§ 138.



Requirement. An applicant for a permit to construct a new building or an addition of gross floor area equal to 20 percent or more of an existing building (hereinafter “building”) in C-3 Districts shall provide open space in the amount and in accordance with the standards set forth in this Section. All determinations concerning the adequacy of the amount of open space to be provided and its compliance with the requirements of this Section shall be made in accordance with the provisions of Section 309.


Amount Required. Except in the C-3-O(SD) District, open space shall be provided in the amounts specified below for all uses except (i) residential uses, which shall be governed by Section 135 of this Code; (ii) institutional uses; and (iii) uses in a predominantly retail building. In the C-3-O(SD) District open space shall be provided in the amounts below for all non-residential uses. For the purposes of this section, a “predominantly retail building” is one in which 2/3 or more of the occupied floor area is in retail use.

Minimum Amount of Open Space Required
UseDistrict Ratio of Square Feet of Open Space to Gross Square Feet of Uses with Open Space Requirement
C-3-O 1:50
C-3-R 1:100
C-3-G 1:50
C-3-S 1:50
C-3-O (SD) 1:50


Location. The open space required by this Section may be on the same site as the building for which the permit is sought, or within 900 feet of it on either private property or, with the approval of all relevant public agencies, public property, provided that all open space must be located entirely within the C-3 District. Open space is within 900 feet of the building within the meaning of this Section if any portion of the building is located within 900 feet of any portion of the open space. Off-site open space shall be developed and open for use prior to issuance of a first certificate of occupancy, as defined in Section 401 of this Code, of the building whose open space requirement is being met off-site. Failure to comply with the requirements of this subsection shall be grounds for enforcement under this Code, including but not limited to the provisions of Sections 176 and 176.1.


Types and Standards of Open Space. Except as otherwise provided in Subsection (e), the project applicant may satisfy the requirements of this Section by providing one or more of the following types of open space: A plaza, an urban park, an urban garden, a view terrace, a sun terrace, a greenhouse, a small sitting area (a snippet), an atrium, an indoor park, or a public sitting area in a galleria, in an arcade, or in a pedestrian mall or walkway, as more particularly defined in the table entitled “Guidelines for Open Space” in the Open Space Section of the Downtown Plan, or any amendments thereto, provided that the open space meets the following minimum standards. The open space shall:


Be of adequate size;


Be situated in such locations and provide such ingress and egress as will make the area easily accessible to the general public;


Be well-designed, and where appropriate, be landscaped;


Be protected from uncomfortable wind;


Incorporate various features, including ample seating and, if appropriate, access to food service, which will enhance public use of the area;


Have adequate access to sunlight if sunlight access is appropriate to the type of area;


Be well-lighted if the area is of the type requiring artificial illumination;


Be open to the public at times when it is reasonable to expect substantial public use;


Be designed to enhance user safety and security;


If the open space is on private property, provide toilet facilities open to the public;


Have at least 75 percent of the total open space approved be open to the public during all daylight hours.


Approval of Open Space Type and Features. The type, size, location, physical access, seating and table requirements, landscaping, availability of commercial services, sunlight and wind conditions and hours of public access shall be reviewed and approved in accordance with the provisions of Section 309, and shall generally conform to the “Guidelines for Open Space.”

The Commission may, by resolution, declare certain types of open space ineligible throughout C-3 Districts, or in certain defined areas, if it determines that a disproportionate number of certain types of open space, or that an insufficient number of parks and plazas, is being provided in order to meet the public need for open space and recreational uses. Such resolution may exempt from its application projects whose permit applications are on file with the Department of City Planning. Over time, no more than 20 percent of the space provided under this Section shall be indoor space and at least 80 percent shall be outdoor space. Once an indoor space has been approved, another such feature may not be approved until the total square footage of outdoor open space features approved under this Section exceeds 80 percent of the total square footage of all open spaces approved under this Section.


Open Space Provider. The open space required by this Section may be provided: individually by the project sponsor or jointly by the project sponsor and other project sponsors, provided, that each square foot of jointly developed open space may count toward only one sponsor’s requirement. With the approval of the Planning Commission, a public or private agency may develop and maintain the open space, provided that (i) the project sponsor or sponsors pay for the cost of development of the number of square feet the project sponsor is required to provide, (ii) provision satisfactory to the Commission is made for the continued maintenance of the open space for the actual lifetime of the building giving rise to the open space requirement, and (iii) the Commission finds that there is reasonable assurance that the open space to be developed by such agency will be developed and open for use by the time the building, the open space requirement of which is being met by the payment, is ready for occupancy. Property owners providing open space under this section will hold harmless the City and County of San Francisco, its officers, agents and employees, from any damage or injury caused by the design, construction, use, or maintenance of open space. Property owners are solely liable for any damage or loss occasioned by any act or negligence in respect to the design, construction, use, or maintenance of the open space.


Nonresidential/Residential Open Space. In mixed nonresidential/residential projects, open space which meets the requirements of Section 135 regarding common usable open space for residential uses, and the requirements of Section 138 regarding open space for nonresidential uses, may be counted against the open space requirements of both Sections 135 and 138.


Maintenance. Open spaces shall be maintained at no public expense. The owner of the property on which the open space is located shall maintain it by keeping the area clean and free of litter and keeping in a healthy state any plant material that is provided. Conditions intended to assure continued maintenance of the open space for the actual lifetime of the building giving rise to the open space requirement may be imposed in accordance with the provisions of Section 309.


Informational Plaque. Prior to issuance of a permit of occupancy, one or more plaques shall be designed and placed in publicly conspicuous locations as described in this subsection.

(1) 1 The plaques shall:


state the right of the public to use the space; and


state the hours of use; and


describe its principal required features (e.g., number of seats, uses and/or other defining features); and


state the current name, telephone number, and postal address of the owner or owner’s agent responsible for public access and maintenance; and


describe the type of open space; and,


state the location of the open space, and, in cases where that space is not visible from a major sidewalk, include directions to the open space.


In terms of design and appearance, the plaque shall:


include the standard Privately-owned public open space logo developed by the Planning Department; and


follow the Zoning Administrator Bulletin 8 for POPOS Informational Plaques in terms of detailed dimensions, font type and size, color, and other graphics ; and


be developed using the POPOS signage design toolkit provided by the Planning Department; and


be made of opaque, non-reflective material, and provide a clear contrast between the lettering and the background; and


The plaque shall be located as follows:


Exterior. If the open space is located outside of a building and is at least partially adjacent to a public sidewalk, a plaque shall be placed on each building face adjacent to the space. Each plaque shall be located as close as possible to the nearest adjacent public sidewalk, but in no case shall any portion of each plaque be located more than five feet from the nearest sidewalk. Alternately, a plaque may be attached to an improvement within the open space or a free standing post so long as the entire plaque is located within five feet of and is clearly visible from an adjacent public sidewalk.


If the open space is located inside a building, or if the open space is located outside a building but is primarily accessed through a building, or if the open space is not otherwise easily visible from the nearest public sidewalk, a plaque shall be placed within five feet of each pedestrian entrance to the building on the outside wall (exclusive of service, emergency, maintenance and related entrances). The plaque shall describe the location of the open space and provide directions on how to get to the space, way-finding signs shall also be placed within the building (e.g., in the lobby and at the elevator) clearly indicating the path to the open space.


The plaque shall be placed so that the midpoint of the plaque is positioned at a height between four and one-half to six feet above grade level; and


Existing POPOS. Existing POPOS shall comply with the current signage requirements contained in this subsection (i) and in the Zoning Administrator Bulletin referred to in subsection (i)(2)(B) whenever:


the project seeks new approvals that trigger compliance with the signage requirements; or


the existing signage is not in compliance with the requirements in effect at the time of a prior project approval; or


the existing signage requires alteration in order to comply with Federal or State requirements for directional and informational signs.


Notwithstanding the requirements established in subsections (b)-(d) above, the following additional standards shall apply in the C-3-O(SD) district:


Public connections directly to the rooftop park on the Transbay Transit Center from adjacent buildings shall be counted toward the open space required per subsection (b) above provided that they meet all the following criteria:


Such connections shall provide both horizontal connection (i.e. pedestrian bridge) from the subject development lot to the Transit Center Park as well as vertical connection to access such park connection from a publicly-accessible space at street level;


Such connections described in (A), both vertical and horizontal, and any related circulation spaces, shall be publicly-accessible at any time the Transit Center park is open to the public;


Horizontal connections shall have a minimum clear walking path of 12 feet;


The project sponsor shall provide a letter, prior to project approval subject to Section 309, from the Executive Director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority or any successor agency or agencies with jurisdiction over the Transit Center park indicating tentative approval of the horizontal connection as designed;


Any vertical connection shall be clearly and prominently signed from a public sidewalk or public space as described in (A) above, and shall feature an informational plaque meeting the standards in subsection (i) above and further established in the “Guidelines for Open Space.”


The square footage equivalency of such park connections for the purpose of meeting Section 138 open space requirements shall be calculated to include:


The area of the bridge structure from face of building to furthest point of connection on the rooftop park;


The area set aside for public circulation on or adjacent to the development lot, within or outside of the building envelope, that provides access to the park connection and is not otherwise necessary for general building circulation;


The area on any floor devoted to vertical circulation dedicated specifically to  provide public access to the park connection, except for any features that are otherwise necessary for the general circulation or support of the building; and


An additional 5,000 square feet bonus.


Approval of such connections by the Planning Department or Commission is conditioned on obtaining the necessary easements, permits or approvals otherwise required by other governmental agencies or authorities.


Such connections must satisfy all applicable permit and governmental approval requirements and be completed and available for public use prior to issuance of the first Temporary Certificate of Occupancy for the project.


Building connections that are designed primarily to provide access to the rooftop park for tenants of the subject building and not to either provide public access through the subject building to the park or to provide public access to retail in the subject building at the level of the park shall not be eligible for credit toward open space required under this Section.


Any observation deck or sky lobby or similar space of public accommodation on any story above a height of 600 feet that is open to the general public shall be counted toward the open space required by subsection (b). Such spaces shall not include any space that requires a fee for access, a bar, restaurant or other primarily-commercial use, except that a space qualifying under this subsection may include ancillary retail or eating and drinking activities not to exceed 50% of the publicly-accessible floor area of such space.


Any mid-block public pedestrian pathway that meets the design criteria of Section 270.2(e) whether required or not, shall be counted toward the open space required by subsection (b), except that any mid-block pathway constructed on Assessor’s Block 3721 connecting Howard and Natoma Streets need not be open to the sky provided that it has vertical clearance of at least 25 feet, is open to the public at all times, and is open to the air at both ends such that it does not require opening of doors for access.


In-lieu of providing open space per the requirements of this Section 138, developments in the C-3-O(SD) District may pay the fee as described in Section 427(b).



1. The designation of the subdivisions of division (i) was corrected by the codifier.


(Added by Ord. 414-85, App. 9/17/85; amended by Ord. 182-12 , File No. 120665, App. 8/8/2012, Eff. 9/7/2012; Ord. 228-12 , File No. 120220, App. 11/14/2012, Eff. 12/14/2012)

Division (b) amended; division (j) added; Ord. 182-12 , Eff. 9/7/2012. Section header and divisions (c), (f), (h) and (i) amended; divisions (i)(1) 1 through (5) added; Ord. 228-12 , Eff. 12/14/2012.


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