Process for Conditional Use Authorization (CUA) for Small BusinessesBack to Small Businesses
Follow this process to apply for Conditional Use Authorization (CUA) from the Planning Commission for projects involving small businesses (non-residential uses).
This step-by-step guide outlines the process for small businesses which are required to file a CUA under the Planning Code and seek approval from the Planning Commission. These projects will require a public hearing at City Hall.
Review the following guide to determine which application forms should be submitted as part of your project and prepare the required documentation. For additional permitting assistance, please visit the Permit Center Help Desk at 49 South Van Ness or contact the Office of Small Business (OSB).
Step 1: Verify if a Conditional Use Authorization is required and/or if you qualify for the Community Business Priority Processing Program (CB3P)
Consult with Planning or OSB staff and verify if you are required to file for a CUA.
The Planning Department has an expedited program for certain projects called CB3P. If your project involves the following:
- Storefront Consolidation
- Change of Use Only -or- Tenant Improvements (No Building Expansion or New Construction)
- Establishment of a non-residential use
- Does not remove any dwelling units
- Does not involve the establishment or expansion of:
- Tobacco Paraphernalia Establishment;
- Adult Entertainment Establishment;
- Fringe Financial Service;
- Drive-Up Facility;
- Wireless Telecommunications Site (WTS);
- Off-Street Parking in Excess of Principally Permitted; or,
- Non-Retail Sales & Service Use (not open to general public)
- Must be located on the ground (first) floor
CB3P is NOT permitted within:
Step 2: Fill out the required forms, obtains plans and take photos
To file for a CUA for your business, you will need to submit:
COMPLETED Pre-Application Meeting (a mandatory neighborhood meeting occurring two weeks in advance PRIOR to submitting an application to the Planning Department)
- Project Application, select the Commercial PRJ Only
- Complete the Conditional Use Authorization Application and also submit with:
- Architectural Plans (scaled to 11x17) if work is being done on the interior or exterior
- For Plans, check out the Plan Submittal Guidelines
- Letter of Authorization for non-property owners. We need to know your role on the project to apply for a CUA. A property owner can apply for a CUA -OR- a tenant can apply for a CUA.
Step 3: Provide Architectural Plans
The Planning Department maintains a standard for architectural plans online at: https://sfplanning.org/resource/plan-submittal-guidelines.
For projects where no work is being done on the interior or exterior, a floor plan with identified square footage will be adequate for review.
Existing photos of the property are also required. Both interior and exterior.
Step 4: Submit to Planning Department at firstname.lastname@example.org
Once your application has been completed, you will submit to the Planning Department electronically. A Planning Technician will follow-up with you within THREE business days. You will receive a response requesting any missing information and/or payment instructions.
Step 5: Pay the CUA fee.
The Planning Technician will issue you an invoice for a CUA Application fee. You can view the fee at: https://sfplanning.org/resource/fee-schedule-applications.
See Page 8. The fee can range based on the cost of construction.
If there is no construction and the CUA is NOT for extension of hours, the fee will be: $2,747 [based upon the 2023-2024 Fee Schedule].
If you are establishing a new business or expanding to a new storefront location, you may be eligible for First Year Free, where permit fees are waived. Contact the Office of Small Business if you have questions about this program.
Step 6: Assignment to a Planner
Once your application has been accepted, it will be assigned to a Planner by one of the team supervisors (a Principal Planner). On average, assignment can range from one week to two weeks.
Step 7: Initial Review by Planner
The assigned Planner will conduct an initial review of your project relative to the requirements of the Planning Code. The Planner’s review will include, but is not limited to, proposed signage, hours of operation, storefront alterations or interior layout. At this stage, the Planner may produce a Plan Check Letter (PCL) and request clarification or refinements to your project based on Planning Code requirements.
Step 8: Respond to Comments
If comments are issued thru a Plan Check Letter, the Applicant should respond back to comments with requested changes to architectural plans. While we await revisions and/or additional information, Planning will place your project on-hold.
Step 9: Schedule Public Hearing
Once the Planner has deemed the Project code-compliant, your Project will be scheduled for a public hearing in front of the Planning Commission and the Planner will draft the public notice. In most cases, the public notice is sent to owners and occupants within 300-ft of the property, as well as neighborhood organizations that are part of Planning’s database.
The Planner will produce the public notice and our staff will conduct the required mailing.
The Applicant is responsible for posting a copy of the poster on the property by the due date. This step is IMPORTANT! A physical copy of the notice must be posted on-site according to established guidelines.
Step 10: Attend Public Hearing & Public Presentation
You are required to attend the public hearing with the Planning Commission for your project.
If your project is on the CONSENT calendar, no public presentation is needed.
If your project is on the REGULAR calendar, the Planner will present your project and you will be asked to prepare a short presentation (max of 5 minutes) on your business and why you need the CUA.
The Commission will vote to approve or deny your application.
Step 11: Approval & Next Steps
If your project is approved by the Planning Commission, there is a 30-day Appeal Period. During this time, you will have to file a Notice of Special Restriction with the Assessor-Recorder’s Office in City Hall. The Property Owner may be required to file the Notice of Special Restriction. In addition, you may be required to also file a Building Permit with the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) if you are making changes to the interior of the space.