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Food Trucks/Open Air Sales (Temporary Use)

Food Trucks header
Information on permitting a temporary use of land (e.g. Food trucks or Mobile Food Facilities, Christmas Tree and Pumpkin Lots, Farmers Markets).

Getting Started

Temporary uses are uses of land on a particular property for a limited period of time. The Planning Department regulates these temporary uses using the Temporary Use Authorization (TUA) Application. TUA are typically not associated with significant construction activity; they authorize short-term uses such as mobile food facilities, seasonal Christmas tree and pumpkin sales, construction site trailers, and festivals. Therefore, in most instances, a Building Permit Application is not required.

Got permitting questions?
Read the FAQ.

Don't forget that a TUA is associated with a particular property rather than a particular business or individual. Therefore only the property owner or a party designated as the owner's agent may submit a TUA Application. Also, since the authorization is tied to the parcel, if one operator wishes to obtain a TUA for multiple sites, a separate permit would be needed for each.

Depending on the scope of work, length of time you are seeking Temporary Use Authorization, and the zoning district of the parcel on which you are proposing a temporary use, your project may be approvable over-the-counter (OTC), or it may require Neighborhood Notification and several accompanying Pre-Application steps. In certain instances a Conditional Use Authorization (CU) may also be required.

If your temporary use project involves Street Food or a Mobile Food Facility (MFF) you can find more information on specific regulations on our helpful handout, Frequently Asked Questions: Street Food and Regulations for Mobile Food Facilities.

It is recommended to visit or call Planning staff at the Planning Information Center (PIC) early in the planning of your project. The PIC is at 1660 Mission Street, 1st floor and may also be reached by phone at (415) 558-6377 or via email at pic@sfgov.org.

While many temporary uses will not require Building Permits, we also recommend you contact the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) to confirm their requirements before submitting your Building Permit Application. They can be reached at (415) 558-6088, or at 1660 Mission Street 1st floor

Understanding What's Allowed

Temporary uses are regulated by the San Francisco Planning Code. To maintain the character and purpose of distinct areas in San Francisco, the City's geography has been divided into distinct zoning use districts (view these zoning use districts on the San Francisco Zoning Map and Section 201 of the Planning Code). For each activity or use of land in any given zoning district, the Code states if that activity or use is either: Permitted; Conditional; or Not Permitted. Therefore knowing the zoning district of your property will help you identify what specific limits may apply to your project and which application materials you will need to submit.

You can find the zoning use district and height limits of your property on the Find My Zoning page, or directly from our San Francisco Property Information Map by entering your address or Assessor's Lot and Block number and click the "Zoning" tab.

Other Things To Consider
In addition to the zoning district and land use regulations in the San Francisco Planning Code, your application will also be reviewed under provisions in all of San Francisco's Municipal Codes, the San Francisco General Plan, and Department policies based on a number of criteria (e.g. the historical significance of your property, the environmental impact of your project, or other regulations).

Here are the most common regulations you will need to consider:

  • Pre-Application Process & Neighborhood Notification requirements
    Mobile Food Facilities (MFF), aka "Street Food" may have a Neighborhood Notification requirement depending on size and location. Temporary MFF’s are subject to Neighborhood Notification requirements only if located in a zoning district with notification requirements and: (1) all MFF’s on the property and their paraphernalia comprise more than 300 square feet, or (2) any part of the MFF or its paraphernalia are located within 50 feet of residential district.

    Neighborhood Notification is a process where the Planning Department mails a notice alerting neighbors and neighborhood groups in the vicinity of your proposed project and they are given a period of 30 days to respond with concerns or to request a Discretionary Review (DR). Depending on the scope of your project, you may also need to provide a "Pre-Application Notice" to nearby neighbors, and/or you may need to hold a "Pre-Application Meeting." The triggers for the Pre-Application Process are explained in the Pre-Application Information Packet.

  • Street Food or Mobile Food Facilities (MFF)
    If your temporary use project involves Street Food or a Mobile Food Facility (MFF) you can find more information on specific regulations on our helpful handout, Frequently Asked Questions: Street Food and Regulations for Mobile Food Facilities.

  • Public Right-of-way
    Temporary Use Authorizations may only be granted for individual parcels; they may not be authorized within any public right-of-way (e.g. streets or sidewalks). If a proposed temporary activity would be conducted within a public right-of-way, an alternate permitting process administered by the Department of Public Works is required.

  • Timing restrictions
    The principal restrictions on temporary uses are frequency and duration as shown below.

     

    USE TYPE

    MAXIMUM TIME LIMIT

    ZONING DISTRICT

    CODE SECTION

    A

    neighborhood festival sponsored by residents in the vicinity

    60 days

    all

    205.1(a)

    B

    neighborhood festival sponsored by property owners or businesses in the vicinity

    60 days

    PDR, C, M

    205.1(a)

    C

    booth for charitable, patriotic or welfare purposes

    60 days

    all

    205.1(b)

    D

    open air sale of seasonal decorations such as Christmas trees or Halloween pumpkins.

    60 days

    all

    205.1(c)

    E

    outdoor “intermittent activities” such as mobile food facilities (a.k.a. street food) or farmers markets

    3 days/week or 6 twelve-hour days/week for 1 year

    all except RH, RM, RED, RTO

    205.4

    F

    rental or sales office incidental to a new residential development

    1 year

    all

    205.2(b)

    G

    automobile wrecking

    2 years

    M-1, M-2

    205.2(c)

    H

    structures and uses incidental to construction activities

    2 years

    all

    205.2(a)

    I

    celebration or exhibition sponsored by a residential or commercial occupant(s)

    single 24-hour event per month for 1 year

    SoMa & Eastern Neighborhoods Mixed Use Districts

    205.3(a) & (b)

     
  • Longer than "temporary"
    If you want a continuously-operating MFF on a parcel, then it is not subject to the Temporary Use Authorization and would be treated the same as a  brick and mortar building in terms of use restrictions (i.e. it would be Permitted, Conditional or Not-Permitted) based on the controls for restaurants in the particular zoning district. (See our Restaurants permitting page for further discussion.)

Applying for Your Permit & Paying Fees

The following information must be submitted when applying for a Building Permit to construct a mobile food use, open air sales use (i.e. temporary use):

  1. Construction plans and/or drawings (existing and proposed floor plan along with elevations if exterior changes to the building are proposed)
  2. Temporary Use Authorization (TUA) Application
  3. Building Permit Application Packet (if Neighborhood Notification is required)
  4. Forms provided in the Pre-Application Packet (if a Pre-Application Meeting is required)
  5. Forms provided in the Conditional Use Authorization (CU) Application (required only if seeking a Conditional Use Authorization)

Since every project is unique, we have a useful matrix handout, the Permit Application Checklist which explains submittal requirements based on the proposed work as described under "How to Use This Matrix." A checklist of required materials to be submitted with the Building Permit is also included in the Building Permit Application Packet which also describes the Section 312 Neighborhood Notification process.

To submit a permit, prepare the Building Permit Application and bring it along with all necessary plans and materials as described in the Permit Application Checklist and/or Building Application Packet to the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) at 1660 Mission Street. If you are a new user, we recommend you come to the Planning Information Center (PIC) also at 1660 Mission Street before proceeding to DBI.

Fees
Permit fees are based on the construction cost of your project. To estimate permit fees, the Planning Department's fee schedule is available online. We also have a fee calculator for Building Permits reviewed by the Planning Department. If you have any questions, please stop by or call the Planning Information Center (PIC) staff at (415) 558-6377. Depending on your location and project type, impact fees may be required for new construction. Contact the PIC to see if these requirements apply to your property. Please note this is for the Planning Department's review fees only. Fees for review by the Building Department are available here. You may also call DBI at 558-6088.

Don't forget: Should the cost of staff time exceed the initial fee you paid, it is possible an additional fee for time and materials may be billed upon completion of the permit review process. Additional fees may also be collected for preparation and recordation of any documents with the San Francisco Assessor-Recorder’s office and for monitoring compliance with any conditions of approval.

Permit Review Process


1. Submittal

If you have already visited the Planning Information Center (PIC) at 1660 Mission Street and you are confident you have all the correct materials for your Building Permit Application, your next step is to submit your application materials & fees listed in Applying for My Permit & Paying Fees to the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) at 1660 Mission Street.

2. Screening

After initial screening of your application by DBI, the Planning Department will review the application to confirm it is complete for Planning Department requirements. If information is missing, or if corrections are needed, you will be asked to return with that information. If Neighborhood Notification is not required, planners at the Planning Information Center (PIC) will review the application to determine if it complies with the San Francisco Planning Code (view the code online) and is consistent with the additional regulations detailed above in Understanding What's Allowed. If so, it may be approved over-the-counter. If Neighborhood Notification is required, the application will be taken in and routed to an assigned planner at the Planning Department.

3. Plan Review

Similar to Screening in Step 2, when the Planning Department reviews your application, an assigned planner will determine if the application complies with the San Francisco Planning Code (view the code online) and is consistent with our Residential Design Guidelines and the additional regulations detailed above in Understanding What's Allowed. In addition, according to Planning Code Sections 311/312 Neighborhood Notification procedures, prior to filing any Entitlement Application (this includes but is not limited to Building Permits, Variances, and Conditional Use Authorizations) the project sponsor must conduct a minimum of one Pre-Application Meeting if the proposed scope of work triggers such a meeting. The triggers for the Pre-Application Process are explained in the Pre-Application Information Packet. Once the planner determines that your project is approvable, he or she will initiate the Neighborhood Notification process.

4. Notification

Neighborhood Notification entails mailing an announcement of your project to neighbors and neighborhood groups so that they, or any person, may voice concerns they have over the proposal or so that they may request a Discretionary Review (a hearing seeking denial of the project or changes to the proposal before the San Francisco Planning Commission). The permit is held by Planning for a 30-day period from the date of mailed notification to allow adequate time for public review of the proposal. During the notification period, any person may ask the San Francisco Planning Commission to exercise its power of Discretionary Review over the Building Permit Application.

You will meet with review staff from different departments as directed by DBI, who will check your construction documents to verify the proposed construction will meet the various City Municipal Codes (view all codes online). Staff from the following departments will check a typical Building Permit for new restaurant/food service uses:

  • Department of Building Inspection (DBI)
  • Department of Public Works (DPW)/Bureau of Streets Management (BSM) (if use of streetspace/sidewalk is needed)
  • San Francisco Fire Department (depending on occupancy)

Other agencies may be involved depending on the scope of your project.

When all the reviews are complete, the permit will be issued, and you can begin work. Note, there is a 15-day period after Building Permit issuance in which any party may appeal the permit to the Board of Appeals.

Inspections

Inspections of permitted work is the responsibility of the Department of Building Inspection. DBI's Inspection Services page explains their inspection function.

Applications & Handouts


Applications Mentioned On This Page

Handouts Mentioned On This Page

 
Last updated: 10/7/2013 8:25:42 PM