Filing an Enforcement Complaint
The Planning Department maintains the Planning Code, which regulates the 'location' and the 'use' of buildings and land adjacent to streets and sets forth standards for development. All properties under the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Planning Code shall be used only for the uses as permitted in the Planning Code and in accordance with the regulations established for those uses under the various Zoning Districts.
For example, no structures shall be constructed, reconstructed, enlarged, altered, or relocated so as to result in a greater height, bulk, or floor area ratio, less required open space, less off-street parking or loading space, reduction in setbacks and landscaping than permissible under the Planning Code. In addition, every condition, stipulation, special restriction, and other limitations imposed in actions on building permits or planning approvals, such as conditional uses, variances, discretionary reviews, shall be complied with.
Failure to comply with any of the above without due process and authorization constitutes a violation of Planning Code. Thus, a complaint can be made in regards to any of the above violations. The Planning Department will investigate the complaints and/or refer them to other City departments or agencies for their investigation as deemed necessary. In addition, the Planning Department's code enforcement process does not affect the City Attorney's Charter authority to bring its own civil enforcement action.
How to File a Complaint
There is no fee to file a complaint. We accept anonymous complaints, but please be sure to provide the correct information regarding the potential violation. Please note that if the information is incorrect or insufficient, the investigation may be hampered and we will be unable to contact you.
Common Planning Code Violations
Each year, the Planning Department responds to over 500 inquiries pertaining to potential land use violations. In most cases, investigation of code violations happens when a citizen reports a potential violation.
Examples of violations include construction/demolition, landscaping maintenance, building misuse and inappropriate parking.
The types of violations that are typically reported include:
- Addition or Removal of Dwelling Unit(s) without Planning Dept. Approval
- Alteration of Historical Building or Structure without Planning Dept. Approval
- ATM without Required Setback
- Demolition without Planning Dept. Approval
- Exceeding Permitted Hours of Operation
- Expansion of Non-Conforming Use
- Failure to Provide Required Bicycle Parking
- Formula Retail Use (Franchise/chain store) without Planning Dept. Approval
- Illegal Advertising Sign
- Illegal Business Sign on Private Property
- Illegal Massage Establishment
- Illegal Medical Cannabis Dispensary
- Illegal Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Institutional Uses
- Non-compliance with Conditions of Approval
- Obstruction in Front or Rear Setback
- Operation of Home Business beyond Limitations
- Removal of Required Landscaping
- Removal of Required Parking without Planning Dept. Approval
- Rooming/Boarding House (Group Housing) without Planning Dept. Approval
- Unpermitted Parking Facility
- Failure to Install Required Street Tree
- Use of Required Front or Rear Setback as Parking
- Wireless Facility without Planning Dept. Approval
How We Respond to Complaints
- When a complaint is received it will be logged and assigned to an Enforcement Planner in charge of the geographic area where the potential violation occurred. Visit Zoning & Compliance Teams for a listing of our Code Enforcement staff.
- The assigned planner investigates each complaint in order of priority to determine if a Planning Code violation exists. The Department's highest priority for investigation and resolution of reported violations are health and safety-related. If evidence exists that a violation of Planning Code may have occurred, the Enforcement Planner sends a notice to the responsible party (usually the property owner or leaseholder).
- High service demands can routinely cause cases to remain open for some time. These cases usually involve violations that do not constitute a significant impact.
- If necessary, the Enforcement Planner may conduct a site visit to further investigate the reported violation.
- If the violation is confirmed, further written notice will be sent to the responsible parties.
- If the violation notice is not appealed and the violation continues, administrative penalties may be assessed and further enforcement action will be taken.
Checking a Complaint Status
Within 10 business days of filing a complaint, you may find out which Code Enforcement planner has been assigned the case by entering the address under review in the SF Property Information Map and selecting the "Complaints" tab. We kindly ask that you only call a planner directly if you are sure they have been assigned to your complaint case.
Other Complaints Resources
To report illegal short-term rentals / illegal tourist hotel activities:
The Department of Building Inspection (DBI) handles complaints involving structural issues, accessibility, vacant or abandoned storefronts and hazards involving the Safety Code:
Any complaints not directly related to the Planning Code can be reported to other City agencies: