Developers plan and construct new building projects, including new buildings and additions or alterations to existing buildings. The development community is also a significant contributor of streetscape improvements in San Francisco. Developers often propose or are required to improve the streets adjacent to their development. Large, master-planned areas create unique opportunities to completely re-make the street environment.

This page describes requirements and resources for street improvements for new development.

Process Overview

City review of required street improvements is part of the overall development review process. Generally, conceptual street improvements are approved at the time of other development approvals, though specific street improvement permits may be acquired after planning-level approvals.

General steps in review of street improvements associated with new development:

  1. Submit required applications for Planning Department approvals
  2. Submit Streetscape Plan, if required (see thresholds, below), no later than 60 days prior to any planning approval action
  3. The Planning Department, in consultation with other agencies, will review street and stormwater improvements for consistency with adopted plans and guidelines, and request changes if necessary
  4. Conceptual street improvements will be approved at the time of overall development approvals
  5. Submit a Stormwater Control Plan, if required by the SFPUC for the development of the adjacent parcel, when submitting a site permit to the Department of Building Inspection.
  6. Submit required applications for street improvement permits from appropriate City agencies (e.g. minor encroachment permit from DPW)
  7. City agencies will review street improvement permit applications, and request changes if necessary
  8. Permits for street improvements must be obtained before issuance of first Certificate of Occupancy
  9. If conditions, policies, or determinations by City agencies require a change to the streetscape plan after approval of conceptual streetscape improvements, but before construction of improvements, the Planning Department may require revisions to the Streetscape Plan.
  10. Get appropriate construction permits. The City requires permits for the following activities: building and utility construction activity, special traffic permits, temporary street closings, extra-legal truck permits, wide vehicles and traffic signal construction work. See Regulations For Working In San Francisco Streets (the Blue Book)

Official Codes & Documents

Summary of Streetscape Requirements

Street Trees

Street trees

Developers and property owners are required to install street trees adjacent to their property when they make certain changes to their property. Generally, one 24-inch box tree must be planted for every 20 feet of lot frontage. Additional requirements for larger trees apply in certain districts.

In some instances, these requirements may be modified or waived, as determined by DPW. In these cases, project sponsors may satisfy the requirement by providing sidewalk landscaping or paying an in-lieu fee (Links to Planning Code section 138.1. Scroll down to sub-section: (c) (1) (iii) for in-lieu fee information).

Required street trees must be shown on relevant site plans submitted to the City, and will be approved in conjunction with development permits.

See Planning Code Section 138.1 for specific applicability and requirements.


Stormwater Overview

New and redevelopment projects that disturb 5,000 square feet or more of ground surface, measured cumulatively for a site, are required to manage the stormwater that falls on their site as outlined in the San Francisco Stormwater Design Guidelines. While these requirements can be met by managing the stormwater within the parcel, these requirements may also be partially or entirely met by providing stormwater treatment facilities in the right-of-way.

Development projects that meet this threshold must submit a Stormwater Control Plan to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) for review and approval. Performance requirements for stormwater management are equivalent to the LEED Sustainable Sites Stormwater Management Credits and are different in the combined and separate sewer areas. Please see SFPUC Stormwater Design Guidelines for specific information on requirements.

Detailed descriptions of different stormwater treatment controls are available on SFPUC Stormwater Design Guidelines or the Stormwater Overview page.

See Public Works Code Article 4.2 (Stormwater Management Ordinance) for specific requirements

Other Streetscape Elements

Better Streets Plan

In addition to street tree requirements, large development projects are also required to submit a Streetscape Plan to the Planning Department, showing sidewalks and all elements on sidewalks adjacent to the proposed development. The Streetscape Plan will be reviewed as part of overall project approvals.

The Planning Department may require the project to install standard streetscape elements and/or sidewalk widening (Links to Planning Code section 138.1. Scroll down to sub-section (c) (2) (ii) (B) for information on sidewalk widening) as a condition of project approval.

Where a proposed project would create one or more new right-of-ways, sidewalks on the new right-of-ways must meet or exceed the recommended sidewalk width for the relevant street type per the Better Streets Plan.

See Planning Code Section 138.1 for specific applicability and requirements.

Neighborhood-Specific Requirements

In certain neighborhoods, districts, and redevelopment areas the City has developed and adopted additional streetscape guidance and requirements. For these areas, in addition to the basic requirements described above, new development must make street improvements per the guidelines and requirements of these specific streetscape plans.

Neighborhood Streetscape PlansDowntown Streetscape Plan– Adopted 1995

Redevelopment Area Streetscape Plans

  • Candlestick Point/HPS Phase II Streetscape Plan (pending)
  • Hunters Point Shipyard Phase I Open Space and Streetscape Master Plan
  • Mission Bay North Plan Area Streetscape Master Plan
  • Mission Bay South Plan Area Streetscape Master Plan
  • Transbay Streetscape and Open Space Concept Plan
  • Visitacion Valley/Schlage Lock Streetscape and Open Space Plan (draft)

Other Development Areas with Streetscape Plans:

  • Executive Park
  • Hunters View HOPE SF Design for Development
  • Sunnydale HOPE SF Design for Development (pending)
  • ParkMerced Design Standards and Guidelines
  • Potrero HOPE SF Design for Development (pending)
  • Treasure Island Design for Development

Contact the San Francisco Planning Department for more information

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