Ask an Expert, Height limits in Outer Sunset/Parkside (Alexander Clark)


I recently bought a house in the outer sunset district (48th and Ortega ) of San Francisco. I am trying to figure out exactly what are the building/remodeling restrictions for my zone. Specifically I am interested in finding out about height restrictions, such as building a third story for an ocean view or adding a roof deck. Is there a height limit? Is there a story limit? etc. I believe my unit to be zoned rh-1 and I also believe the house to be in a coastal zone, this probably has some bearing on the answer. Please let me know what you think or where to go for this kind of info. Thank you.”-rob

As answered by Alexander Clark, sfnewsletter


I would advise going down to the Planning Department, stating your situation, and discussing with someone behind the counter. If you go down to the Planning Dept. you’ll get a lot further than going through on-line.

Planning Dept. Website. There is almost too much information there, so I’m sticking with my suggestion of going down to the counter.

Planning Dept is located at 1660 Mission, Suite 500. Main # is 558-6378, Zoning is 5th floor, 558-6350, Planning is 558-6377. You might try emailing [email protected], or calling him at the main number. He was involved in a deal I did a while back and memory tells me he is a decision maker down there.

I would also consult with an architect, and/or contractor as they are usually the ones that push your permits through and know about local ordinances as regards to design and planning. I can recommend a couple if need be.

If you build up and may block someone else’s view, you could run into opposition. If not, I’ll be calling for the surf report.

Please let me know if this information is helpful, if not, we’ll get you more.


One thought on “Ask an Expert, Height limits in Outer Sunset/Parkside (Alexander Clark)

  1. Rob:

    Those were excellent comments by alex. As an architect I would this info to help you out.

    YES! first off consult an architect. We can help you!

    1. RH-1 zoning deals with rear yard setbacks, lot coverage and building bulk.

    2. If you’re thinking of adding a 3rd story or roof deck, this can get complicated.

    Either the roof deck or new story may trigger a requirement for a second means of egress (stairway) to the ground. Your existing roof structure most likely will not support new floor loads. You’ll need to add new floor framing, and possibly strengthen the foundations.

    3. You’re most likely in a 40′ height limit zone. That allows for most 3rd floor additions.

    4. Views are NOT protected by the planning code. Existing views can be blocked or reduced, and do happen. However, adjacent neighbors can resort to filing a D.R. (discretionary review), that may require you (and your architect) to modify some of the new design to mitigate the impact to existing views. This can take months to resolve, and of course add cost to the project.

    The best approach is to get your architect to resolve the building and zoning issues first, then talk informally to your neighbors about what you are proposing.

    Then begin the formal design process and watch your dream deck come true!

    duggo the architect

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