Americans with Disability Act

If you want to renovate an existing commercial space, most likely you will be obligated by the “California Building Code” and the “Americans with Disability Act” (ADA) which is a civil rights law to upgrade your accessibility features such as handicapped parking, main entry, the “Path of Travel” from main entry to the “Area of Primary Function” of the space.  As a building owner or tenant, you have been obligated to do so since 1990 when the “Americans with Disabilities Act” has been in effect.  Most commercial and civic buildings are affected by this federal law in some form or another. Continue reading Americans with Disability Act

San Francisco projects without public notifications

Many projects in San Francisco require public notifications which include demolition, new construction, change in use, exterior alteration or building expansions in residential and some commercial zone areas but there are some exceptions as indicated below.

DORMERS:

Dormers can be added to the attic to create additional usable space without public notifications under the following conditions.
(1) The dormer and all other roof features combined area is less than 20% of the roof area.
(2) The maximum plan dimension of the dormer is 8 feet by 8 feet and setback minimum 3 feet from the side property line.
(3) The dormer setback 10 feet from the front building wall.
(4) The dormer cannot be higher than the peak of the roof.

LIGHWELLS INFILL:

When the lightwell at the property line is against your neighbor’s wall and the lightwell is not visible from any offsite location, and the lightwell is not higher than 10 feet above the neighbor’s ground, then the lightwell infill can be approve without public notification. The Planning Department will need a set of reduced drawings signed by the adjacent owner or tenant. If the proposed lightwell infill is visible from any off-site location, then the public notification is required.

ADDITION BELOW:

When you have a floor supported by columns and the open space below does not exceed one story or twelve feet, you can enclose the open space below without public notifications assuming that the floor above is legal.

DECKS:

An open deck can be built without notifications in RH and RM districts under the following conditions:
(1) The deck does not encroach into the required rear yard.
(2) When the deck is less than 10 feet above ground.
(3) If the building code requires a one hour fire wall, then the one hour fire wall needs to be less than 10 feet in height for the deck or stair leading to the deck.

STAIR REPLACEMENT:

Older building may have the Building Code required egress stair located in the required open space. If the replacement stair is within the same footprint and height of the old stair or minimum required by the current Building Code, then the replacement stair can be exempt from notification. The exemption does not apply to new fire wall when the original stair did not have a fire wall, unless the entire firewall is located next to a blank wall of the adjacent neighbor.

The above 5 exceptions summarizes most but not all the rules, for a complete list of rules and regulations please see San Francisco Planning Department Zoning Administrator Bulletin Number 4.

Valencia Corridor, San Francisco, California

Two Victorian projects with different approach and review process.

The Hill Street House was an alteration and addition project that triggered the historic preservation review process according to “The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties”.  One of the ideas was to add a fourth story but the vertical addition will be visible from the street and it will compete with the historic Victorian.  The better option was horizontal expansion and excavation to create additional space.  The project was review under Certificate of Appropriateness Procedures.

The Valencia Mixed-Use project has a commercial ground floor and a residential second floor. The original recessed entrance lacks the required clearance for today’s accessibility standards.  San Francisco Building Code Administrative Bulletin AB-011 allows the use of powered operated door instead of the required clearances for disabled access.  A Local Equivalencies Request may also required to document the related code sections and the hardship for compliance.