South San Francisco, California

Profiled 5-6-24  

The City of South San Francisco, population 63,484 (2022), is located in San Mateo County on the San Francisco Peninsula on the shores of San Francisco Bay. 

Zoning Code Chapter 20.395.001, Community Benefits Program, grants additional development capacity to projects throughout the city that provide community benefits. This Chapter does not explicitly state but suggests that the community benefits can be provided onsite with the following exception. Section 20.395.004.A.5 states that development of onsite or offsite affordable housing may qualify as a community benefit. In this instance, the site providing the affordable housing could be considered a sending site and the site receiving the additional development capacity could be considered as a receiving site. However, the code does not appear to refer to this as TDR or provide the kinds of mechanisms found in a formal TDR program.

In 2023, South San Francisco adopted a specific plan for Lindenville, a 400-acre area in the southern part of the city. This plan explicitly incorporates four TDR programs to incentivize the following priorities:

  • Owners of land within the Colma Creek Greenbelt Overlay can transfer up to the minimum residential FAR or the maximum non-residential FAR to receiving sites. Receiving site developments can get up to 50 percent credit on parkland dedication fees for the transferred residential FAR with dedication of the land to the city. The Colma Creek Greenbelt Overlay aims to blend nature-based landscape regeneration, plant and animal habitat, passive recreation, and active mobility as well as blue-green infrastructure improvements that provide adaptation to sea level rise, major storm events, and climate change. 
  • When owners demolish non-residential square footage for the dedication of land for parks, open space, or blue-green infrastructure, they can transfer that square footage to a receiving site.
  • To incentivize 100 percent affordable housing, property owners can demolish non-residential square footage and transfer it to receiving sites when they provide 100 percent affordable housing on the sending site.
  • When owners demolish non-residential square footage for the provision of art/cultural facilities, community centers, recreation buildings and other public facilities, these owners can transfer that square footage to receiving sites.  

In all four TDR programs, the sending sites must be within Lindenville and the receiving sites can be within Lindenville or East of 101. Transfers from one sending site can go to multiple receiving sites and receiving sites can accept transfers from multiple sending sites. Transfers require a City Planning Permit, which can be approved by the Chief Planner unless addressed though a Development Agreement approved by the City Council. The receiving site developments are not required to pay commercial linkage fees or community benefits fees on the transferred non-residential square feet. 

Table 2, Density and Intensity, in Section 3.4 of the Lindenville Specific Plan, sets base non-residential floor area ratios ranging from 0.4 FAR to 1.0 FAR within the specific plan’s ten districts. When community benefits are used, maximum non-residential floor area can achieve anywhere from 1.0 FAR to 3.75 FAR depending on the district.

Section 3.4.2 of the Lindenville Specific Plan, Community Benefits Program also allows developers to gain additional development capacity using the citywide provisions found in Zoning Code Chapter 20.395.001, Community Benefits Program, as well as the four TDR programs listed above.