Learn about our building permit review processes

We review every building permit application for life safety and building code compliance.

What to do

There are 3 main ways we review applications: 

  • Over-the-counter review
  • In-house review
  • Site permits

Building permit projects must be sent to the required permitting agencies. In San Francisco, our permitting agencies are:

  • Department of Building Inspection
  • SF Planning
  • SF Fire Department
  • SF Public Utilities Commission
  • Department of Public Works

Forms

We use specific forms for different kinds of projects.

Forms for new construction

Form 1 is for construction of new buildings with Type I, II, III, or IV construction.

Form 2 is for construction of new wood-frame buildings with Type V construction.

(See building construction type definitions.)

Forms for construction on existing buildings

Form 3 is for additions, alterations, and repairs on existing buildings. These projects require other agencies to review the plans or may need neighborhood notification.

Form 8 is for small projects that can be reviewed over the counter or projects that do not require plans.

Forms for signs

Form 4 is to build a sign that requires review by the Department of Building Inspection and Planning Department. 

Form 7 is for painted or non-structural signs that only require Planning Department approval.

Other forms

Form 5 is for grading, excavation, fill, or quarry.

Form 6 is for demolition. This is often done with a form for new construction.

Over-the-counter review

If your application can be reviewed by each permitting department in less than 1 hour, we may accept it for over-the-counter review.

Most no plans permits can be reviewed over-the-counter.

See our drop-in over-the-counter services

In-house review

Many building permit applications cannot be reviewed in less than 1 hour.

Required in-house Planning review

These projects cannot be reviewed over-the-counter. They require more detailed review by Planning.

Any project that requires in-house review must fill out the Planning Project Application (PRJ).

Exterior work

  • New construction or additions
  • Scope of work requires Section 311 Notice, like a vertical and horizontal building expansion and change of use including reduction of dwelling units
  • Scope of work requires notice of neighborhood group or interested parties noted in the Block Books
  • Exterior work (including replacement of windows and doors) or addition for any Historic Resource Buildings  (Note: Minor alteration work (i.e. replacement in kind windows and doors) to architecturally significant buildings can be approved over the counter by the Preservation Technical Specialist.)
  • Roof deck at rear portion of lot or over certain heights
  • Windscreen over 42 inches
  • New stairs, decks, or firewalls over 10 feet high

Interior work

  • Change of occupancy in a residential building in an RH or RM district like an addition or reduction of a dwelling unit
  • Interior remodels of residential buildings with demolition of more than 75% of interior walls
  • Change category of use in Commercial buildings in NC districts

We can usually approve changing a retail store to a different type of retail store over the counter. If the change triggers an environmental review or is subject to some other special restriction, it will need to be in-house review. This would include applications that increase occupied floor area but do not involve building enlargements.

Note: Removing a party wall between two legal apartments which would be used by one family while retaining both kitchens, would be reduction of a dwelling unit.

Other kinds of work

  • General Advertising Signs like billboards
  • Grading which requires Environmental Review usually over 10% grade
  • Demolition

Site permit 

For larger projects, you can apply to have a site permit approved. 

This includes general architectural plans for Planning and basic fire life safety. You will also submit an addenda schedule with your plan of work.

Administrative bulletin about Site Permit Processing

Addenda to Site permit

Submit your addenda for your site permits.

Other permit processes

Resubmissions of plans

Plan checkers may request revisions to your plans. We call revised plans resubmissions.

If you use Bluebeam, our electronic plan review software, you can submit revised plans within your Bluebeam Session.

See more about how we use Bluebeam.

Revision to regular permit

If your permit was issued and you need to make revisions, you must apply for a new permit. 

Note the issued building permit application number on your application when you apply for a new permit.

Priority permit processing

See our guidelines for requesting Priority Permit Processing Guidelines

Last updated July 14, 2021