Density Bonus Programs

Implementing the California State Density Bonus Law

A density bonus is an increase in the overall number of housing units that a developer may build on a site in exchange for including more affordable housing units in the project. The California State Density Bonus Law, under Section 65915 of the California Government Code, offers incentives including up to a 35 percent increase in densities that are intended to encourage the development of affordable housing.

The San Francisco Planning Department offers two paths for developers requesting density bonuses under Section 65915: the Analyzed State Density Bonus Program and Individually Requested State Density Bonus Program. Both programs allow projects up to a 35 percent increase in density, but have different qualification criteria and submittal requirements.

The Analyzed State Density Bonus Program

The Analyzed Program provides an expedited path for qualifying projects that provide 30 percent or more affordable housing units on-site and choose from a predetermined menu of incentives, concessions and waivers. It is not applicable in the RH-1 or RH-2 Zoning Districts and is restricted in a number of other areas.  See the Analyzed State Density Bonus Program application  for detailed eligibility criteria. (forthcoming link once completed)

To be eligible for the Analyzed State Density Bonus program, a project:

  • Must be located in a HOME-SF eligible zoning district
  • Must not demolish any residential units
  • Will consist of new construction only and will not propose additions to existing buildings
  • Must provide five or more dwelling units
  • Must not demolish or significantly alter a historic resource

The Analyzed State Density Bonus Program requires project sponsors to provide at least 18 months advance notice of a proposed project to any existing commercial tenants on the site. The program also requires that any potentially displaced commercial tenants be connected with the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD), which offers relocation assistance and support. 

If your project does not qualify for the Analyzed Program, it may request a density bonus through the Individually Requested State Density Bonus Program.
Analyzed State Density Bonus projects require a Conditional Use Authorization. A Conditional Use is a use that is not principally permitted in a particular Zoning District, and require a Planning Commission hearing in order to determine if the proposed use is "necessary or desirable" to the neighborhood, and whether it may potentially have a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Public comment is welcomed at every Planning Commission hearing.

Individually Requested State Density Bonus Program

The Individually Requested Program is the path for any project that requests a bonus under State Law and does not qualify for HOME-SF or the Analyzed Program.  Any projects requesting density bonuses in zoning districts that do not have density controls (e.g. C-3 and most Area Plan districts) must do so through the Individually Requested program.  This program requires detailed submittal of two sets of plans (base project and bonus project), as well as reasonable documentation supporting any incentives, concessions, or waivers requested. Individually Requested State Density Bonus projects are then processed through a typical entitlement process.


The Legislation

Links to the State Density Bonus Law and local legislation that created a local ordinance to implement the law in San Francisco.

FAQs – Learn More

COMING SOON! Some frequently asked questions about the program.


The Analyzed and Individually Requested State Density Bonus Programs were developed as part of the City's Affordable Housing Bonus Program, which included four strategies to incentivize more affordable housing development in San Francisco.