Skip to code content (skip section selection)
(a) Purpose. The purpose of this Section is to ensure that all large projects proposed in the Eastern Neighborhoods Mixed Use Districts are reviewed by the Planning Commission, in an effort to achieve the objectives and policies of the General Plan, the applicable Design Guidelines, and the purposes of this Code.
(b) Applicability. This Section applies to all projects in the Eastern Neighborhoods Mixed Use Districts, except projects in the Western SoMa Special Use District that are subject to Section 823(c)(11), that meet at least one of the following criteria:
(1) Outside the Central SoMa Special Use District.
(A) The project includes the construction of a new building greater than 75 feet in height (excluding any exceptions permitted pursuant to Section 260(b)), or includes a vertical addition to an existing building with a height of 75 feet or less resulting in a total building height greater than 75 feet; or
(B) The project involves a net addition or new construction of more than 25,000 gross square feet.
(2) Within the Central SoMa Special Use District.
(A) The project includes the construction of a new building greater than 85 feet in height (excluding any exceptions permitted pursuant to Section 260(b)), or includes a vertical addition to an existing building with a height of 85 feet or less resulting in a total building height greater than 85 feet; or
(B) The project involves a net addition or new construction of more than 50,000 gross square feet.
(c) Planning Commission Design Review. As set forth in Subsection (e), below, the Planning Commission shall review and evaluate all physical aspects of a proposed project at a public hearing. At such hearing, the Director of Planning shall present any recommended project modifications or conditions to the Planning Commission, including those which may be in response to any unique or unusual locational, environmental, topographical or other relevant factors. The Commission may subsequently require these or other modifications or conditions, or disapprove a project, in order to achieve the objectives and policies of the General Plan or the purposes of this Code. This review shall address physical design issues including but not limited to the following:
(1) Overall building massing and scale;
(2) Architectural treatments, facade design and building materials;
(3) The design of lower floors, including building setback areas, commercial space, townhouses, entries, utilities, and the design and siting of rear yards, parking and loading access;
(4) The provision of required open space, both on- and off-site. In the case of off-site publicly accessible open space, the design, location, access, size, and equivalence in quality with that otherwise required on-site;
(6) Streetscape and other public improvements, including tree planting, street furniture, and lighting;
(7) Circulation, including streets, alleys and mid-block pedestrian pathways;
(8) Bulk limits;
(9) Other changes necessary to bring a project into conformance with any relevant design guidelines. Area Plan or Element of the General Plan.
(d) Exceptions. As a component of the review process under this Section 329, projects may seek specific exceptions to the provisions of this Code as provided for below:
(1) Exceeding the principally permitted accessory residential parking ratio described in Section 151.1 and pursuant to the criteria therein;
(2) Exception from residential usable open space requirements. In circumstances where such exception is granted, a fee shall be required pursuant to the standards in Section 427.
(5) Exception to height limits for vertical non-habitable architectural elements described in Section 263.21 and pursuant to the criteria therein;
(6) Exception to volumetric limitations for roof enclosures and screens pursuant to Section 260(b)(1)(F). For existing buildings, exceptions to the volumetric limitations for roof enclosures and screens shall be granted only if all rooftop equipment that is unused or permanently out of operation is removed from the building;
(8) Exception for rear yards, pursuant to the requirements of Section 134(f);
(A) an increase in the number of Designated Office Stories would result in a total square footage of office space no greater than that which would otherwise be permitted by the project.
(B) Office Uses are consolidated within a lesser number of buildings than would otherwise be the case, and
(C) the resulting location and mix of uses increases the project's consistency with nearby land uses.
(10) Relief from dwelling unit exposure requirements for buildings which are designated landmark buildings or contributory buildings within designated historic districts under Article 10 of this Code, and/or buildings recorded with the State Historic Preservation Office as eligible for the California Register, when the following criteria are met:
(A) literal enforcement of Section 140 would result in the material impairment of the historic resource; and
(11) Flexible Units: Modification of the accessory use provisions of Section 803.3(b)(1)(c) for Dwelling Units. Dwelling Units modified under this Subsection shall continue to be considered Dwelling Units for the purposes of this Code and shall be subject to all such applicable controls and fees. Additionally, any building that receives a modification pursuant to this Subsection shall (i) have appropriately designed street frontages to accommodate both residential and modified accessory uses and (ii) obtain comment on the proposed modification from other relevant agencies prior to the Planning Commission hearing, including the Fire Department and Department of Building Inspection. Modifications are subject to the following:
(A) A modification may only be granted for the ground floor portion of Dwelling Units that front on a street with a width equal to or greater than 40 feet.
(B) The accessory use may only include those uses permitted as of right at the subject property. However, uses permitted in any unit obtaining an accessory use modification may be further limited by the Planning Commission.
(C) The Planning Commission may grant exceptions to the size of the accessory use, type and number of employees, and signage restrictions of the applicable accessory use controls.
(12) Where not specified elsewhere in this subsection (d), exceptions to other Code requirements that could otherwise be modified as a Planned Unit Development (as set forth in Section 304), irrespective of the zoning district in which the property is located, except that such exceptions shall not be permitted for projects in the Central SoMa Special Use District.
(13) For development located within the Central SoMa SUD:
(A) Exception to the building separation requirements pursuant to Section 132.4(d)(3)(B).
(D) Exception to the Controls for Wind pursuant to Section 249.78(d)(9).
(E) Exception to the lot coverage limits of Section 249.78(d)(6) for conversions of existing non-residential structures to residential use.
(e) Exceptions for Key Sites in Central SoMa.
(1) Purpose. The Central SoMa Plan Area contains a number of large, underutilized development sites. By providing greater flexibility in the development of these sites, the City has an opportunity to achieve key objectives of the Central SoMa Plan and to locate important public assets that would otherwise be difficult to locate in a highly developed neighborhood like SoMa.
(2) Applicability. The controls discussed below apply to the following lots, as identified in the Key Site Guidelines adopted by the Central SoMa Area Plan (Ordinance No. 296-18, on file with the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors in File No. 180184):
(A) The southwest corner of the intersection of 5th Street and Howard Street, consisting of Block 3732, Lots 003, 004, 005, 099, 100, 145A, 146, and 149, as well as any other parcels included as part of the same development application for one of these lots;
(B) The southeast corner of the intersection of 4th Street and Harrison Street, consisting of Block 3762, Lots 106, 108, 109, 112, 116, and 117;
(C) The southwest corner of the intersection of 2nd Street and Harrison Street, consisting of Block 3763, Lots 001, 078, 079, 080, 080A, 081, 099, 100, 101, 105, 112, and 113.
(D) The northeast corner of the intersection of 4th Street and Brannan Street, consisting of Block 3776, Lot 025;
(E) The northeast corner of the intersection of 5th Street and Brannan Street, consisting of Block 3777, Lots 045, 050, 051, and 052;
(F) The southern half of the block north of Brannan Street between 5th Street and 6th Street, consisting of Block 3778, Lots 001B, 002B, 004, 005, 047, and 048;
(G) The southeast corner of the intersection of 5th and Brannan Streets, consisting of Block 3786, Lots 036 and 037; and
(H) The northeast corner of the intersection of 4th and Townsend Streets, consisting of Block 3787, Lots 026, 028, 050, 161, 162, 163, and 164.
(3) Controls. Pursuant to this Section 329(e) and the Key Site Guidelines adopted as part of the Central SoMa Area Plan, the Planning Commission may grant exceptions to the provisions of this Code as set forth in subsection (d) above and may also grant the exceptions listed below for projects that provide qualified amenities in excess of what is required by the Code.
(A) Qualified Amenities. Qualified additional amenities that may be provided by these Key Sites include: affordable housing beyond what is required under Section 415et seq.; land dedication pursuant to Section 413.6 by non-residential projects for construction of affordable housing in partial or full satisfaction of the Jobs-Housing linkage Fee, or in excess of that required to satisfy the Jobs-Housing linkage Fee, provided that if the land dedication is in partial satisfaction of that Fee, the balance of the Fee shall be paid with the land value calculated as set forth in Section 413.6; land dedication pursuant to Section 413.6 by residential projects for construction of affordable housing in partial or full satisfaction of the Alternatives to the Inclusionary Housing Fee, or in excess of that required to satisfy the Alternatives to the Inclusionary Housing Fee, pursuant to Section 419.5, to the extent permitted by state law, provided that if the land dedication is in partial satisfaction of that Fee, the balance of the Fee shall be paid with the land value calculated as set forth in Section 413.6; PDR at a greater amount and/or lower rent than is otherwise required under Sections 202.8 or 249.78(c)(5); public parks, recreation centers, or plazas; and improved pedestrian networks.
(B) Exceptions. Upon consideration of qualified amenities in excess of what is required by the Code, the Planning Commission may grant one or more exceptions to the following requirements: the streetwall and setback controls in Section 132.4; the building separation controls in Section 132.4, including but not limited to the controls in subsection 132.4(d)(3)(B); the setback requirements in Section 261.1; bulk controls in Section 270(h); and the lot merger restrictions in Section 249.78(d)(7).
In addition to these exceptions, the Planning Commission may grant one or more of the following exceptions:
(i) On the Key Site identified in Section 329(e)(2)(B), the apparent mass reduction controls in Table 270(h) may be reduced as follows: (A) on the building frontage on Harrison Street, a reduction in the apparent mass reduction requirement to 50%; (B) on the building frontage on Fourth Street, elimination of the apparent mass reduction requirement.
(ii) On the Key Site identified in Section 329(e)(2)(C), exception to the lot coverage limits in Section 249.78(d)(6), the micro-retail requirement in 249.78(c)(4), the active use requirement in Section 145.1, and the ground floor commercial use requirements in Section 145.4. In addition, the site may be permitted to seek a Conditional Use Authorization to establish a Formula Retail Limited Restaurant, pursuant to Section 303.1. In addition, any indoor POPOS on the site may be deemed to satisfy the requirements of Sections 135(h) and 135.3.
(iv) On the Key Site identified in Section 329(e)(2)(E), exception to the lot coverage limits in Section 249.78(d)(6), the requirement that POPOS be open to the sky in Section 138, the street frontage requirements in Section 145.1, and the protected pedestrian-, cycling-, and transit-oriented street frontage requirements of Section 155(r).
(vi) On the Key Site identified in Section 329(e)(2)(H), exception to the protected pedestrian-, cycling-, and transit-oriented street frontage requirements of Section 155(r), the street frontage requirements in Section 145.1, the required ground floor commercial uses in Section 145.4, the requirement that at least two-thirds of the Gross Floor Area of all building area below 160 feet be non-residential in Section 249.78(c)(6), and the requirement in Section 138(d)(2)(E)(i) that ground floor POPOS be open to the sky. In addition, the usable open space requirement pursuant to Section 135 may be reduced to 60 square feet of usable open space required for each dwelling unit if not publicly accessible.
(vii) On the Key Site identified in Section 329(e)(2)(F), the Planning Commission may grant one or more of the following exceptions:
a. Exception to the off-street parking controls of Section 151.1 to allow additional accessory PDR parking solely to serve the tenants and customers of the site.
b. Exception to the requirement that POPOS be open to the sky in Section 138(d)(2)(E)(i), to allow a cumulative maximum of 20% of the POPOS to be covered by any combination of (a) an inhabitable portion of a building, which portion of the POPOS shall have a minimum clearance height of 20' and maximum depth from face of overhead building of 15', or (b) an inhabitable portion of a building, which portion of the POPOS shall have a minimum clearance height of 50' and minimum horizontal dimension in all directions of 20'.
c. Exception to the transparency and fenestration requirements of Section 249.78(c)(1)(F) on 5th Street between Brannan and Bryant Streets, and along Morris Street.
d. Exception to the protected street frontage requirements of Section 155(r) on 5th Street between Brannan and Bryant Streets.
e. Exception to the PDR floor-to-floor height requirements set forth in Section 249.78(d)(10), such that up to a maximum of 10% of the ground floor gross floor area may have less than a 17-foot floor-to-floor height.
f. Exceptions to the overhead horizontal projection requirements set forth in Section 136(c)(5) and to the design and performance standards related to required mid-block alleys set forth in Section 270.2(e)(6); to allow for a maximum of three pedestrian bridges over a required mid-block alley, provided that the pedestrian bridges leave at least 70 feet of headroom, are no greater than 12 feet in width, are single story, and are situated no less than 50 feet apart. Notwithstanding subsection (vii)(b), pedestrian bridges provided pursuant to this subsection (vii)(f) shall be deemed obstructions permitted pursuant to Section 136, and POPOS area situated under any such pedestrian bridges shall count toward the total on-site POPOS area open to the sky.
g. Exception to the POPOS requirements set forth in Section 138, such that if any required off-site POPOS cannot reasonably be developed and open for use prior to issuance of a first certificate of occupancy for the phase of construction that triggers the off-site POPOS requirement, the project sponsor may either (1) post a performance bond in form and content acceptable to the Director of Planning so as to ensure completion of the off-site POPOS at a later date; or (2) satisfy the requirement for off-site POPOS by paying the in-lieu fee established in Section 426 for each square foot of required open space not provided on- or off-site, up to a maximum of 5,300 square feet.
h. Exception to the parking pricing requirements set forth in Section 155(g), such that the otherwise applicable parking rate structure shall not apply to Flower Mart tenants or Flower Mart customers.
i. Exception to the requirement to provide three square feet of Gross Floor Area for Residential Use for every square foot of Non-Residential Use on the portion of this Key Site zoned MUR, set forth in Sections 803.9(a) and 841, if there is a dedication and acceptance of land for affordable housing or other appropriate public use, as determined by the City. Notwithstanding Section 413.7, the land so dedicated shall be:
1. at least 14,000 square feet,
2. zoned to allow Residential Use,
3. approved by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development as an acceptable site for the development of affordable housing,
4. dedicated and accepted prior to issuance of the first Temporary Certificate of Occupancy for any building on the Key Site, and
5. located within the boundaries of either the Central SoMa, Eastern SoMa, or Western SoMa Area Plans.
k. If the Board of Supervisors has approved a development agreement for the project at this Key Site that provides for the relocation of, or funding for the relocation of, the existing on-site PDR use, the Planning Commission may grant the following exceptions:
1. Exception to the PDR and Community Building Space requirements in Section 249.78(c)(5); provided that the project shall be required to dedicate at least 23,000 square feet of on-site Community Building Space or PDR.
2. Exception to the PDR replacement requirements set forth in Section 202.8.
(4) Determination. In granting such exceptions, the Planning Commission shall determine that the provision of the proposed amenities and exceptions would meet the following criteria:
(A) The amenities and exceptions would, on balance, be in conformity with and support the implementation of the Goals, Objectives, and Policies of the Central SoMa Plan,
(B) The amenities would result in an equal or greater benefit to the City than would occur without the exceptions, and
(C) The exceptions are necessary to facilitate the provision of important public assets that would otherwise be difficult to locate in a highly developed neighborhood like SoMa.
(f) Hearing and Decision.
(1) Hearing. The Planning Commission shall hold a public hearing for all projects that are subject to this Section.
(2) Notice of Hearing. Notice of such hearing shall be provided as required by Section 333 of this Code.
(3) Director's Recommendations on Modifications and Exceptions. At the hearing, the Planning Director shall review for the Commission key issues related to the project based on the review of the project pursuant to Subsection (c) and recommend to the Commission modifications, if any, to the project and conditions for approval as necessary. The Director shall also make recommendations to the Commission on any proposed exceptions pursuant to Subsection (d).
(4) Decision and Imposition of Conditions. The Commission, after public hearing and, after making appropriate findings, may approve, disapprove or approve subject to conditions, the project and any associated requests for exception. As part of its review and decision, the Planning Commission may impose additional conditions, requirements, modifications, and limitations on a proposed project in order to achieve the objectives, policies, and intent of the General Plan or of this Code.
(5) Appeal. The decision of the Planning Commission may be appealed to the Board of Appeals by any person aggrieved within 15 days after the date of the decision by filing a written notice of appeal with that body, setting forth wherein it is alleged that there was an error in the interpretation of the provisions of this Code or abuse of discretion on the part of the Planning Commission.
(6) Discretionary Review. No requests for discretionary review shall be accepted by the Planning Department or heard by the Planning Commission for projects subject to this Section.
(7) Change of Conditions. Once a project is approved, authorization of a change in any condition previously imposed by the Planning Commission shall require approval by the Planning Commission subject to the procedures set forth in this Section.
(Added by Ord. 298-08, File No. 081153, App. 12/19/2008; amended by Ord. 196-11 , File No. 110786, App. 10/4/2011, Eff. 11/3/2011; Ord. 42-13 , File No. 130002, App. 3/28/2013, Eff. 4/27/2013; Ord. 188-15 , File No. 150871, App. 11/4/2015, Eff. 12/4/2015; Ord. 102-16 , File No. 160346, App. 6/24/2016, Eff. 7/24/2016; Ord. 98-17, File No. 160281, App. 5/19/2017, Eff. 6/18/2017; Ord. 179-18, File No. 180423, App. 7/27/2018, Eff. 8/27/2018, Oper. 1/1/2019; Ord. 296-18, File No. 180184, App. 12/12/2018, Eff. 1/12/2019; Ord. 251-19, File No. 190548, App. 11/15/2019, Eff. 12/16/2019; Ord. 001-20, File No. 190681, App. 1/10/2020, Eff. 2/10/2020, Oper. 2/10/2020)
Division (b) amended; new divisions (d)(9) and (d)(10) added and former division (d)(9) redesignated as (d)(11); Ord. 196-11 , Eff. 11/3/2011. Division (b) amended; Ord. 42-13 , Eff. 4/27/2013. Divisions (d)(2) and (d)(6) amended; former divisions (d)(9)(i)-(ii) redesignated as (d)(9)(A)-(B); division (d)(10) amended; former divisions (d)(10)(i)-(iii) redesignated as (d)(10)(A)-(C); Ord. 188-15 , Eff. 12/4/2015. New division (d)(6) added and former divisions (d)(6)-(11) redesignated as (d)(7)-(12); current division (d)(9) amended; Ord. 102-16 , Eff. 7/24/2016. Division (d)(7) amended; Ord. 98-17, Eff. 6/18/2017. Division (e)(2) amended; Ord. 179-18, Oper. 1/1/2019. Divisions (b) and (d)(12) amended; former divisions (b)(1)-(2) and (e)-(e)(7) redesignated as (b)(1)(A)-(B) and (f)-(f)(7), respectively; new divisions (b)(2)-(b)(2)(B), (d)(4),1 (d)(13), and (e)-(e)(4)(C) added; Ord. 296-18 , Eff. 1/12/2019. Division (e)(3)(A) amended; Ord. 251-19 , Eff. 12/16/2019. Divisions (e)(3)(B)(vii) and (e)(3)(B)(vii)c. amended; new divisions (e)(3)(B)(vii)e.-(e)(3)(B)(vii)k.3. added; Ord. 001-20 , Oper. 2/10/2020.