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(a) Purpose. It is the policy of the City and County of San Francisco to comply with the Federal Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act by reasonably modifying its regulations, policies, practices and procedures for people with disabilities. The City and County of San Francisco also recognizes the importance of sustaining and enhancing our city's neighborhood character. In determining whether a requested modification is reasonable, the City will consider, among other relevant factors, the extent to which the requested modification might fundamentally alter its existing zoning or regulations. The purpose of this Section 305.1 is to establish a process for making and acting upon requests for reasonable modifications to the regulations, policies, practices, and procedures of the Planning Department and Code.
(1) Requests for reasonable modification can be made for residential uses in any zoning district in the City and County of San Francisco in accordance with the procedures outlined in this Section 305.1.
(2) An applicant may seek a modification through this Section 305.1 for an alteration that is available under other sections of this Code, in which case a modification under this Section shall be in lieu of any approval, permit or entitlement that would otherwise be required. An application under this Section may also seek a modification that is not available under any other sections of the Planning Code.
(1) Request for a Modification. A person with a disability who requests a modification in the application of the Planning Code to ensure having equal access to housing must initiate the request by providing the required information to the Department. The Department shall maintain a form, known as the Reasonable Modification Form, which will detail the process for seeking a modification and identity the information that must be submitted to the Department in connection with the request for modification.
(2) Content of Application. The application shall be in accordance with the policies, rules and regulations of the Planning Department, Zoning Administrator, and Planning Commission. In addition to any other information that is required under this Section 305.1, the applicant shall complete the Reasonable Modification Form. The form shall at a minimum include the applicant's contact information and a description of the need for the requested modification including an identifiable relationship, or nexus, between the requested modification and the individual's disability. This information is required for the administrative reasonable modification process and the standard reasonable modification variance procedure.
(3) ADA Accommodation in Making Request. If an individual needs assistance in making the request for a reasonable modification, the individual should notify the Department, which will then endeavor to provide the assistance necessary to ensure that the process is accessible to the applicant or applicant's representative.
(d) Request for Administrative Reasonable Modification – No Hearing. In an effort to expedite the processing and resolution of reasonable modification requests, any request that is consistent with the criteria in this section may receive administrative review and approval. Requests for modifications that meet the requirements for administrative review do not require public notice under Section 306 of this Code.
(1) Parking, Where No Physical Structure Is Proposed. One parking space may be considered for an administrative reasonable modification provided that the parking space is necessary to achieve the accommodation and that property does not already include a parking space. Exceptions may be considered from rear yard and the front setback requirements if necessary to accommodate the parking space. In reviewing an administrative reasonable modification request for parking, the Zoning Administrator is authorized to allow the parking space for up to five years, at the end of which period the applicant may renew the temporary use for additional five-year periods.
(2) Access Ramps. One or more access ramps, defined in Building Code Section 1114A may be considered for an administrative reasonable modification provided that the access ramp is designed and constructed to meet the accessibility provisions in either the California Building Code or the California Historical Building Code and is easily removable when the ramp(s) are no longer needed for the requested modification.
(3) Elevators. One elevator, with dimensions defined in Building Code Section 1124A, may be considered for an administrative reasonable modification provided that the elevator structure is not visible from the public right of way and is set back a minimum of 10 feet from the property line, and that the elevator is necessary to access residential uses of the building and to achieve the accommodation requested.
(4) Additional Habitable Space. Additional habitable space may be considered for an administrative reasonable modification provided that the additional habitable space does not result in the addition of a new dwelling unit or require expansion beyond the permitted building envelope.
(e) All Other Requests for Reasonable Modification – Zoning Administrator Review and Approval.
(1) Standard Variance Procedure – With Hearing. Requests for reasonable modifications that do not fall within subsection (d) shall be considered by the Zoning Administrator, who will make the final decision through the existing variance process described in Section 305.
(2) Public Notice of a Request for Reasonable Modification. Notice for reasonable modifications that fall with subsection (e)(1) are subject to the notice requirements of Section 333 of this Code. If the request for reasonable modification is part of a larger application, then the noticing can be combined.
(1) Zoning Administrator Authority. The Zoning Administrator is authorized to consider and act on requests for reasonable modification, whether under Subsection (d) or Subsection (e). The Zoning Administrator may conditionally approve or deny a request. In considering requests for reasonable modification under this Section 305.1, the Zoning Administrator shall consider the factors in Subsection (f)(2).
(2) Criteria for Modification. When reviewing a request for reasonable modification, the Zoning Administrator shall consider whether:
(A) the requested modification is requested by or on the behalf of one or more individuals with a disability protected under federal and state fair housing laws;
(B) the requested modification will directly enable the individual to access the individual's residence;
(C) the requested modification is necessary to provide the individual with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling;
(D) there are alternatives to the requested modification that would provide an equivalent level of benefit;
(E) the requested modification will not impose an undue financial or administrative burden on the City as "undue financial or administrative burden" is defined under federal and state fair housing laws.
(F) the requested modification will, under the specific facts of the case, result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the Planning Code or General Plan, as "fundamental alteration" is defined under federal and state fair housing laws.
(G) the requested modification will, under the specific facts of the case, result in a direct threat to the health or safety of others or cause substantial physical damage to the property of others.
(3) Residential Design Guideline Review. If the proposed project is in a zoning district that requires residential design guideline review, the Department shall complete the design review and make appropriate recommendations, while also accommodating the reasonable modification. Approvals are subject to compliance with all other applicable zoning or building regulations.
(4) Historic Resource Review. If the proposed project would affect a building that is listed in or eligible for listing in a local, state, or federal historic resource register, then the modifications, either through the administrative reasonable modification process or the standard reasonable modification variance procedure, will be reviewed by the Planning Department's Historic Preservation Technical Specialists to ensure conformance with the Secretary of the Interior Standards for the Rehabilitation of Historic Properties.
(5) Written Decision. Upon issuing a written decision either granting or denying the requested modification in whole or in part, the Zoning Administrator shall forthwith transmit a copy thereof to the applicant. The action of the Zoning Administrator shall be final and shall become effective 10 days after the date of the written decision except upon the filing of a valid appeal to the Board of Appeals as provided in Section 308.2.
Divisions (e)(1) and (e)(2) amended; Ord. 179-18, Oper. 1/1/2019.