What is Enforcement?
Nested within the Current Planning division, the Code Enforcement team of the Planning Department helps maintain and improve the quality of San Francisco's neighborhoods by operating programs that ensure public compliance with the City's Planning Code. Additionally, we respond to customer complaints of potential Planning Code violations and initiate fair and unbiased enforcement action to correct those violations and educate property owners to maintain code compliance.
To ensure citywide code compliance, the Code Enforcement Division works with residents, neighborhood associations, and other City and County of San Francisco departments, including the Department of Building Inspection, Police Department, Department of Public Health, and the Office of the City Attorneys, in order to ensure the quality of San Francisco's neighborhoods.
Common Planning Code Violations
Each year, the Planning Department responds to over 500 inquiries pertaining to potential land use violations. In most cases, investigation of code violations happens when a citizen reports a potential violation.
Examples of violations include construction/demolition, landscaping maintenance, building misuse and inappropriate parking. The types of violations that are typically reported include:
- Addition of Dwelling Unit(s) without Planning Dept. Approval
- Alteration of Historical Building or Structure without Planning Dept. Approval
- ATM without Required Setback
- Demolition without Planning Dept. Approval
- Exceeding Permitted Hours of Operation
- Expansion of Non-Conforming Use
- Failure to Provide Required Bicycle Parking
- Formula Retail Use (Franchise/chain store) without Planning Dept. Approval
- Illegal Advertising Sign
- Illegal Business Sign on Private Property
- Illegal Massage Establishment
- Illegal Medical Cannabis Dispensary
- Illegal Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Institutional Uses
- Illegal Tourist Hotel/Short-Term Vacation Rental Use
- Non-compliance with Conditions of Approval
- Obstruction in Front or Rear Setback
- Operation of Home Business beyond Limitations
- Removal of Dwelling Unit(s) without Planning Dept. Approval
- Removal of Required Landscaping
- Removal of Required Parking without Planning Dept. Approval
- Rooming/Boarding House (Group Housing) without Planning Dept. Approval
- Unpermitted Parking Facility
- Use of Required Front or Rear Setback as Parking
- Wireless Facility without Planning Dept. Approval
If you think you know of a potential violation and would like to report it, see Filing a Complaint.
The Planning Department maintains the Planning Code, which regulates the 'location' and the 'use' of buildings and land adjacent to streets and sets forth standards for development. All properties under the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Planning Code shall be used only for the uses as permitted in the Planning Code and in accordance with the regulations established for those uses under the various Zoning Districts.
No structures shall be constructed, reconstructed, enlarged, altered, or relocated so as to result in a greater height, bulk, or floor area ratio, less required open space, less off-street parking or loading space, reduction in setbacks and landscaping than permissible under the Planning Code.
Every condition, stipulation, special restriction, and other limitations imposed in actions on building permits or planning approvals, such as conditional uses, variances, discretionary reviews, shall be complied with.
Failure to comply with any of the above without due process and authorization constitutes a violation of Planning Code. Thus, a complaint can be made in regards to any of the above violations. The Planning Department will investigate the complaints and/or refer them to other City departments or agencies for their investigation as deemed necessary. In addition, the Planning Department's code enforcement process does not affect the City Attorney's Charter authority to bring its own civil enforcement action.
Filing a Complaint
Each year the Planning Department responds to over 500 complaints. There is no fee to file a complaint. We accept anonymous complaints, but please be sure to provide the correct information regarding the potential violation. Please note that if the information is incorrect or insufficient, the investigation may be hampered and we will be unable to contact you.
If you think you know of a potential violation, you may report it as outlined below.
- In Person - Visit the Planning Information Center (PIC) located at the first floor of 1660 Mission Street, where you can fill out and submit the Code Violation Complaint Form directly to Planning Department staff.
- By Phone - Call the Code Enforcement Complaint Hotline at 415-575-6863. Please provide a call back number, the exact address of the property, and specific information about the potential violation.
- By Fax – Fax the Code Violation Complaint Form to the attention of the Code Enforcement Division at 415-558-6409.
- By Regular Mail - Mail the Code Violation Complaint Form to the Planning Department's Code Enforcement Division at 1650 Mission Street, Suite 400, San Francisco, CA 94103-2479.
- By E-mail - E-mail the Code Violation Complaint Form to Planning.CodeEnforcement@sfgov.org.
In addition to filing a complaint with the Planning Department's Code Enforcement Division, there are a number of other options available to you:
- Make Contact with the responsible person. Describe your perception of the problem and discuss how the problem affects you, including possible solutions.
- Attend Neighborhood Organization Meetings and get involved with solving the problem. If you do not know if your neighborhood is represented by an organization, please call the Planning Department at (415) 558-6377.
- Community Boards: Ongoing concerns and conflicts between neighbors and businesses about issues that are beyond the jurisdiction of City agencies, can be referred to an independent neighborhood mediation agency called the Community Boards. The Community Boards provide San Francisco residents, consumers, businesses, and neighborhood organizations with no-cost and low-cost mediation services as an alternative to expensive and burdensome legal actions. The information on community boards can be obtained from www.communityboards.org or by calling 415-920-3820.
- Contact Other City Agencies: Any complaints not directly related to Planning Code can be reported to other city agencies with services and programs to maintain the quality of living, working, and operating businesses in San Francisco. A list of key departments and agencies is noted below. The information on services not listed here can be obtained by calling 311, the Customer Service Center or visiting www.sf311.org. View a list of code violations investigated by other City departments and agencies.
How We Respond to Complaints
When a complaint is received it will be logged and assigned to an Enforcement Planner in charge of the geographic area where the potential violation occurred. Visit Zoning & Compliance Teams for a listing of our Code Enforcement staff.
The assigned planner investigates each complaint in order of priority to determine if a Planning Code violation exists. The Department's highest priority for investigation and resolution of reported violations are health and safety-related. If evidence exists that a violation of Planning Code may have occurred, the Enforcement Planner sends a notice to the responsible party (usually the property owner or leaseholder).
High service demands can routinely cause cases to remain open for some time. These cases usually involve violations that do not constitute a significant impact.
If necessary, the Enforcement Planner may conduct a site visit to further investigate the reported violation.
If the violation is confirmed, further written notice will be sent to the responsible parties.
Checking Complaint Status
Within 10 business days of filing a complaint, you may find out which Code Enforcement planner has been assigned the case by entering the address under review in the SF Property Information Map and selecting the "Complaints" tab. We kindly ask that you only call a planner directly if you are sure they have been assigned to your complaint case.
If you have questions about the Planning Code or a possible violation, please contact the Planning Information Center (PIC) by phone at 415-558-6377, or in person at the first floor of 1660 Mission St.
If you received a notice or would like to discuss a specific complaint with your assigned Enforcement Planner, please visit Zoning & Compliance Teams for a listing of our Code Enforcement staff.