This Week In San Francisco Land Use – April 15, 2010

New Green Landscaping Ordinance Expands Existing Greening Requirements of the Planning Code

Last Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors enacted Mayor Newsom’s Green Landscaping Ordinance, thereby placing new requirements on a range of property owners in the City.

For homeowners in most residential districts (excluding RC districts), any construction resulting in a new building, a new dwelling unit, a new garage, or additional parking are now required to dedicate 50% of the area of the required front setback to “permeable surfaces,” i.e., those surfaces that allow stormwater to be absorbed into the soil. In addition, 20% of this front setback area must be covered with plants.

Street trees must now be planted by property owners in all zoning districts whenever a new building is constructed, there is a 20% increase in building size, a new dwelling unit is created, a garage is constructed, or additional parking is added. For those sites where street trees cannot be planted due to physical constraints, a fee of at least $1,489 per street tree must be paid to the City.

New landscaping requirements apply to sites where “vehicular areas” are modified. Vehicular areas include unenclosed parking spaces, parking lots, gas stations, car washes, car repair shops and loading areas. When such areas are larger than 25 feet along a public right of way, “ornamental fencing” must be installed along the public right of way. This requirement is triggered when vehicular areas are created or expanded by 20%, 4 new parking spaces are created or significant excavation and replacement takes place.

Other new landscaping requirements apply as well. Let us know if you would like a copy of the ordinance.

Planning Commission Considers New Policy for Car Share Spaces

In recent years, the Car Share movement has been booming nationally. After being established in the U.S. just over 10 years ago, there are now estimated to be 388,000 car share members driving 7,500 car share cars provided by 27 car share organizations nationally. Unsurprising to anyone who walks the streets of San Francisco these days, much of the growth of car share has taken place right here. There are hundreds of car share spaces in the City.

Against this backdrop, the Planning Commission decided to review its car share requirements and policies last week. Currently, car share spaces are only required in a handful of zoning districts, mostly in South of Market. In addition, car share spaces are only required in residential projects with 50 or more units or in non-residential projects with at least 25 traditional parking spaces. That being said, the Commission has not been timid about trying to require additional car share spaces for certain projects. Without a clear policy of when car share spaces requirements will be increased, though, this could lead to arbitrary results. There has also been concern from property owners about voluntarily providing car share spaces in their lots, due to the Commission’s reticence of approving new projects that would eliminate these car share spaces. This has led to an environment where owners are in fact disincentivized from providing these spaces voluntarily.

The Planning Commission is considering a new policy where it would only require one-to-one replacement of removed car share spaces that are required by the Code or a previous approval when the structure on the project site is not being demolished. When a new project is proposed that would redevelop the site and remove a car share space, no replacement is required and the removal will be considered within the review of the entire project. In addition, no replacement will be required when removing a car share space when no project is proposed – i.e. the removal of voluntarily-provided car share spaces is permitted as of right.

The new policy would also give the Commission some discretion to require car share spaces in a project approval above what is required by the Planning Code. In “exceptional circumstances,” the Commission can require up to 1 more space than is required. More can be required for projects with more than 400 dwelling units or non-residential projects that provide 140 or more parking spaces. The policy cites as examples of “exceptional circumstances” projects that provide parking in an amount greater than what is permitted by the Planning Code or where the size and scope of a project would create a specific traffic impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

The Zoning Administrator has also drafted new guidelines for car share spaces which would make converting a traditional parking space to a car share space permitted as of right when the existing parking supports residential uses or when non-residential parking is provided in an amount greater than what is required in the Planning Code. The conversion of a required non-residential parking space would have to be approved by the Zoning Administrator.

The item was continued to June 10 for further consideration. We’ll keep you posted. Let us know if you would like a copy of the ordinance.

Housing Action Coalition’s Annual Housing Forum to Focus on Middle Class Housing in the City

The Housing Action Coalition will hold its 2010 annual forum, Crisis and Opportunity: New Housing Solutions for SF’s families and Middle Class, on May 5. Speakers include:

• Jeffrey Lubell, Executive Director, Center for Housing Policy Washington D.C.
• Supervisor David Chiu, President of the SF Board of Supervisors
• Brad Paul, Housing and Community Development Consultant
• Lydia Tan, Senior Vice President, BRIDGE Housing
• Christopher Meany, Partner,Wilson Meany Sullivan
• Moderated by Tim Colen, HAC Executive Director

The HAC’s forums are always interesting and enlightening, and this year’s topic is of increasing concern to the housing development community in San Francisco. This event is worth your time and money!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010
7:30 – 8:30 am: Registration and Breakfast
8:30 am – 8:45 am: Welcome and Introductions
8:45 am – 10:00 am: Panel Discussion

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA

The cost is $20 for HAC members; $30 for the general public; $15 for students

For more information contact Kate Lefkowitz at (415) 541-9001 or at “”.

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