Permits are required in San Francisco to operate businesses and to perform construction activity. Depending upon which activities you are proposing, you may need to obtain permits from the Building Department, the Fire Department, the Health Department, the State Alcoholic Beverage Commission, or other City agencies. The Planning Department reviews most applications for these permits in order to ensure that what you are proposing complies with the zoning regulations, called, "The Planning Code."
Got permitting questions?
Read the FAQ
The Current Planning division at the San Francisco Planning Department reviews projects for compliance with the code, issuing public notice when required, and assisting the public to better understand the code.
Depending on the scope of your project, the permitting process will vary, but the following steps usually apply.
Visit or Call Us
It is recommended to visit or call Planning staff at the Planning Information Center (PIC) early in the planning of your project. The PIC is at 1660 Mission Street, 1st floor and may also be reached by phone at (415) 558-6377 or via email at email@example.com.
Please read before proceeding: Depending upon which activities you are proposing, you may need to obtain permits from the Building Department, the Fire Department, the Health Department, the State Alcoholic Beverage Commission, or other agencies. Don't forget to check in with the other City departments to make sure your project will fulfill their criteria, as well as ours.
Understanding What's Allowed
How-To Guides: The Planning Department offers permitting how-to guides for most project types. The How-To Guides page is a great place to start if you are new to the Permitting Process.
Find My Zoning: Every project requires you to have information about your property's "Zoning Use District." Knowing your Zoning Use District will help you identify what's allowed in your zone and the specific limits that may apply to your project. The Find My Zoning page will guide you towards finding your property's Zoning information, Permit History, and much more.
Understand What's Allowed: Depending on the scope of work and the "zoning" of your property, your project may be allowable. You can find information about what is specifically allowed in the various San Francisco Zoning Use Districts, including the zoning district of your property, by looking at our online zoning maps on AmLegal.com, downloading our master Zoning Map from our Map Library, downloading our Summarizing San Francisco's Residential Zoning District Controls handout, reading our About Zoning page, or contacting us at the Planning Information Center (PIC).
Filling Out Permit Forms & Paying Fees
Prepare all required permit application materials & bring your application to the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) to begin the permitting intake process. After submittal to DBI, the next step is to bring your application to planners at the Planning Information Center (PIC) to determine if your project is in accordance with the San Francisco Planning Code, other City Codes, and the San Francisco General Plan. If it is, and your project does not require Neighborhood Notification, then you'll need to pay all required fees and your permit application may be approved right then over-the-counter! If your project does require Neighborhood Notification, then you would proceed to Permit Submittal & Review. If your project's scope is not in compliance with City regulations, there are many possibilities for how to proceed. Planners at the PIC will guide you to the next best step.
To help streamline your application process, nearly all of the documentation and Permit Forms are available online. If you encounter trouble, just give us a call or visit the PIC—our staff of planners is here to help you!
Permit Submittal & Review
Once you have all your information and forms together, call us or stop by the Planning Information Center (PIC) to set up an appointment for permit submittal. You may also request a Project Review Meeting to discuss Code requirements for your project, planning processes and Departmental policies related to a specific proposed project.
Depending on the scope of your project, you may need to obtain permits from the Building Department, the Fire Department, the Health Department, the State Alcoholic Beverage Commission, or other City agencies. The Planning Department reviews your permit applications on behalf of, or in conjunction with these other City agencies. The Planning Department also reviews Planning Department applications which are specific only to the Planning Department (e.g. Conditional Use Applications or Variance Hearing Applications). It will be helpful for you to understand the Planning Department's role in permit review. Read more on Planning Department Review of All Applications.
Your project may require a number of steps before your permit is approved. These vary depending on the scope of your project, but can include Neighborhood Notification, Public Hearing at the Planning Commission or Historic Preservation Commission, a Variance, Conditional Use, Discretionary Review, or an Environmental Review. The sooner you gain an understanding of the information we'll require, the more smoothly your project is likely to progress.
The Department of Building Inspection (DBI) has a team of inspectors to ensure each project's compliance with building, electrical, mechanical, housing/zoning, and plumbing standards. To schedule an inspection appointment, follow the instructions on DBI's Inspection Services web page.
For a visual diagram of these steps, download the Permitting Process Flow Chart, bearing in mind that the flow chart is meant to provide a simplified, broad overview of the permitting process.
Do you have permitting questions? Visit the Permitting FAQ & Glossary page.