San Francisco

Community Spotlight: Things to Know When Building in San Francisco

San Francisco has a lot to offer. Natives and transplants alike find themselves loving the scenery, culture, and having an abundance of things to do and see. If you have been thinking about building a new home or remodeling an existing one, you should probably familiarize yourself with San Francisco’s zoning requirements as well as the residential design guidelines. It may save you a lot of time before you start your home project.

Lot Size Matters

Depending on your zoning area, you’ll have a minimum lot size and floor footprint ratio. Homes located in RH-1 must have a lot size of 2,500 square feet. The floor ratio area is 1.8 times the lot area. Additionally, your lot must have a width of 25 feet. Keep in mind that these requirements change based on the location of your lot zone. Therefore, it’s best to first find out which zone your lot or home is currently located.

Open Space Requirements

Similar to minimum lot requirements, open space requirements mandate how much yard space your lot must maintain. In most cases, you are required to keep 1/3 of the lot open. Again, this depends on your zone. However, there are specifics as to how much square footage has to remain open as well. This requirement allows light to flow between each residence. In some cases, you’ll find 100 to 125 square feet for a multi-family dwelling and up to 300 square feet for a single-family residence.

Historic San Francisco

If you’re lucky enough to live in one of San Francisco’s historic districts, you should know that any type of remodel you plan is subject to an architectural review. You will need to provide a submittal, which must include the following contents:

  1. Plans with directional arrows and elevations.
  2. A description of the project including properties that are adjacent in all directions.
  3. A color streetscape showing both sides of the street, along with a recent photo.
  4. Historic and environmental documents.

Even if you plan to build a new project within a historical district, you are still subject to the same approval process. The Historic Preservation Commission identifies and designates all San Francisco buildings and landmarks.

Starting Over

Many times there are older homes that have fallen into such despair that it’s more economical to dismantle and start anew. If you have found a perfect lot, but an older home is currently in place, you will want to know that removal of dwellings is designated to specific zones. If your lot does qualify for a removal process, the process does require a neighborhood notification. This process gives your neighbors up to 30 days to respond with concerns.

Overall, if your planning on building or remodeling within San Francisco’s city limits, you should seek the help of a professional architectural firm. Working with a firm will help you navigate the planning process as well as the permitting process.

If you are interested in building a home in the San Francisco area, Smith Brothers would be happy to explain our process and provide more detail on how we can help make your dream home in The Bay Area a reality. For more information please contact us today!

If you enjoyed this blog you may want to read our blog about, “Exploring (the Unique) Architectural Styles in California’s Bay Area.”


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