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Sub-Sidewalk Basement


As defined by the San Francisco Building Code, a sub-sidewalk basement is that part of the underground building structure which extends into the public right of way.

Both the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) and the Public Works are responsible for different parts of the sub-sidewalk basement process. 

  • Department of Building Inspection: DBI is responsible for the design review, permitting and construction inspection of the sub-sidewalk basement structure.

  • Public Works: We are responsible for issuing a sub-sidewalk basement Encroachment Permit (Public Works Code Section 723.2) and applying an assessment fee based on legislation enacted in 2005 by the Board of Supervisors. The assessment fee is applicable for all permitted and unpermitted sub-sidewalk basements. The purpose of the Encroachment permit is to identify the sub-sidewalk basement and record it on the property so that the property owner and successors of interest can be annually assessed.

Under Public Works Order No. 169,271,  if it has been determined that a curb ramp needs to be constructed at a location and the location is over a sub sidewalk basement, it is the responsibility of the private property owner to structurally alter his/her sub sidewalk basement to construct a curb ramp.


Utility Transformer Vaults Located in a Sub-Sidewalk Basement

All transformer vaults which are located within both a sub-sidewalk basement and extend or reside in the public rights-of-way also require a Transformer Vault Encroachment permit.


Additional Permit Requirements

  • Property owners will need to apply for a street improvement permit for any new construction or upgrade to any existing sub-sidewalk basement. The purpose of the street improvement permit is to ensure that the completed sidewalk adhere to all applicable code requirements. The fee for a street improvement permit can be found on the fee schedule.

  • All related documentation including an evaluation by a licensed engineer to determine the structural integrity and condition of the sub-sidewalk basement as well as DBI permit and contact information for any necessary upgrades due to the evaluation.


Common Sub-Sidewalk Basement Questions

  • Is there an ability to pay online? 
    Property owners have the ability to pay on-line

  • Can we assess an existing sub-sidewalk basement? 
    Yes. Please refer to Article 15, Section 723.2(k) of Public Works code for more information.

  • How does Public Works collect those applicants that do not pay the annual assessment?

    • The only recourse is a full revocation of the permit directing the applicant to remove ALL of the encroachment and restore the right-of-way to City Standards. There are no other options that currently exist.

    • Assessments cannot be added to the property taxes. Monetary charges placed on tax rolls are only allowed through bond issuances and special assessment districts such as the Mello Roos District assessments or such Special Assessment Districts such as fees based upon a declaration of Public Nuisance (see blight Administrative Code 80, andPWC Article 15, Section 707.1, et. seq.).

    • We maintain a tally of the unpaid annual assessment for a property within our database and continues to invoice to unpaid amount annually to the property owner.

  • Are we assuming the existence of a SSB means the property owner is using the space and therefore needs an encroachment permit? 
    A Minor Sidewalk Encroachment is required for SSB for the occupation of the right-of-way regardless of any usage of this space by the property owner. A basement, regardless of its location in relation to the property line is part of the structure of a building and falls under the purview of DBI.


For More Information

For more information or clarification on any of the permit requirements, please contact us at:

San Francisco Public Works • Bureau of Street-Use & Mapping 
1155 Market Street, 3rd Floor • San Francisco, CA 94103 • Map
Telephone : (415) 554-5810   Fax: (415) 554-6161
Office Hours : 7:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Monday through Friday, except official holidays

Note: all cash and check transactions must be submitted before 4:00 p.m.