To an outsider, the building permit process in San Francisco appears difficult, complicated, politicized, and arbitrary. To an experienced architect, however, it is in fact difficult, complicated, politicized, and reasonably predictable. The San Francisco Planning Department and the Department of Building Inspection – two very different departments with sometimes competing priorities – do a good job of providing consumers with information through their websites, and they maintain information counters for consumers and professionals alike to consult freely with questions.
Not all projects require permits, but if your project already requires you to hire an architect, the chances are very high that you also need a permit or several permits.
The property owner, the architect, or the contractor must apply in person for a building permit, although only the owner or contractor may pick up the issued permit. Once the permit is issued, work can start immediately (except demolition permits, which require a 15 day wait), however, be aware that any permit can be appealed through the Board of Appeals within 15 days of issuance. If your permit is appealed and you lose, you may be liable to correct any work performed in that 15 day period.
Work must start within 90 days of permit issuance, with “start” defined as calling a first inspection. Permits expire from 4 months to 4 years after they are issued depending upon the cost of the project. Extensions can be requested and require a modest fee.
|► How long does it take to obtain a permit?|
|► What fees are required?|
|► What are the steps in a permit application?|
|►Do I need the neighbor's approval?|
|Links to more information about permitting|
OBTAINING A BUILDING PERMIT IN SAN FRANCISCO
“Lord, give me the strength to change what I can, the patience to accept what I cannot change,