To report a maintenance issue for street infrastructure and streetscape elements in San Francisco, call or go to 311.
The City welcomes street and sidewalk improvements. It’s important to consider who is responsible to maintain these improvements over time. Public and privately-sponsored projects must have an agreed-upon maintenance strategy to move forward with permitting and installation.
Permits for individual improvements such as installing sidewalk landscaping or outdoor seating can be relatively simple; agreeing to keep the improvements clean and in good repair is required to receive a City permit.
As projects increase in complexity and scale, such as a corridor-wide street improvement or street improvements associated with new development, the maintenance needs and arrangements also become increasingly complex. It is important to meet with the permitting agency (generally DPW) early on in the process to develop a long-term maintenance strategy for the project. This will help to expedite the permitting process.
For City-sponsored projects, all agencies involved in the project should meet early on in the process to develop a maintenance plan for long-term upkeep of all project features.
In general, fronting property owners are responsible to maintain sidewalks and all sidewalk elements in front of their property, such as trees, landscaping, or streetscape furnishings. If you seek a permit to install features in front of your home or business, as part of the permit you will agree to maintain those features in clean and safe condition.
Examples of streetscape elements that fronting property owners are generally responsible for:
There are a few exceptions to this rule:
- Street trees on certain streets: Most street trees in San Francisco are maintained by fronting property owners. There are, however, more than 35,000 street trees that are currently being maintained by the city.In order to sustain a healthy Urban Forest, the Department of Public Works (DPW) is proposing to standardize maintenance responsibility such that, in general, fronting property owners will be responsible for the maintenance of street trees in the public right of way. DPW does not have the resources to prune and maintain trees at a frequency recommended by the tree care industry to sustain their health.
See DPW’s Tree Maintenance Transfer Plan for more information
- Superseding agreement: In some cases, sidewalk improvements will be made across an entire block or corridor by a community or business organization, such as a Community Benefit District, a new building project, or City initiative. In these cases, there will typically be an agreement between the sponsoring organization and the City as part of a City permit, which will spell out the details of who is responsible to maintain any unique streetscape features.
- Street furniture contracts: There are many instances where the City contracts with an outside vendor to install and maintain certain sidewalk elements, in exchange for being allowed to provide advertising. Some examples of these include:
- Utilities/Traffic control devices: Certain utilitarian sidewalk elements are maintained by the organization or agency that locates them in the sidewalk, including:
- Street lights
- Traffic and parking signs and signals, and Parking Meters
- Utilities (however, utility laterals are the responsibility of the fronting property owner to maintain)
- Bicycle Racks: The SFMTA maintains bicycle rack installations.
- Public art: The Arts Commission maintains public art works in their collection.
- Market Street: The City maintains all sidewalk elements on Market Street between The Embarcadero and Octavia Boulevard
In general, the City is responsible for maintaining roadway paving.
There are a few exceptions to this rule:
- Unaccepted Streets: Certain right-of-ways have not been ‘accepted’ for maintenance by the City because they do not meet City standards for street construction. These typically include unimproved hillsides, certain alleys, and private streets in certain master-planned developments.
- Superseding agreement: In some cases, roadway improvements will be made across an entire block or corridor by a community or business organization, such as a Community Benefit District or a new building project. In these cases, there will typically be an agreement between the sponsoring organization and the City as part of a City permit, which will spell out the details of who is responsible to maintain any unique streetscape features.
Community stewardship of streetscape elements plays a key role in keeping up the appearance and safety of the neighborhood, and can result in a greater sense of neighborhood pride.
Programs that encourage community members to care for their streetscape while providing technical and/or financial assistance.