San Francisco Building Permit Processes

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San Francisco Permitting

Guiding Through Building Permits in San Francisco

Hands on guide for any client who is looking to start a construction process in the City of San Francisco. When it comes to permitting, there is so much below the surface that most of us don’t think about when dealing with such as does my project qualify for Over-theCounter (OTC) or will I need a Conditional Use Permit. This guide will keep you on track on a reasonable timeline.


Over-the-Counter (OTC) Application Process

There are two types of OTC applications one with plans and one without. This process is faster than the In-house review permits, but the project must be eligible for the process. Please see refer to the link to check eligibility. Over-the-Counter Eligibility If you do not qualify for an OTC application review process, you will be directed for an InHouse/Intake review.

Follow this submittal checklist:

  • Two sets signed/sealed plans (wet sign for cover sheet of each trade)
  • One set of Structural Calcs if applicable
  • DA Checklist completed and printed on plans
  • Building Permit application
  • Cost of construction

Scheduling an Appointment for drop off

You may drop off OTC without plans to Department Building daily Monday – Friday 7:30am– 9:30am. For Over-the-Counter with plans you must schedule an appointment Monday through Friday from 9:30am - 3:30pm.  If an appointment time is needed much closer than the SFDBI site has provide, you may contact Burnham to get you on a waitlist to a much closer appointment date.

Due to COVID procedures timelines are subject to change.

Departmental Plan Reviews 

  • Architecture and Accessibility
  • Fire
  • Mechanical
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Structural
  • Planning/Zoning
  • Public Works
  • Health (only if applicable)
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In-house / Intake Plan

If you do not qualify for an OTC application review process, you will be directed for an InHouse/Intake review. Typically larger or more complicated projects are submitted
through the In-House process.

The In-house process includes a pre-screening process to insure the specific area of proposed design are code compliant and whether certain existing non-conforming conditions can remain as is. This allows the applicant to review the project details before fully committing to the project. 

Submittal Checklist

  • Two sets signed/sealed plans (wet sign for cover sheet of each trade)
  • One set of Structural Calcs if applicable
  • DA Checklist completed and printed on plans
  • Building Permit application
  • Cost of construction
  • LL authorization letter 

Departmental Reviews

  • Architecture and Accessibility
  • Fire
  • Mechanical
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Structural
  • Planning/Zoning
  • Public Works
  • Health (only if applicable)

Whether it is the beginning, middle or at the end of your project, Burnham can always
assist in your project.

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Conditional Use Permit/ Authorization (CUP/CUA)

A Conditional Use refers to a use that is not principally permitted in a particular Zoning District. The Planning Commission will need to review and hear the order to determine whether the proposed use is necessary or desirable to the neighborhood. The CUP and CUA will mostly apply to formula retail (11 or more business locations worldwide). It's important to state that not all Districts of San Francisco accept formula retails which is why they must go through the process. 

Checklist for going through the process: 

  • Pre-Application Process
  • Project Scope & contact information
  • Two Findings to be answered related to CUA and Priority General Plan Policy Findings
  • Depending on scope of project; additional findings.
  • Authorization
  • Owner, Applicant, Contact Person, and Community Liaison 
  • Drawings
  • Photographs
  • Additional Conditional Use Criteria

This is a long and intensive process, which you may not want to go through. Check in with Burnham before you start any process with your business. We want to ensure you save time and money for your project.

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Exterior Work

San Francisco is full of beautiful, historical facades and structures. Because of this, the Historic Preservation Commission was created to protect said sites and structures from negligence or alterations that may destroy their historical and architectural value. 

Follow the steps below to determine if you are able to make exterior changes to your building.

  • Historic Resource Assessment (HRA)
  • If it's located within an Article 10 Historic District it will need a  Certificate of Appropriateness (C of A)
  • New construction will also require  Certificate of Appropriateness (C of A)

Whether it is the beginning, middle or at the end of your project, Burnham can always assist in your project. Our team is equipped with the knowledge and experience to handle any step. We are ready to take on the lead of your project, that way it will save you time, money, and an ease of mind knowing your project is being handled by local experts.

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