Ask an Expert, Height limits Outer Sunset/Parkside (Sven Lavine)


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 Sven Lavine of Sven Lavine Architecture

The height limit in your district is 40 feet, which technically means you could add a third story. There are some other factors which may be relevant: Are there other 3 story houses in the vicinity? If your proposed addition would be out of character or scale, your neighbors could oppose the project during planning review. If your building is historically registered, a 3rd story will be difficult to get past planning (unlikely in your location). You also need to be aware of the seismic, and structural ramifications of adding a story. Adding a roof deck is easier with regard to planning, but you may need to add structure to support the added load. Single family homes are exempt from Coastal Zone Permit requirements, so you should be OK there.

Most of this information is available from the city planning and building departments, but I would recommend speaking with an architect as the best starting point. Some architects (myself included) will look at your project and give you this kind of feasibility information at no charge. You will need a licensed architect to apply for permit, but more importantly, a good architect will be your proponent, and facilitate the project from start to finish, making sure that you get the home you really want by considering all your needs and wants, and taking all the factors into consideration. Have a look at my article on additionsfrom the sfnewsletter, for more information.
Good luck,

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