Wednesday, April 24, 2019

UPDATE: Stricter Vacant Storefront Registry Requirements Operative as of April 22, 2019

UPDATE - April 24, 2019

Please note this ordinance is now operative as of April 22, 2019. Click here to read a recent article on the subject in the San Francisco Chronicle.

If you’re a property owner and your commercial storefront is vacant or abandoned, you are required to register by completing an application and submitting annual registration fees to the Department of Building Inspection pursuant to Ordinance 52-19. This applies even if other units in the building are currently occupied. In addition, you need to maintain and secure your property, even if partially unoccupied, to prevent blight and public safety hazards in compliance with Chapter 80 of the San Francisco Administrative Code, the California Environmental Quality Act, and all other applicable building, health, fire, and safety codes.


In March 2019, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to amend this law through Ordinance 52-19, which took effect on April 22nd. Important changes were made, including:
  • Registration of vacant storefront is required within 30-days of the commercial storefront becoming vacant, even if it is actively being offered for rent or lease;
  • Annual registration fee payment of $711 is now required at the time of registration;
  • Property owners are now required to pay a penalty of four times (4x) the annual registration fee ($2,844) for failure to register a vacant storefront within 30 days of the property being noticed by DBI; and
  • An annual safety inspection report is now required from a licensed professional, which is engaged and paid for by the property owner, confirming the storefront’s interior and exterior remains up to code. This annual report is due when the owner renews and pays the storefront’s annual registration.
Questions? Please email

UPDATE - March 27, 2019

Recently, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to amend this law. Important changes were made, which include the following:
  • Registration of vacant storefront is required: 1) within 30-days of the commercial storefront becoming vacant or 2) even if it is actively being offered for rent or lease;
  • Annual registration fee payment of $711 required at the time of registration; 
  • Property owner is required to pay a penalty of four times (4x) the annual registration fee ($711) for failure to register a vacant storefront within 30 days of the property being noticed by DBI; and 
  • Annual report required from a licensed professional, which is engaged and paid for by the property owner, confirming the storefront's interior and exterior are maintained up to code. This annual report is due when the owner renews and pays the storefront's annual registration. 
The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection plans to offer a workshop on Vacant Storefronts at this year's Earthquake Safety Fair in June. To be notified of workshop details and how to register, sign up here.


UPDATE - May 8, 2014

BOMA San Francisco Members:

Supervisor Katy Tang has introduced amendments to the 2009 San Francisco Vacant or Abandoned Buildings (VABO) law, summarized below.

If you are a BOMA member that owns or manages a portfolio of smaller buildings in San Francisco's commercial corridors, or if you feel that the new amendments may impact your downtown high-rise commercial/mixed-use properties, please email with your comments.

Existing Law (2009) 

Building Code Section 103A.4 et. seq., the VABO, requires that owners of vacant or abandoned buildings in San Francisco register their properties as such, pay registration fees, secure their properties to deny access to would-be trespassers, and provide proof of liability insurance coverage for the properties. VABO, as it currently reads, applies to some vacant commercial storefronts in San Francisco.

However, a building containing a vacant commercial storefront but an occupied second floor unit is technically not a vacant or abandoned building, as defined by VABO. As such, the City and County of San Francisco feels that many vacant commercial storefronts in San Francisco evade VABO regulations via this loophole.

Proposed Amendments to Current Law (2014) - Click Here to Review the Ordinance

By amending the Building Code to apply requirements similar to those specified in VABO to properties containing vacant or abandoned commercial storefronts, owners of properties in commercial corridors will have extra incentive to seek suitable tenants to fill their vacant or abandoned commercial storefronts. To provide owners of vacant or abandoned commercial storefronts with ample time to find suitable tenants, the proposed amendment to the Building Code would mandate owners of vacant or abandoned commercial storefronts to do the following within 30 days of issuance of a Notice of Violation:
  • Register their commercial storefronts with the Department of Building Inspection (DBI);
  • Secure their commercial storefronts to prevent trespassers from gaining access to the premises;
  • Remove graffiti, refuse, and debris from in and around their commercial storefronts; and 
  • Maintain fire and/or liability insurance coverage for their commercial storefronts as DBI determines necessary. 
Additionally, owners of vacant or abandoned commercial storefronts would be required to do either of the following within 270 days of their commercial storefronts becoming vacant or abandoned:

  • Rent their commercial storefronts to tenants who occupy the premises in a manner that complies with all state and local laws; or 
  • Pay a fee of $765.00 to include their commercial storefronts in the Registry of Vacant or Abandoned Commercial Storefronts. This fee shall be assessed on an annual basis for each year that a commercial storefront remains vacant or abandoned. 
Finally, the proposed amendment carves out an exemption for owners of commercial storefronts who demonstrate a good faith effort to rent, lease, or sell their commercial storefronts, or obtain permits to bring their commercial storefronts into compliance with the law.

Original Post - June 15, 2009

Your BOMA Advocacy Team attended the special meeting of the Building Inspection Commission (BIC) and the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) recently where the Registration of Vacant/Abandoned Buildings Ordinance was discussed (you can view a copy of the Ordinance, here). The discussion surrounding the measure was an interesting one; here are the highlights:

What's the origin/intent of the Ordinance?

  • The measure was introduced on May 5, 2009 by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and Supervisor Bevan Dufty.
  • Many cities have this type of ordinance (under the 'public nuisance' ordinance of the code).
  • At its core, the measure attempts to mitigate the deterioration of a building.
What's the status of the Ordinance?
  • On June 3, 2009, the San Francisco Planning Department: Historic Preservation Commissionconducted a public hearing to consider the measure. The Commission approved the Ordinance, with modifications. You can view the Commission's recommendation and documents related to their action, here.
  • On June 10, 2009, the measure was heard before the Code Advisory Committee (CAC) where they recommended "non-support of [the] ordinance as written, and in lieu recommen[ed] that the Department of Building Inspection develop administrative procedures to enforce existing requirements." You can read the CAC's letter to the BIC, here.
  • On June 12, 2009, DBI Director Vivian Day responded to the Planning Department's recommendation of the Ordinance that can be viewed here. In short, the measure is not enforceable by DBI.
  • On June 12, 2009, the BIC approved a motion to notify the Board of Supervisors that it does not support the Ordinance.
The need for the Ordinance warrants further discussion:
  • Do we need another ordinance? There are already City ordinances that cover blight.
  • What about buildings slated for demolition, or those waiting for rehabilitation? There needs to be a consensus review of this issue.
  • Finding insurance on a vacant building can be difficult. How can this be addressed?
  • What is the definition of a blighted building?
  • The City doesn't know how many blighted buildings it has.
  • This is a big brother issue: The City should help building owners improve their buildings, NOT impose another City mandate.
A full transcript/video of the meeting can be found here.

Your BOMA Advocacy Team will continue to monitor the Registration of Vacant/Abandoned Buildings Ordinance and report any new developments on this blog.

Monday, April 15, 2019

San Francisco Planning Department Debuts Business Zoning Check Service

San Francisco Planning has launched an interactive web feature, Symbium’s BUILD for Business, that allows users to easily determine whether their proposed business is permitted in a specified location, search for all locations it is permitted in San Francisco under applicable zoning regulations, and learn more about required steps in the application process.

“Opening a business can be challenging for any number of reasons, including navigating multiple zoning, licensing, and permitting regulations,” said John Rahaim, Director of San Francisco Planning. “This service will be a significant asset in helping planners and the public more easily find the information they need and better understand how the code applies to properties.”

To accurately determine whether a business is permitted, users are guided through an interactive dialogue regarding details about their business, including specific location, type of business, which floor the business is located, and whether the business is considered formula retail. Users will then be informed, through interactive map visualizations, whether the business is permitted, if a Conditional Use permit is required, if there is mandatory Discretionary Review, or if it is simply not permitted. Users who do not have a specific location in mind can instantly visualize the areas, throughout San Francisco, where their business is permitted. The tool also provides clear definitions of relevant terms and detailed information on required process and applicable programs.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Get Involved With BOMA San Francisco's Advocacy Program

San Francisco City Hall
BOMA San Francisco’s Advocacy Program is robust and second to none but only because of member involvement. It’s important that you – and your team members – engage with our advocacy committees that engage policy makers based on the issue. Any member of your team can participate in a committee as long as your company is a current dues-paying member of BOMA San Francisco.
  • Government Affairs Committee – Contact Shayna Eskew, Chair, at to get involved.
    • BOMA San Francisco’s Government Affairs Policy Advisory Committee (GAPAC) meets with those who propose or decide public policy, analyzes existing or proposed legislation and/or regulations to determine the impact on BOMA members, and recommends for BOMA Board approval what position the association should take on such matters. GAPAC educates and informs BOMA members, elected and administrative officials, and the public about issues of significance to commercial real estate, and BOMA’s positions on those issues.
  • Codes and Regulations Committee – Contact Eric Stein, Chair, at to get involved.
    • The mission of BOMA's Codes & Regulations Committee is to provide technical support on code-related issues to the Government Affairs Policy Advisory Committee (GAPAC); educate BOMA members about construction industry codes, standards, ordinances and regulations and their impact on the commercial real estate industry; and provide input into the code-making process at the state and local levels consistent with BOMA’s policy positions. 
  • Energy & Environment Committee – Contact Ana Duffy, Chair, at to get involved.
    • Click here for the goals of this wonderful committee. 
  • Emergency Preparedness Committee – Contact Bonnie Kalbrosky, Chair, at to get involved .
    • The mission of BOMA San Francisco's Emergency Preparedness Committee is to Support BOMA member information needs regarding security and life safety measures; facilitate communication between BOMA members and their tenants; and, support Government agency needs and facilitate communication between those entities and BOMA members.
Please email for any additional questions you may have.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

IMPORTANT San Francisco's Refuse Separation Ordinance Effective on July 1, 2019: Large Generators and Zero Waste Facilitators

UPDATE - April 10, 2019

A law was enacted recently that affects large refuse generators (LRGs) in San Francisco. LRGs are those that have a roll-off compactor or at least 40 cubic yards of uncompacted refuse (recyclables, compostables, and trash) per week. When any type of compactor is used, the volume of compacted refuse shall be multiplied times three to determine actual volume collected.

The measure mandates that LRGs will be subject to visual inspection audits of their refuse not less than every three years. The Director of the Department of Environment would issue to those large refuse generators found non-compliant a notice and order to comply with the Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance (details below).

This ordinance will also require such non-compliant LRGs to appoint or otherwise engage staff or contractors whose exclusive function is to serve as zero waste facilitators, for a minimum of 24 consecutive months, upon receiving a Director’s notice and order. A zero waste facilitator is a person serving exclusively in the capacity to manage refuse material sorting and movement. After 24 consecutive months of compliance with the Director’s notice and order, a large refuse generator would be subject to a follow-up audit.

Most BOMA San Francisco members are considered LRGs and should review the ordinance thoroughly. Imperative and helpful information is available via our partners at the Department of the Environment and Recology

Questions, please reach out to


BOMA San Francisco Members:

UPDATE - April 6, 2011

Please click here to review the final Commercial Office Building Recycling and Composting Program Guidelines.  Also please click here to review the Commercial Office Building Compliance Toolkit.


Original Post - June 11, 2010

As we have posted on the blog previously, San Francisco now has a city-wide mandatory recycling and composting requirement. There are five mandatory areas that property managers need to address in the ordinance:
  • Sign-up and pay for adequate recycling, composting and trash service.
  • Have the appropriate number, color and size containers placed close together in convenient locations at your site.
  • Educate and train tenants and employees on the program.
  • Work with the hired janitorial staff or contractors to create an effective program.
  • Make sure your building is participating in separating materials.
There could be fines for buildings that do not provide an adequate program (#1-4 above), but there will not be fines for buildings that do not properly separate all materials until at least July 1, 2011.

Please click here to review the ordinance and here for FAQs.  Contact the San Francisco Department of the Environment at (415) 355-3768 if you need assistance in starting a recycling and composting program to comply with the new law.

Monday, April 1, 2019

UPDATE: Changes to San Francisco's Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance - Amendments to Meet State Standards; Will Include Multifamily Residential Buildings

UPDATE - April 1, 2019

This law requires owners of certain commercial buildings to conduct energy efficiency audits of their properties and file annual energy benchmark summaries for their buildings with the Department of Environment. It also requires the Department of Environment to gather and make available to the public summary statistics about the energy performance of these buildings. In 2015, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 802, which requires statewide mandatory benchmarking and public disclosure for large commercial buildings as well as multifamily residential buildings.

Amendments to Current Law

An ordinance to amend the current law to meet or exceed AB 802 standards will, if enacted, amend the Environment Code to require large multifamily residential buildings and certain commercial buildings to measure and disclose energy performance data to the Department of Environment and for such data to be made publicly available. The required reporting will either meet or exceed State law requirements and obviate the need for building owners to report directly to State authorities.


Click here to review the proposal. Please email with any questions you may have. Members of BOMA San Francisco's Energy & Environment Committee have reviewed the measure.

If you have multifamily residential buildings in your portfolio or have any issues with the updated language within the proposal, please note that this measure is scheduled to be heard today at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee.



UPDATE - January 29, 2016

Recently, the BOMA San Francisco Energy & Environment Committee held a meeting where a representative from the San Francisco Department of the Environment presented a summary of the San Francisco Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance since its inception.

The goals of this report are to inform industry stakeholders, highlight trends in the local market, and provide recommendations for policy and efficient operations. 

Commercial buildings subject to San Francisco’s energy benchmarking and audit requirements between 2010 and 2014 have demonstrated positive economic and environmental trends: 
  • Energy use has decreased by 7.9 percent and source emissions have decreased by 17 percent among properties that consistently comply. 
  • Energy audits for over 800 buildings have identified $60.6 million in opportunities for cost-effective energy efficiency investments, with a net present value of $170 million.

Original Post - March 24, 2014

Our partner in environmental sustainability, the San Francisco Department of Environment (DOE) has provided compliance data for the San Francisco Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance.
Please note that 'Benchmark 2012 Status' refers to the benchmark reports due in 2013 about energy use in 2012, and 'Energy Audit Status' is if an energy audit had come due, was it submitted?

Questions?  Please contact or (415) 355-3700

About the Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance

This data is available, as required, by the San Francisco Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance approved by the Board of Supervisors and signed by Mayor Edwin M. Lee in February 2011.

The ordinance requires owners of non-residential buildings over 10,000 square feet to annually benchmark and disclose the energy performance of their buildings, using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Portfolio Manager tool to obtain ENERGY STAR ratings when possible.

2009 Existing Commercial Buildings Task Force - BOMA San Francisco's Involvement 

In February 2009, then Mayor Gavin Newsom created the Existing Buildings Efficiency Initiative Task Force (Task Force), co-chaired by BOMA San Francisco's 2013 president Steven Ring, to recommend policies and actions to improve the energy efficiency of existing commercial buildings in San Francisco. The Task Force continued the work of the 2007 Green Buildings Task Force that was convened by the Mayor to develop expanded green building standards for major new private construction projects in San Francisco.

The Task Force report identified seven areas as key factors to improving energy efficiency in existing commercial buildings.  The Task Force's recommendations provided the framework for the City and County of San Francisco to introduce and enact the Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance.

BOMA San Francisco's applauds its members and the City and County of San Francisco for leading  in environmental sustainability and stewardship.  BOMA members look forward to partnering with the City of San Francisco achieve it's future environmental goals.  Indeed, the Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance is a manifestation of a true private/public agency partnership.