminates neighborhood notification for new principally permitted uses in Neighborhood Commercial Districts, for Limited Commercial Uses, and for Limited Corner Commercial Uses. These change of use permits can now be approved over-the-counter.

Permitted Uses

  • In all NC Districts except for the Mission Street NC, 24th Street-Mission NC, and SOMA NC, more principally permitted and conditionally permitted uses are now allowed:
    • Non-Retail Sales and Services (e.g., office uses) are principally permitted on upper floors and permitted with a conditional use authorization on the ground floor.
    • General Entertainment, Movie Theaters, Community Facilities, Restaurants, Limited Restaurants, Animal Hospitals, and Retail Professional Services (e.g., realtors, accountants, insurance agents) are now principally permitted where currently permitted with a conditional use authorization, and conditionally permitted where currently not permitted. Restaurant controls were not changed in the North Beach Special Use District, where a conditional use authorization is required and any new restaurant may only occupy a space where the last use was a restaurant.
    • Arts Activities and Social Service or Philanthropic Facilities are now principally permitted on all floors.
    • Formula retail controls (conditional use authorization required) were not changed by the initiative.

Approval Process

  • Requires the creation of a streamlined review and inspection process for principally permitted storefront uses in NC Districts with a target approval in 30 days or less. The City is in the process of implementing these new procedures;
  • Requires that in cases of City error, permits to remedy that error be prioritized and have fees waived;
  • Establishes policy to allow restaurant table service within parklets in addition to the existing use of parklets by any member of the public; and
  • Locks-in the initiative’s provisions for 3 years from passage, except to further relax restrictions.

Processing ADU Applications Moves to Planning

In an effort to ease the administrative burden on DBI and hasten the approval of ADUs, the City has shifted the intake and processing of ADU applications from DBI to the Planning Department.  This includes new applications for ADUs and work related to ADU construction, such as expansions required for an ADU, excavations required for an ADU, new construction for a detached ADU, and interior remodel work to create independent access to the ADU.

Applications consist of the standard Planning Department Project Application, the ADU checklist form, the ADU screening form, a fixture count form for the PUC, and a pdf of the project plans.  Applications are submitted online at a new, easy-to-use website just for ADUs.  The application can be a full building permit or a site permit with addenda.

Once the application is submitted, Planning will send the applicant a confirmation email with the planning application number.  Planning’s Property Information Map (PIM) will provide updates about the application.  It will take one day for the record to appear in the PIM.  A planner will email the applicant about next steps within 14 business days.  The application still will be routed as before to other City agencies having jurisdiction over the proposed work for review, including DBI.

Once the permit is approved, Planning will coordinate with the applicant to verify their licensed contractor information and pay the fees.  Planning will email the job card to start construction.

For questions or assistance, email the Planning Department.

 

 

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.

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.