Dude, Where’s My Car? San Francisco’s New Gross Floor Area Definition Furthers Sustainable Transportation Goals

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering minor modifications to the Planning Code definition of Gross Floor Area. The Planning Department characterizes these changes as “good government” measures to clarify the Code and further the City’s sustainable transportation goals.

The proposed changes count floor area dedicated to accessory or non-accessory parking as Gross Floor Area, except for: (1) required car-share parking, (2) required off-street loading, and (3) accessory parking within the amount principally permitted as accessory and located in a “Basement Story” (detailed below). Other exemptions from Gross Floor Area’s definition, such as uninhabitable attic space, fire escapes, and mechanical areas, remain unaffected.

The most noteworthy change is incentivizing car-share spaces in new developments by excluding them from Gross Floor Area that would count toward the FAR calculation. This is in keeping with the City’s Transportation Sustainability Program and Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Program (examined in an earlier post), which aim to, among other things, reduce car traffic and promote higher transit ridership. Indeed, this change tracks closely with prior legislation from earlier this year that excluded car-share spaces provided as part of a development project’s TDM Program from the definition of Gross Floor Area. Together, the prior legislation and this recent change expand the types of car-share spaces that are excluded from the definition of Gross Floor Area.

Additional minor, mostly clarifying changes include:

  • Inclusion of floor space in accessory buildings in C-3 districts in the definition of Gross Floor Area;
  • Exclusion of required off-street loading spaces from the definition of Gross Floor Area for all districts, not just C-3 districts;
  • Removal of extraneous references to C-3 districts where distinguishing C-3 districts from all other zoning districts is unnecessary;
  • Replacement of “underground,” with “Basement Story,” a defined term, to clarify that floor space dedicated to accessory parking that does not exceed the amount principally permitted as accessory and that is located in a Basement Story is not included in the definition of Gross Floor Area.

The ordinance was unanimously recommended for adoption by the Planning Commission and was assigned to the Board’s Land Use and Transportation Committee under the 30-day rule on October 20th.