Adding Garage to existing homes may become more difficult

The planning department is changing how they process requests to add a garage to an existing structure.  Here’s the details from the SFAR bulletin:

The Planning Commission has held another informational discussion on its proposed policy regarding standards for review of permit applications for new garages in existing residential structures. In the past, all such permit applications were approved over-the-counter by the planning staff. The zoning administrator has issued two draft bulletins which were attached to an earlier article on the subject appearing in the September 19, 2006, issue of REALTOR® Advantage Online. The bulletins are intended to formalize the review process for new garages in existing buildings—historic and otherwise. The bulletins are summarized below.

Procedures and Criteria for Adding Garages (Zoning Administrator Bulletin 2006.1a)

All applications are reviewed first at the Planning Information Counter. An initial determination is made by the staff as to whether the subject structure is a potential “historic resource.” For the purposes of this bulletin, a potential historic resource is a structure which was either (a) previously evaluated and included on the specific registers or surveys, or (b) constructed in or before 1913 and which, based on available information and staff review, appears to be of historic or architectural merit. Any application to add a new garage in a structure considered to be such a resource must be reviewed by one of the department’s preservation specialists and is subject to the supplemental review process set forth in Zoning Administrator Bulletin 2006.1b.

For all other structures, the planning staff at the Planning Information Counter will determine compliance with the Planning Code, the General Plan, the Residential design Guidelines and other specific criteria. Should the proposed project meet all of these criteria, the application may be approved over-the-counter.

Additional Procedures for Adding Garages to Potential Historic Resources (Zoning Administrator Bulletin 2006.1b)

Garages should be inserted, whenever possible, on facades other than the main elevation. In cases where a garage is proposed on the main elevation, additional review by the planning department staff may be required. Some of the “character-defining features” that, if altered, may trigger review are:

  • Architecture (Bays, decorative features, front entries)
  • Massing and Scale (Height front setbacks)
  • Relationship to adjacent buildings and streetscape (DPW significant trees, historic fences)

In cases where a garage opening may be appropriate, great care should be taken in the design and execution of the work. In addition to the criteria set forth in Zoning Administrator Bulletin 2006.1a, there are additional criteria that apply to the review of new garages in potentially historic buildings.

Click below to view the two bulletins, which include the criteria.

Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet. Zoning Administration Bulletin 2006.1a Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet. Zoning Administration Bulletin 2006.1b

The Association’s position on the bulletins is as follows:

We do not support the adoption by the planning commission of a policy that will treat virtually all residences constructed in or before 1913 as structures of architectural or historical merit. Such a policy provides no assurance to the public that objective standards will be employed in establishing architectural or historic merit. Any policy that relies on subjective standards or no standards at all has no place in the planning code.

We suspect that the motivation for the adoption of the proposed policy is something other than architectural or historical structure preservation.  Perhaps it is intended as a discouragement to those planning to subdivide their properties and sell the subdivided units as condominiums.  Properties suitable for that purpose generally were constructed in the decade after the 1906 earthquake and require the addition of off-street parking to be saleable. To require such properties to meet the criteria specified in the department’s two bulletins could make most planned conversion projects unfeasible.

We support condominium conversions as a means of providing needed affordable ownership housing to working class San Franciscans who do not have the financial means to purchase a single-family home. This important housing opportunity could be foreclosed by the adoption of your proposed policy.

2 responses to “Adding Garage to existing homes may become more difficult

  1. I can see their point to the extent that if a building is in a “historical area” fine then they should have some input in it, but if a person want to develop their own property as long as the designs meet safety codes they should not be able to say anything about it. I grow tired of the government sticking their nose into every aspect of our lives.

  2. About time. I’m tired of all the ugly garage doors on San Francisco’s otherwise lovely streets. My only wish is they’d go further and ban street-cut garages from all houses.

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