This Week:  TDR and CEQA Updates; Changes to Green Building Ordinance Coming Soon

We update you this week on the results of the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee’s packed hearing this past Monday:

Transferable Development Rights (TDR) Ordinance To Be Amended to Require Maintenance Plan, Remove Use of Proceeds Requirement

First up, the proposed TDR amendments that were sent back from the full Board were modified by the Land Use committee. Instead of requiring that the proceeds of all future sales of TDRs must first be spent on the preservation, rehabilitation and ongoing maintenance, the ordinance would now require a preservation, rehabilitation and maintenance plan be submitted for approval with any application for a statement of eligibility for TDR. (A statement of eligibility officially identifying the amount of TDR available must be issued by the Planning Department before TDR may be sold.) Once a preservation/maintenance plan is approved, the property will be subject to the plan and the owner of the property must submit a status report within one year of the issuance of the statement of eligibility showing compliance with the plan.

On one hand, the changes are an improvement on the original legislation, as there is no express requirement that proceeds of a TDR sale be spent on the preservation or maintenance of a building. On the other hand, the preservation/maintenance plan will almost certainly require money to be spent, and there are still no clear standards for what must be included in a plan set by the legislation.

The Old Saint Mary’s rezoning was “split” from the ordinance and was passed on first reading at the full Board hearing last Tuesday; but note that all the original language is still in that ordinance, and will be passed, and will still need to be amended later. That amendment process will continue on this coming Monday’s Land Use committee hearing, with an expectation that the good changes discussed above will be made, and that package will be before the full Board two Tuesdays from now for final votes. The process inches forward.

CEQA Reform

Early signs of opposition to the CEQA reform ordinance were present on Monday, with a handful of individuals opposing what they characterized as the “streamlining” or the “weakening” of the local CEQA environmental review process. To review, the major purpose of the CEQA reform ordinance is to establish a clear, 20 day period after Planning Department issuance of a categorical exemption or Planning Commission adoption of a negative declaration when an appeal of these documents may be filed with the Board of Supervisors. Currently, Planning Commission adoption of Environmental Impact Reports is already subject to a 20 day appeal period. While many comments were made by those attending the hearing that this would “pro-developer,” the ordinance simply balances the fairness of San Francisco’s environmental review process. Currently, categorical exemptions and are subjected to an open ended process where any one person in the city can appeal the environmental review up through all consideration and appeals of the project itself. There is no reason why appeals of environmental review documents should not be considered at the same time any appeals to a project are made. The current situation gives project opponents two bites at the apple: one on a project’s appeal, and then one on the environmental document appeal.

The ordinance was continued to October 25, to provide more time for discussion of the issue and so its sponsor, Supervisor Alioto-Pier, could be present at the hearing.

Impact Fee Clarifications

The ordinance clarifying impact fees was presented at the Land Use committee hearing, but was continued for a week to October 4, in order for amendments to be made by the Planning Department.

Commissioner Update – Borden Clears Rules Committee

Yesterday, the Rules Committe of the Board recommended reappointment of Gwyneth Borden to the Planning Commission.  This comming Tuesday, the full Board will vote on Borden’s reappointment.

Changes to Green Building Standards on the Way

In other news, San Francisco is preparing to adopt new green building regulations as part of the larger process of adopting the 2010 California Building Code. Legislation to do so was introduced at the Board of Supervisors a few weeks ago, and will soon be heard by the Land Use committee. It is expected that building types currently covered by San Francisco’s existing green building regulations will not see much of a change in the new regulations; however, those building types and projects not currently covered by the San Francisco-specific rules will likely be covered by the State’s new CalGreen green building code, which will become effective on January 1, 2011. We will take a closer look at the details in an upcoming update as the regulations make their way through the Board of Supervisors.

For those looking to understand the differences between CalGreen and the other green building rating systems used in San Francisco’s code, which are LEED and Build It Green, a detailed comparison of the codes was just released and is available at the USGBC-NCC’s website: “”

Reuben & Junius, 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 leases, purchase and sale agreements, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

Copyright 2010 Reuben & Junius, LLP. All rights reserved.