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.
  • 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.
  • Ordinance No. 67-16/File No. 141118, Building Façade Inspection and Maintenance. Sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Earthquake Safety, and by Supervisors Farrell, Tang, Wiener, Breed and Yee, this ordinance sets a 4-phased timeline, beginning in 2021, to inspect existing facades of buildings with five or more stories to reduce collapse following a major earthquake. 
  • Ordinance No. 131-17/File no. 170240 - Access to Lactation Rooms -- Supervisor Tang's ordinance amending the Police Code to require employers to provide employees breaks and a location for lactation, and to have a policy regarding lactation in the workplace that specifies a process by which an employee will make a request for accommodation, defines minimum standards for lactation accommodation spaces, requires that newly constructed or renovated buildings designated for certain uses include lactation rooms, and outlines lactation accommodation best practices; amending the Building Code to specify the technical specifications of lactation rooms for new or renovated buildings.
  • File no. 170125 and newly proposed File no. 180268 - ADU's in Single Family Homes -- Supervisor Tang--Supervisor Peskin's proposed Planning Code amendments to bring conformity with newly enacted State law mandates, including more flexibility for buildings undergoing either mandatory or voluntary seismic retrofitting.
  • File No. 151122 -- Supervisor Wiener, supported by the Mayor, ordinance giving preferences to those displaced by fires on priority relocation list for any units available on the city's affordable housing. Took legal effect in September, 2016.
  • Ordinance No. 162-16/File No. 160697/ADUs -- Supervisors Farrell/Wiener/Peskin ordinance amending the Planning Code to allow the construction of ADUs on all City lots that allow residential use. Compromise achieved at Board's final pre-recess session.
  • Ordinance No. 33-16/160115 Planning, Building Codes - Conditional Use Required to Remove Any Residential Unit; Mandatory Legalization of Illegal Units; Permeable Surfaces and Landscaping Requirements. Sponsored by 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.

Upcoming Legislation

  • File No. 160975/Building Standards in Seismic Safety Zones - This is today's Government, Audit and Oversight (GAO) Committee hearing, which is under way at the same time as today's BIC meeting, and where the Committee is listening to presentations summarizing the recently concluded Tall Buildings' Study by the Applied Technology Council (ATC), by City Administrator Naomi Kelly and others.

  • File No. 170740 - A proposed ordinance by Supervisor Tang to codify the Department priority permit reviews and approvals of solar energy installations, EV Charging stations and battery-storage systems for EV Charging.

  • File No. 180618 - A proposed ordinance by Supervisor Tang establishing the legislative review and approval process by the Code Advisory Committee and Building Inspection Commission for ordinances proposed by the Board of Supervisors.

  • File No. 180702 - Board Resolution approving the City's response to Civil Grand Jury recommendations to increase ADU production, and investigate construction of a manufactured housing factory in the City.

  • File No. 180756 - Supervisor Ronen's proposed fire safety ordinance giving the Building Official and the Fire Marshall additional authority to compel owners of 3 or more unit apartment buildings, with two or more open NOVs tied to fire safety, the ability to require upgrades in either fire alarm systems or sprinklers.

  • File No. 180268/Supervisor Tang's ADU amendments to Planning and Building codes to eliminate the street tree requirement, and 311 Planning notification to neighboring properties, as well as building code amendments to require a pre-application meeting including DBI, Fire and Planning. Also requires the department to approve a permit application to build an ADU within 120 days from the time of the submitted permit application.

  • File No. 180778 - Supervisor Safai's proposed ordinance transferring code enforcement to DBI from Planning for new complaints where owners violate Building and Planning codes by paving over front lawns/setbacks for parking.

  • File No. 180547 - prioritizing 100 percent affordable housing projects. Supervisor Ronen introduced this ordinance requiring DBI, Public Works, Planning, the Fire Department and Mayor's Office of Disability to prioritize these projects and ensure they move through the review and approval process as quickly as possible.

  • File No. 180806 - Supervisor Tang's proposed ordinance, amending the Planning Code, to create a new Use category that allows flexible, multi-use, retail that is more attuned to today's market conditions. Such flexibility also may help address some of the City's existing vacant storefront issues by enabling temporary, or short term, uses of these vacant spaces.

  • File No. - Not yet assigned. Supervisor Peskin ordinance on defining demolitions, reducing confusion and number of cases where owner exceeds the scope of permits, and imposes substantial penalties on violators.

  • File No. 171284/Amendments to the Building Code to revise the City Slope Protection Act, updating map references, etc.

  • File No. 180323/170837/Extension of Compliance Time for Mandatory Accessbility Improvements from May 23, 2018 to January 1, 2019-Supervisor Tang provided additional time for building owners to submit required checklists. Took legal effect Nov. 2, 2017.

  • File No. 180264/Board of Supervisors Hearing on deliquent properties-DBI's Annual Lien List Hearing-Held at the Board's May 22nd meeting. 

  • File No. 170942/Third Party Peer Review Expert Fee Cost Recovery-The Board voted unanimously for this at the end of February, the Mayor signed the new ordinance, and it will take legal effect on April 9th. It amends DBI's fee tables to allow recovery of costs of third party experts and other permit related expenses. Part of Director Hui's ongoing efforts to strengthen DBI's tall building review process to insure ongoing building safety, this ordinance provides the cost recovery mechanism required to cover the costs for DBI's now posted pre-qualified pool of future peer review experts.

  • File No. - Not yet assigned. Supervisor Fewer and Supervisor Yee held a Land Use hearing on Feb. 5th, where DBI and the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development reported on the vacant residential and commerical buildings programs. Per the Director, District Inspectors are now looking for and posting suspected vacant storefronts to add to the current database, which had been structured upon only a complaint-driven basis. 

  • 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.

    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.