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San Francisco's Off-Street Parking Requirements Eliminated for Good

February 27, 2019

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As of January 20th, 2019, San Francisco no longer requires a minimum number of parking spaces in new structures or new uses. This new law applies Citywide to all zoning districts. Previously, the City eliminated the parking requirement in many zoning districts in order to reduce traffic congestion, encourage alternative forms of transportation, and lower the cost to build housing. However, a parking requirement had remained for some districts such as Residential and Neighborhood Commercial Districts.

The ordinance would not remove the maximum number of parking spaces that an owner or developer may build. That said, the maximum number of off-street spaces allowed for new office, residential, and retail construction has been reduced a great deal in the past ten years.

Many homeowners in the City's western districts feel the outreach to them was not adequate. Even more importantly, these homeowners feel that the current on-street parking shortages in their neighborhoods will be greatly exacerbated when new dwellings are created without off-street parking. In fact, it is very possible that trailing legislation will follow, and that it would exempt certain districts that are neither transit-rich nor reliably served by public transit, such as neighborhoods in the west and southeast areas of the City.

It's notable that the new law includes a grandfathering provision which makes the new law inapplicable to any projects whose environmental or development application was submitted prior to the January 20th, 2019 effective date of the new law.

Adhi Nagraj, the San Francisco Director of the well-regarded land use think tank SPUR, (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research), and Kristy Wang, SPUR's Community Planning Policy Director, co-authored an opinion piece on this subject that was published in the San Francisco Chronicle in support of the legislation. In that opinion, they cited the costs to build parking into a project as one of the main reasons to eliminate the parking requirement. "[E]ach parking space adds substantial costs to any building project and can even make the project unfeasible. Tenants often bear the burden of those costs." They also noted that San Francisco offers many transportation alternatives such as buses, BART, bikes, and scooters. The article concluded by stating: "By removing these mandatory parking requirements, San Francisco can build more housing while reinforcing its unique urban strengths. In doing so, it will grow more pedestrian-friendly, more transit-rich, more environmentally sustainable, and more affordable."

For more information, please contact:

M. Brett Gladstone

415-995-5065 Direct Phone
415-995-3517 Fax

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