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View table of contents: CIVIC CENTER



The purpose of the Civic Center Plan is to guide development in the Civic Center area. The Plan focuses primarily on articulating the objectives and policies that should apply to future development, rather than attempting to identify specific locations for specific uses. However, recognizing the need to provide general guidance for future public development in the Civic Center area, a map is included which defines four broad activity categories:

The Administrative category encompasses those political and legal activities of the executive, legislative and judicial departments of government and those public activities which provide for the orderly management of the affairs of government at the city, state and federal levels.

The Entertainment-Culture category encompasses those amusement, sport, convention, education, library recreational, artistic, musical and theatrical activities which provide for the increased public use and enjoyment of the Civic Center area.

Open Space
The Open Space category encompasses any major land area, open and unobstructed, which provides passive or active activity areas for public use and enjoyment.

The Parking category encompasses any major off-street parking area, motor pool or parking areas within a structure or building which provide off-street parking space other than incidental to the principal use of the structure or building.

The Housing category encompasses the existing low and moderate income housing stock and new infill housing.




The symbolic importance of major public buildings has traditionally been expressed through their architectural treatment. This is particularly true of an area such as the Civic Center which brings together in one setting major functions of community life--government and cultural activity. These functions should be treated together in a way that emphasizes their symbolic and ceremonial importance to the community.

Emphasize key public buildings, particularly City Hall, through visually prominent siting.

The symbolic importance of key public buildings should continue to be emphasized by maintaining them in highly visible settings. New development in or adjacent to the Civic Center should preserve the visibility and dominance of City Hall. Street views should be clear of distracting features and obstructions such as overhead utility lines, overhead pedestrian crosswalks, or buildings over a street right-of-way. In the past, views to City Hall were obstructed by the Central Freeway. Where an obstruction exists, such as the Central Freeway in Hayes Valley once did, it should be removed if possible, and if not, its presence should be minimized by landscaping and/or by other appropriate screening.

Major civic plazas and open spaces can also emphasize the symbolic significance of buildings. Major open spaces such as the Civic Center Plaza and Fulton Mall should be retained and designed to facilitate ceremonial and civic events appropriate to the Civic Center.

Maintain the formal architectural character of the Civic Center.

The setting of City Hall and the buildings framing the Plaza and Fulton Street pedestrian mall should be protected through the sensitive massing and height of existing structures.

The core of the Civic Center is composed of classic Greek revival structures of exceptional quality that set the architectural character of the area. The symmetrical arrangement of buildings, uniform height, and application of common building lines and architectural features reinforce the unity of the formal composition. Whenever possible, existing classic buildings should be conserved and rehabilitated rather than replaced. New buildings should be designed to complement the Center's existing architectural character.

Design Civic Center buildings and open spaces to serve as public gathering places for ceremonial, cultural, recreational, and other community activities.

Public open areas in the Civic Center should be designed to accommodate both passive individual use and intense community use and intense community use for various civic events.

To complete the primary Civic Center axis from Market Street to City Hall and beyond to the War Memorial Court, and to complement the new Main Library and Asian Art Museum, Fulton Street between Hyde and Larkin Streets should be designed as a pedestrian mall as per the guidelines adopted by the Planning Commission.

Provide a sense of identity and cohesiveness through unifying street and Plaza design treatments.

Identity of the Civic Center as the focus of government and culture in San Francisco should be reinforced through the use of common design elements such as sidewalk and street paving, lighting fixtures, landscaping, and street furniture. Related architectural elements such as the color and texture of materials should also be used throughout the area to reinforce its overall unity. Widened pedestrian lanes in front of City Hall and at other locations, with special design treatment related to adjacent uses, would add to the unity and formalism of the Center.

Maintain existing streets as vehicular, pedestrian or open space corridors.

The development pattern in the Civic Center, based on the grid street system, has created a formal, spatial relationship between the various buildings in the Civic Center. To maintain building identity, the space occupied by the existing streets should remain clear of visual obstructions to provide for a sense of spaciousness and formal organization within the Civic Center area.


The function of the Civic Center area as a governmental services and administration district should be reinforced by locating within the area those Federal, State and City activities that require a high degree of interaction. Similarly, those Federal, State and City agencies providing basic governmental services (such as tax collection and permit processing), and particularly those agencies intensively used by the public, should be located in the Civic Center to facilitate public access and convenience.

Cultural activities, such as libraries, museums, and concert halls, that attract a broad community interest and attendance are also desirable parts of the Civic Center area. They add interest and variety to the scope of activities occurring in the Civic Center area and provide a nighttime use for the Center.

Map 1MAP 1 - Civic Center Plan

Design the Civic Center to promote efficiency and convenience within and between the governmental entities represented, and provide for their orderly expansion.

Interaction of government at all levels, Federal, State, and City, is expedited when administrative functions are located in close proximity to each other. Public convenience is served when those government services which are most effectively and efficiently provided at a central location and which involve substantial public contact are clustered together. The Civic Center should serve as a "one stop" center at which the public can transact its business with government. In addition, private activities such as title companies and legal offices that deal with government on a day-to-day basis are appropriate for the Civic Center area. Those City functions which do not involve significant public contact or do not involve substantial interaction with other governmental units may be inappropriately located in the Civic Center.

Locate civic cultural facilities in the Civic Center.

Identity of the Civic Center as the cultural focus of the community is enhanced through the location in this area of a variety of cultural facilities such as museums, auditoriums, concert halls, theaters, and library. Incorporating cultural activities within the Civic Center extends activity into evening hours, increasing use and enjoyment of the public spaces and adding to the liveliness of the Center.

Encourage governmental activities of each level of government to locate within a "sphere of influence" within the Civic Center to avoid inefficient dispersal of these activities throughout the area.

While a reason for locating City and County, State and Federal government offices within a single center is to enhance interaction within them, the greater degree of interaction generally occurs between units of the same level of government. Therefore it is more convenient and efficient to have the government facilities of each governmental level located in clusters.

Encourage administrative-oriented governmental functions (executive, legislative, and judicial) to locate in new consolidated facilities rather than being dispersed throughout the adjacent area in leased or rented quarters.

Because of lack of adequate facilities to accommodate the growth in government services many governmental offices are located in rented space in private office buildings in or near the Civic Center. Consolidating these functions into new office buildings would substantially increase convenience and efficiency. In particular, an office building should be constructed to house the many City and County offices scattered throughout the area.


Successful functioning of the Civic Center as a major daytime and nighttime activity center requires convenient access to and circulation within the area. The Civic Center is linked to the city and the region by local bus and train lines, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART), and bicycle lanes. Increasing residential development in neighboring areas such as Mid-Market and Market Octavia, greatly increases the number of trips to the Civic Center on foot, bicycle, or transit. Regular trips, such as those made daily by employees, and long term trips, those made for more than 6 hours during daytime peak periods, should be made without an automobile. Long-term parking is incongruous with the needs of an area rich in transit, bicycle, and pedestrian options, especially given land constraints. Parking in the Civic Center should be short term parking; if additional parking is developed it should not consume additional land area, but be limited to additions to existing short term parking facilities.

Locate buildings employing large numbers of employees and/or attracting large numbers of visitors in convenient pedestrian proximity to public transit and off-street parking facilities.

Activity generators such as major cultural facilities and major public office buildings should be located to provide convenient pedestrian access to both public transit and to off-street parking facilities.

Allow an increase in short term parking supply when it builds on existing supply and does not consume additional land.

Major vehicular activity should be diverted from the Civic Center core so that the formal and pedestrian character of the core is not disrupted by the speed and noise of heavy traffic. Parking facilities should be managed efficiently to improve safety and accessibility. Limit increases in parking supply to existing facilities or where least disruptive to the neighborhood character.

  • Sufficient high-turnover spaces for short-term shopping and errand running trips should be made available through the provision of time-limited, metered parking, and pricing policies that discourage all-day parking and support turnover.

  • Sufficient parking should be maintained for the major arts and educational institutions in the area, but these spaces should be priced at rates comparable to those in the Downtown, and these prices should be made visible to individual users. Access and personal safety improvements should be made to the Civic Center Garage to serve patrons of area cultural institutions.

  • Improve personal security for evening parkers through significant urban design changes and security personnel.

  • Adjust pricing structures, including the elimination of the early-bird rate.

  • Implement real-time information regarding parking availability in parking garages.

  • Introduce evening valet parking at the Civic Center parking garage.

  • Provide a parking shuttle to and from the Civic Center Garage for events at cultural institutions in the area.

New off-street parking, if built within the core, should not be a predominant use. Rather, it should be auxiliary to another major use and for the most part should be constructed below grade.

Parking areas and car pools for governmental cars should be located within the Civic Center area to provide for the efficient utilization of these vehicles by governmental employees for official business.

Provide and price parking for short-term visitor use, and discourage long-term parking. Encourage transit use as the primary means of access to the Civic Center.

The nature of the Civic Center as a major employment center for government administration precludes the possibility or desirability for the provision of off-street parking for all those who might want to drive to work. Long-term parking, particularly by employees, is a wasteful use of limited space and should be discouraged. Parking should be priced and controlled to provide for and encourage short-term parking by visitors to the Civic Center.

Public transit should be scheduled to provide high volume access to the Civic Center in both day and nighttime hours.

Encourage privately-operated support and personal service establishments to locate within the Civic Center area.

The daily convenience and service requirements of the various governmental agencies within the Civic Center and their employees and visitors require facilities such as restaurants, stationery stores, book and card shops, newsstands and other specialty shops that cater to immediate daily needs. Such establishments, in addition to fulfilling needs, add to the amenity and interest of the Civic Center. Private business establishments should not conflict with the principal purpose of the Civic Center, and should be located on the periphery of the core area along the pedestrian frontages of both public and private buildings.


To Preserve the scale and character of outlying neighborhoods and promote the vitality of the Civic Center Area, new housing should be located in the Civic Center Area in underused commercial areas. At the same time, the existing housing supply in the Civic Center Area should be protected from demolition or conversion to nonresidential uses.

Conserve and upgrade existing low and moderate income housing stock.

Conservation and protection of the existing supply of housing in the Civic Center Area will promote the City's efforts to preserve and enhance the supply of affordable housing.

Many parts of San Francisco were developed before zoning regulations separated various types of land uses. As a result, many housing units were built in areas also containing nonresidential uses. Most of these housing units are sound or rehabilitable and are relatively inexpensive. They represent a significant, irreplaceable portion of the City's housing supply.

Demolition of residential units should be subject to conditional use review. The City Planning Commission should require evidence that the public benefits of the alternative use are more desirable than retaining the housing.

Encourage new infill housing at a compatible density.

Expanding the supply of housing in the Civic Center Area will complement and enhance the existing housing in the area by providing a broader residential presence.

Increasing the supply of housing in the Civic Center Area will allow more residents to benefit from the Civic Center Area's convenient accessibility to major culture, employment and shopping centers.

Amended by Resolution 11769 on 10-12-1989
Amendments approved by Planning Commission Resolution 17408 on 4/5/2007 and the Board of Supervisors Ordinance 246-07 on 10/30/07.



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