San Francisco's Green Landscaping Ordinance Graphic

Mayor Newsom symbolically signed into law San Francisco’s Green Landscaping Ordinance last week on Earth Day, and the Planning Department has now published a full Guide.

The goals of the ordinance: “Healthier and more plentiful plantings through screening, parking lot, and street tree controls; Increased permeability through front yard and parking lot controls; Encourage responsible water use through increasing “climate appropriate” plantings; and Improved screening by creating an ornamental fencing requirement and requiring screening for newly defined “vehicle use areas.”

17 thoughts on “Guide To San Francisco’s Green Landscaping Ordinance”
  1. Clueless how to read that but whatever we do, just don’t pull up the sidewalks please for plants. Sidewalks in a city are for pedestrians and related uses. Watch the wheelchair user or parent with a stroller inching their way around these new blocking planted areas. This is all counter to INCREASED sidewalk pedestrian use. If we insist on more plants, pull up a row of parking spaces, but good cities who are encouraging uses of the sidewalk (which is where it all happens) should not be creating barriers to use. Give us back our sidewalks, please.

  2. The point of this is to discourage hardscaped front yards used for parking because of the drainage, heating, and aesthetic problems that causes. The right of way including sidewalks is not part of this. Enforcing these rules might provide opportunities to hold adjacent owners responsible for the passable condition of the sidewalk as legally required.

  3. I love the idea of trying to re-grenify SF.
    I know I’m in the distinct minority, but I really find much of SF to be one of the ugliest cities on the planet FROM STREET LEVEL. (from up high looking down it’s one of the 5 best cities due to its impressive geography).
    Part of the reason for this is the lack of anything green. you just have a long line of concrete and sometimes concrete pads for parking…
    I’ve railed for years against this, and finally the last few years it seems that someone in city hall thinks like me, with all the tree plantings and now this…

  4. I think, for many people, the problem is that it might be easier to take down an earthquake cottage than to take a tree down in this city (see, where a SocketSite commenter talks about going to a hearing when a local business wanted to remove two trees — seriously? People have time for that?).
    I hardly ever agree with the libertarians about property rights, but if people are protesting your right to take down a tree in your yard, then people aren’t going to be willing to put one up.

  5. I see that ex-SF-er has never been to Phoenix. Or any non-first world city. Or non-urban city in the US (where most of street-level is cookie cutter tract homes or Walmarts and strip malls). One of the ugliest cities in the world from street level? Lordy lordy, someone needs to travel a bit.
    (And that’s coming from someone who does think that we need a heckuva a lot more trees and greenery here)

  6. Let’s be fair here,anon. Don’t be so judgmental. I essentially agree with exsfer:
    Take a walk down some of Noe Valleys streets, say Sanchez or Noe toward 30th St. The sidewalks are enormously wide, there are blocks where you can count 1 or maybe 2 trees in the entire block, in the sidewalk area. It is barren!
    Yes, there are more trees than there used to me. yes, there are more little plots of sidewalk landscaping, but by and large the street scape is shaped by acres of concrete, and a scarcity of trees. I know some neighbors in Noe who are adamantly opposed to a tree in front of their house, or sidewalk landscaping. They prefer the concrete!
    Apply this same view to the Sunset or Richmond areas, and the mission and on and on.. It is pretty unattractive at street level.
    This new ordinance is a huge step in creating more greenery.

  7. I always agree with ex SF-er here… Parts of SF are just ghastly.. The Sunset and parts of the Richmond are sad and desolate… I don’t think when those areas were developed in the 20s the builders thought the neighborhoods would be immutable… So much wasted real estate. The diagram above shows 23rd St, so obviously this is the target neighborhood.
    Anyway, I totally agree with encouraging plantings. Divisadero and Guerrero are much improved. There are lots of native, low water species that thrive here and there’s no excuse for not planting them. It’s painfully obvious that neighborhoods and streets that have the most mature plantings are also the most desirable. I don’t see residents of Presidio Heights whining about having too many trees or how their sidewalks are too small…
    I have done a lot of landscaping at my place and pretty much every day I receive compliments from neighbors and strangers alike. For the life of me I’ll never understand what people have against making neighborhoods look nicer.

  8. What is always so ironic to me is that the city most founded on free thinking and live-and-let-live philosophies, is rapidly becoming the most “ordinanced” in the world. What happened to my beloved left? We are becoming dictatorial and totalitarian. We so lack faith in human nature, so expect the worst in ourselves and others, that we resort to mandates and control around everything. We’re the vinegar people. Its really quite troubling. Look at the paperwork, liabilities, complexity to getting anything done here anymore. Its wild.

  9. SF is BECOMING dictatorial and totalitarian?? It crossed that bridge some time ago. We have to keep our legions of government workers employed somehow! Anyway, not much is going to change especially with future Mayor Peskin biding his time…
    It’s kind of like, want to visit the SF of 2050? Just walk out your door right now…

  10. There are some nice wooded streets in San Francisco. Two of my favorites run through the Mission: the Chinese elms of Folsom Street, and the palms of Dolores Street.
    San Francisco is a nicer city at street level than most because it is scaled for pedestrians. There is visual interest in storefronts, architecture (even if one doesn’t wish to live in a Victorian, they make for nice streetscapes), and views.

  11. anon:
    it is true I used hyperbole. There are many other hideously ugly cities at streetscape.
    I hold SF to a higher standard than some areas, like Gary Indiana. remember, SF is supposedly one of the most beautiful cities on Earth? ROFL. from the top of Twin Peaks or from an airplane there is no doubt, it’s GORGEOUS. But from the street in outer sunset or the mission or noe valley? hardly.
    On a side note:
    I’ve traveled around the world including many 3rd world areas. Many 3rd world cities are much more beautiful from streetscape than SF. Same with many rural streets.
    The ugliness in SF is 90% due to the amount of concrete and lack of greenery. A simple fix IMO.
    But you wouldn’t believe the responses I got years back when I commented on the lack of trees in San Francisco. I remember they ranged from “Trees will tear up the concrete and rip down the power lines aaaarrggghhh!” to “How will wheelchairs go down the streets?” to “Wild animals might hide in the trees and attack people” to “the trees will just die anyway”
    (all of those were actual responses I got)
    All that said, there are also parts of SF that are wonderful at streetscape. One of my favorites is the corner of Noe and Henry St. That’s my vision for 80% of SF.
    Go to google maps and type in Noe/Henry st. Then go in a 360 degree circle. Look how pretty it is with all the trees and green and distinctive SF architecture. Then walk around the rest of the city. Much of it is ugly concrete.
    I’ve been impressed these last 2-3 years with the efforts to start planting trees. Especially in the Inner Sunset neighborhood and South Beach.

  12. Many 3rd world cities are much more beautiful from streetscape than SF.
    Agreed on many of your other points, but on this I have to laugh my !@# off. Are you holding these cities to the same standard that you hold SF (where you’re counting all neighborhoods, including the crappy ones)? Or are you just talking about the touristy areas or rich areas?

  13. There are many beautiful cities in the developing world. But many of these cities have no street trees. Streets in many cities are lined with the walls of courtyards, or of buildings right at the street edge. Trees and other greenery in many cities around the world are mostly inside the walled courtyards.

  14. But planting green things causes gentrification…Chris Daly told me so…I wonder if City of Fairfield will start pulling out its trees? However so noting this, we in D6 have tons of manure to use as a soil augmentation.

  15. view these sorts of things with a bittersweet feeling. I agree with those who say that most of SF a very ugly city from the street level.
    So yes, I want this, and I want even more. But I know that in many neighborhoods this will not happen anytime soon, because the city doesn’t even have the balls to enforce current regulations and for example come down hard on sidewalk parking. So far we have unsuccessfully:
    1) tried to get a permit for sidewalk landsaping. The $215 check was cached, but the city never got back to us, despite a great number of phone messages left. Currently our supervisor’s office has an inquiry with the DPW about our application, to no avail (as yet). — Needless to say, we already went ahead and ripped out the concrete and planted the area without waiting for the permit.
    2) tried to report instances we saw when front yards were being paved over. Nothing ever came out of those complaints. Those front yards now are gone and cars parked on them.
    So… great in theory. In the real world, we’d need a whole lot more enforcement and political will to get anywhere.

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