Brisbane, California

Brisbane, California, population 4,671 (2019), is located in the coastal hills on the western shore of San Francisco Bay, seven miles south of downtown San Francisco. Brisbane adopted a TDR program in 1984 to encourage the preservation of a 112-acre hillside area known as The Acres. The sending area abuts 2,600-acre San Bruno Mountain State and County Park which protects habitat for two federally endangered butterfly species. Potential sending sites are those parcels in The Acres which have the steepest slopes, are located the greatest distance from existing infrastructure, or would cause the most environmental impact if developed. Conversely, the potential receiving sites are parcels with less steep slopes located on the lower elevations of the hillsides near existing roads and other infrastructure. Both potential sending and receiving sites are zoned for single-family residential development at a density of one dwelling per 20,000 square feet.

Following revisions of code section 17.12-050, Density Transfer, in 2003, 2011, and 2018, the sending sites as of 2020 must have one or more of six features:

  • Contiguous with San Bruno Mountain State and County Park;
  • Intact native vegetation;
  • Endangered butterfly habitat;
  • Wetlands;
  • Significant watercourse;
  • Does not adjoin developed parcels on more than one side.

For each 20,000 square feet of sending area site preserved as permanent open space, one transfer unit can be relocated to a receiving site.

Receiving sites must be at least 20,000 square feet, free of the first five characteristics that would qualify a parcel to be a sending site and near existing development and infrastructure. Each transfer unit allows an additional lot with a minimum lot area of 5,000 square feet for single-family residential development. The city council approves these density transfers using a conditional use permit process that requires, in addition to the usual findings made for all use permits, the following four determinations:

  • Avoidance of disturbance to watercourses, hazardous geologic conditions, and other environmentally sensitive areas;
  • Served by infrastructure meeting city standards;
  • Adequate parking and vehicular circulation;
  • Compatibility with nearby development. 

In January 2005, the Brisbane City Council adopted its first TDR application, allowing two additional single-family dwellings to be built on a half-acre parcel in exchange for City acquisition of an acre of open space near the ridgeline of San Bruno Mountain.