Legislation / Ordinances

For more information on legislative issues, contact

William Strawn
Legislative/Public Affairs Manager

Department of Building Inspection
1660 Mission Street, 6th Fl
San Francisco CA 94103
(415) 558-6250 Phone
(415) 558-6225 Fax
William.Strawn@sfgov.org

View current and proposed legislation affecting DBI.  The Department of Building Inspection is responsible for the review and approval of all permit applications to assure that proposed construction work meets accessibility, life and structural safety requirements of the code. Please find below pertinent new and upcoming legislation relating to our services. 

New Legislation

  • File 150494-2 – Supervisor Avalos and Kim’s proposed ordinance amending the Planning and Building Codes, whereby the removal of any residential unit, legal or illegal, by demolition, merger or conversion, requires Conditional Use Hearing; the Building Code would be amended to require that Notices of Violation include language mandating the owner to legalize any currently illegal unit unless the Planning Commission approves removal through its Conditional Use hearing.
  • File No. 151085 -- new Code Enforcement Uniformity ordinance to improve consistency and coordination among multiple City departments.   As drafted, the ordinance would require the Fire Department and Public Health to institute/issue and inspect for NOVs related to fire-safety matters in a process similar to DBI. Also gives City Attorney authority to take action without regard to any departmental administrative actions/case development; and requires DBI, DPH and SFFD to submit month reports to Mayor and Board covering that month’s code enforcement actions, as well as for departments to work with City Administrator to generate a standard form to be used by all to document code enforcement activities.
  • File No. 151081 –Supervisor Wiener’s ordinance making more explicit the authority of the Building Official to stop all work on a construction project where known violations may be occurring. The goal is to prevent a project owner from continuing work on different parts of a large project, while agreeing to stop work on one specifically cited element (such as work without a permit).
  • File No. 160024 – Sup. Campos’ Gender-Neutral toilet facilities. DBI Director Hui met with Sup. Campos and staff to review language, and to make the Supervisor aware of DBI’s Information Sheet from 2005 that provides guidance on this topic.
  • File No. 151079 – Supervisor Tang’s proposed ordinance to exempt for up to two years from the Vacant Building ordinances those properties in probate.
  • File No. 151106 – Plumbing permit exemption to install simple gray water systems. Sup. Wiener’s proposed ordinance to waive the current requirement to obtain a plumbing permit prior to installing a simple gray water system, using recycled water for landscaping, etc. and thus saving precious water.
  • File No. 150587 – ordinance requiring written and posted notice to all tenants, including those in an illegal unit, about an issued permit to demolish/remove/merge a unit in order to allow them time to appeal the permit within the 15-day legal window.
  • No File No. Yet Assigned – Sup. Tang’s ordinance that expands beyond Building and Planning plan review fees the waiver of all departmental fees related to the annual May Fee Waiver Month for Awning Improvements/Façade Improvements.  Fees waived will thus also include any DPW-related fees, as well as Fire Department fees.
  • File No. 150571/Ord. No. 146-15 waives DBI and Planning plan review fees for owners opting to pursue the voluntary legalization of currently illegal in-law units to stimulate more participation.
  • File No. 140120 – Earthquake Performance Evaluation of Private School Structures. Amends the building code to require private elementary and secondary schools obtain an evaluation by a licensed structural engineer for performance during a future earthquake.  No later than three years after the effective date – Nov. 1, 2017—the owner must submit an Evaluation Report to DBI, per requirements provided within the Administrative Bulletin that is to be developed and published by the Department. Once seismic strengthening plans are prepared, approved and implemented, any buildings found in violation of having an unsafe building are subject to standard code enforcement reviews and requirements –including failure to submit the Evaluation Scope or Evaluation Report documents within set timelines. To date, DBI has received three Evaluation Reports from the Mayor’s Earthquake Safety Implementation Program, which are now under review.
  • File No. 150431 – Ordinance to establish an Emergency Interagency Fire Safety Task Force to review and make recommendations on possible future legislation and/or other solutions to improve fire safety in multi-unit residential and multi-use buildings in the wake of several fatal fires at the beginning of 2015.
  • File No. 150792/Katy Tang Fire Safety Ordinance -- likely DBI enforcement role of owners' responsibilities, and possibly a legislative vehicle for any Board action on fire safety in 2016..
  • File No. 150365/Wiener and File No. 150585/Christensen are expansions of efforts to facilitate owners with additional space within existing buildings to add dwelling units in District 8 (Castro) and District 3 (Chinatown-North Beach).  These augment the previously enacted Wiener ADU legislation/Ord. No. 30-15, which permits ADUs when an owner has completed a seismic retrofit.  Details/FAQs on ADUs are posted on the DBI web site.
  • File No.  140954/Ord. No. 30-15 – Supervisor Wiener’s ordinance to add in-law units during either a mandatory or voluntary seismic retrofit, so long as the additional unit(s) fits within the existing building envelope.  The Code Advisory Committee’s Structural Safety Subcommittee is discussing seismic safety elements involved in ADUs, a matter of concern to Supervisor Wiener, should this discussion lead to code changes that might be disincentives to owners interested in adding ADUs. We are in discussion with the Supervisor’s office about his concerns.
  • Ordinance No. 130119 -- Mandatory Seismic Retrofitting of Soft Story buildings –Introduced this at the Board on February 5th, with six co-sponsors, Supervisors Chiu, Wiener, Mar, Farrell, Breed and Yee; substituted in March; passed unanimously and Mayor signed April 18, 2013. It became legally effective June 3, 2013. Targets a type of wood framed building three or more stories, with five or more dwelling units, whose permit applications pre-date Jan. 1, 1978; studies show they are likely to collapse in a strong earthquake without retrofitting.
  • Ordinance No. 182-14 – Vacant Storefront Registration. Per Supervisor Tang’s approved legislation, we have a new process requiring vacant storefront/commercial property owners to register these buildings. DBI will work closely with the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, as well as with the Small Business Commission, to provide such addresses to small business owners seeking available space.

Upcoming Legislation

  • File No.  150732 -- Supervisor Tang’s Proposed Mandatory Disabled Access Improvements’ ordinance – Amends the Building Code to require any existing building with a place of public accommodation either to have all primary entries and path of travel into the building accessible by person with disabilities or receive from the City a determination of equivalent facilitation, technical infeasibility, or unreasonable hardship; establishes a Disability Access Compliance Unit with DBI; and established a fee to offset the costs of the disability access improvement. Mirrors the compliance timeline structure of the successful Mandatory Soft Story Program wherein property owners will be put on a sliding compliance timeline dependent on their type of place of accommodation and have a limited timeframe to meet the accessibility requirements.

  • File No. – Not yet assigned. Supervisor Tang, per a July 22nd hearing at Budget & Finance, has asked DBI to be part of a multi-departmental internal assessment to stipulate ways to expedite permit reviews/approvals related to restaurant openings. Staff will meet internally to address this request, with recommendations due to Sup. Tang by January 2016.  DBI Staff is meeting internally to develop its response.

  • File No. 141118, Building Façade Inspection and Maintenance. Proposed by the Mayor’s Office of Earthquake Safety, this amends the building code to require that facades of buildings with five or more stories be inspected periodically by a qualified engineer or architect, with inspection reports submitted to DBI according to an inspection and reporting schedule. Maintenance of facades to be conducted in accordance with an Administrative Bulletin developed and published by DBI and based upon a national standard. The ordinance also establishes a fee to cover DBI costs for reviews and evaluations. We continue to work with the Mayor’s Director of Earthquake Safety on this draft.

    Other Seismic Safety Recommendations

    Chimney Bracing – Per a report issued in September by the Mayor’s Office of Earthquake Safety Implementation, the City has a number of buildings with chimneys that may not be adequately braced to minimize public safety hazards following the next earthquake. While DBI currently encourages property owners to check chimneys and take preventive actions for the safety of families and property, at this time there is no mandatory requirement. Chimneys were addressed during the Unreinforced Masonry Building retrofit program more than a decade ago, and roughly 95 percent of the UMB program is completed. DBI awaits possible legislative action by the Mayor and/or Board on this matter.

  • File No. – Not yet assigned. Supervisor Farrell’s proposed Neighborhood Noticing Ordinance – an effort to consolidate and centralize through 3-1-1 the City’s multiple public notifications for construction and infrastructure repair work, public health and safety services/facilities, environment and transportation.