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SAN FRANCISCO PLANNING DEPARTMENT
ZONING ADMINISTRATOR PLANNING CODE INTERPRETATIONS
Presented below are recent interpretations by the Zoning Administrator as to how certain sections of the Planning Code should be applied to specific factual situations. If you have substantial reason to believe that there is an error in the interpretation of the provision of the Planning Code or abuse of discretion on the part of the Zoning Administrator in a determination listed below, you have fifteen (15) days from the date preceding the interpretation to appeal the determination to the Board of appeals. For information regarding the appeals process, please call the Board of Appeals, located at 1650 Mission Street, or call 415-575-6880.
April 2, 2010
Code Section(s): 183 and 121.2
Subject: Nonconforming Uses: Discontinuance and Abandonment as it relates to Use Size
This Interpretation memorializes a long-standing Department practice.
Section 183 restricts the re-establishment of a use that has been changed to a conforming use, or discontinued for a continuous period of three years, or whenever there is otherwise evident a clear intent on the part of the owner to abandon a nonconforming use and the use of the property thereafter shall be in conformity with the use limitations of the Planning Code for the district in which the property is located.
The intent of this Section relates solely to the discontinuance and abandonment of the nonconforming use or "activity" not the size. Pursuant to Section 180, a "nonconforming use" is defined as a use which existed lawfully at the effective date of this Code or of amendments thereto and which fails to conform to one or more of the use limitations under Articles 2, 6, 7, and 8 of this Code. Use size is regulated in Article 1.2, and is more analogous to a noncomplying structure, pursuant to Section 180(a)(2). Noncomplying structures are not deemed abandoned and forced to become Code-complying if they are left vacant for more than three years, but only when they are removed. Therefore, a nonconforming use size that is discontinued and abandoned for a period three years and has not been reduced in size by a new tenant may be reoccupied by a new use at its original size, without seeking a new Conditional Use authorization.
This interpretation does not supersede any provisions for a replacement use that requires conditional use authorization for the district in which the property is located, nor does it supersede Sections 186.1(4) for the North Beach NCD and 186.1(5) for the Castro Street NCD, where the Code specifically restricts any changes of use to occupy a space that does not conform to the use size restrictions without a new conditional use regardless of discontinuance and abandonment.
April 2, 2010
Code Section: 607(b) & 607(g)
Subject: Roof Signs in Industrial and Commercial Districts
Effective Date: 12/09
Section 607(g) applies to all signs in Commercial and Industrial Districts and restricts (1) height and (2) extension above roofline. Because specific regulations for roof signs are contained in Section 607(b), the question arose as to the applicability of Section 607(g) to roof signs.
Height. Section 607(g) distinguishes signs attached to buildings from freestanding signs. Section 602.2 defines “attached to a building” as “supported, in whole or in part, by a building.” Therefore, if a roof sign is supported by a building then it is subject to the height limits for “signs attached to buildings” contained in Section 607(g)(1). Section 602.5 defines “freestanding” as “in no part supported by a building.” Similarly, if a roof sign is in no part supported by a building, such as one affixed to an independent structural frame, then it is subject to the height limits for “freestanding signs” contained in Section 607(g)(2).
Extension above roofline. Section 607(g)(1) requires that signs not “extend or be located above the roofline.” While Section 607(b) contains exceptions to this requirement, it does not provide relief from the height limits of Section 607(g)(1), which cannot be exceeded “under any circumstance,” or the maximum heights set forth under Section 607(g)(2).
Therefore, a roof sign may extend above a roofline so long as it does not exceed a total height of 40 feet in a C-1 District, 100 feet in a C-3 District, or 60 feet in any other C, M, or PDR District.
April 2, 2010
Code Section: 604(f)
Subject: Change of copy on a general advertising sign
Effective Date: 2/10
This interpretation supersedes an interpretation of Section 604(f) from 9/89.
Section 604(f) requires that “in the case of signs the customary use of which does not involve frequent and periodic changes of copy, a change of copy shall in itself constitute a new sign subject to the provisions of this Section 604 if the new copy concerns a different person, firm, group, organization, place, commodity, product, service, business, profession, enterprise or industry.”
Because of the nature of general advertising and the land use rights conferred in a valid permit for a general advertising sign, changes of copy on a nonconforming general advertising sign, however infrequent, are not subject to the provisions of Section 604.
In addition, while a building permit is required to alter a nonconforming general advertising sign, such permit may be approved so long as (1) those alterations are required in order to change copy and (2) there is no increase in the level of nonconformity.
Therefore, a directly lit general advertising sign containing neon tubing spelling the name of an advertised product may be modified to advertise a wholly different product and convert the sign from direct to indirect illumination.
April 2, 2010
Code Section: 179.1(g)
Subject: Fee Payment for Legitimization
Effective Date: 2/12
Section 179.1(g) requires that “At least 20% of applicable fees are due annually following the issuance of the first site or building permit and final payment must be made within five years of receiving the first building or site permit.” However, the various impact fees included in the Planning Code typically require they be paid before the issuance of a building permit, not after.
Therefore, the initial 20% of applicable fees under Section 179.1 shall be paid before the issuance of a building permit. This effectively ensures that the total fee amount will be paid within four years of receiving the first building or site permit instead of within five years.
March 22, 2010
Code Section: 134, 135
Subject: Rear Yard Requirement where there is a noncomplying structure in the Rear Yard
Effective Date: 03/10
The existence of a building within the rear yard could allow for expansion within the buildable area that would result in excessive overall lot coverage, up to 100 percent. This is contrary to the General Plan and the principles of the Planning Code with respect to lot coverage. In such cases, the Zoning Administrator shall require open space to be provided elsewhere on the site. The requirement would be based on established patterns of adjacent development and would be equivalent to the area that would otherwise be provided by a rear yard equal to 25% of lot depth or 15 feet times rear lot width, whichever is greater. In order to count towards the standard, the space would have to meet the minimum dimension requirements for open space of Section 135(f). The Zoning Administrator shall consider lot coverage which does not meet these requirements on a case by case basis and may approve them administratively, or require a variance.