Proposition H

San Francisco Neighborhood Commercial Districts and City Permitting

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Would require coordination and streamlining of the City review of permits for establishment, modification, and/or operation of storefront commercial use in the City’s designated neighborhood commercial districts and neighborhood commercial transit districts and for the review to be completed within 30 days; also updates and expands zoning laws in order to support certain small businesses. Proposition H requires a simple majority (50% + 1) to pass.

Fiscal Impact: Would minimally to moderately increase the City’s costs to review, approve, and inspect the small business uses targeted by Proposition H.

Next San Francisco County Measure: Proposition I



Proponents of Proposition H argue that the measure supports San Francisco’s small businesses, streamlining permitting and making it easier for them to compete with online shopping and mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

A YES vote on this measure means: The City Planning Code for Neighborhood Commercial Districts would be changed to increase permissible uses, eliminate public notification processes for new permitted uses, and require an expedited process for permits. (Campaign Website)


Opponents of Proposition H argue that the creation of new permitting and inspection processes could create confusion among the general public, businesses, and neighborhoods, and changing the planning should be done at the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, not as a ballot measure.

A NO vote on this measure means: The City Planning Code for Neighborhood Commercial Districts would not be changed.

In Depth

Neighborhood Commercial Districts (NCDs) in San Francisco are commercial areas outside the downtown area with commercial use allowed on the ground floor and other uses on upper floors. San Francisco’s City Planning Code determines acceptable uses in residential, commercial, and industrial-zoned districts. Each zoning district use may be permitted, conditionally permitted, or not permitted. Conditionally permitted uses require extensive review and approval by the Planning Commission.

In order to open and operate a business in San Francisco, business owners may need permits from several City agencies separately, including permits for construction from the Department of Building Inspection; the sale of food from the Department of Health, etc. In order to change the use of property in certain districts, the person applying for building permits must post notification of the proposal for neighbors for 30 days. During this time, the City is not allowed to issue permits and the public is allowed to request a review.

Proposition H Proposal

Proposition H would change the current Planning Code for Neighborhood Commercial Districts to (1) amend the permitting and inspection processes across the city and (2) adjust zoning in all of the City’s neighborhood commercial and neighborhood transit districts.


  • Streamline the current permitting and inspection process to 30 days and allow simultaneous cross-department review of applications rather than the current sequential, multi-agency review.
  • Require City agencies to coordinate their inspections and schedule them within 2 weeks of an inspection request. Inspections would be limited to compliance with an objective checklist adopted by the agency.


  • Revise zoning to increase the types of permitted and conditionally permitted uses to include arts and entertainment activities, community facilities, social and philanthropic services, retail, and restaurants, among others.
  • Address reduced capacity in restaurants in compliance with COVID-19 social distancing by expanding the use of outdoor areas.
  • Allow businesses to permit certain types of co-working uses as “retail workspaces.” For example, this would allow a restaurant to act as a workspace for the public on days when the restaurant is open.

In addition, Proposition H would change restrictions to allow temporary uses in bars and entertainment venues, and temporary retail “pop-ups” in vacant storefronts.

Source: Legal Text of Proposition H and League of Women Voters of San Francisco Nonpartisan Analysis of Proposition H

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