San Francisco’s Streamlined Approval Process
San Francisco’s Streamlined Approval Process

In general, it now takes between a year and three for a newly proposed multi-unit development in San Francisco to be preliminarily assessed, processed, analyzed, reviewed and readied for a potential approval hearing in front of San Francisco’s Planning Commission, a workflow which San Francisco’s Planning Department has been actively working to streamline since the end of 2017.

In fact, Planning’s target time frame for completing the very first step in the approval process, the completion of a Preliminary Project Assessment (PAA), has already been reduced by a third (from a previous target of 90 days to a current average of 62) and new suite of tools to allow for the online submittal and tracking of applications has been launched.

A pilot program which allows developers to conduct an advanced assessment of a property’s historic resource classification and potential preservation considerations was launched at the beginning of this year, with 27 of 42 advanced applications having been processed in an average of 61 days, 93 percent of which have returned a Category C determination of “No Historic Resource” being present on the proposed development site (“providing early certainty to prospective applicants where the historic resource status is unknown”).

And yes, plans to further “codify or standardize” the guidelines for design review and to standardize the “conditions of approval” for an environmental review are in the works as well.

All that being said, keep in mind that there are currently twice as many units of housing which have already been approved but have yet to break ground than newly proposed units which are currently working their way through Planning in San Francisco’ overall pipeline of development.

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