Written by Neil Ginty, Architect

Budding entrepreneurs and small business owners will find life easier to get their businesses up-and-running in San Francisco starting January 25th as the City rolls out a streamlined permit review process under Proposition H.

The initiative reduces what was a tedious and often expensive exercise in securing permit approvals down to just 30-days by requiring the City’s departments to work in tandem and no longer requiring neighborhood notification.

Retailers, restaurants, and bars will have more flexibility to use outdoor space, while restaurants can now rent space to co-working companies. In addition, pop-up retailers and non-profits can use vacant stores, adding vibrancy to our streetscapes.

“I’m thrilled that our City’s small businesses will finally get the relief from the red tape and costly bureaucracy that makes it so difficult for them to succeed and survive,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “San Franciscans wholeheartedly support their local small businesses and they showed that at the ballot box.”


Proposition H



In much the same way that Proposition H sought to tear down barriers in starting a business, we introduced a program called SPRINT last year to empower entrepreneurs in testing new ideas quickly and economically.

Launched in September, SPRINT is a quick-turnaround program with a fixed-fee of $3,000 for our retail and commercial clients. The program is designed to quickly give business owners the answers they need when exploring new space. Services include design-based decision-making tools such as feasibility studies and concept visualizations.


Proposition H



  • No 30-day neighborhood notice for many common uses in Neighborhood Commercial Districts
  • No Conditional Use Authorization for many businesses in Neighborhood Commercial Districts
  • Temporary uses are more permissive
  • Pop-Up Retail is now allowed in vacant commercial storefronts
  • Outdoor Activity Areas (e.g. patios behind restaurants) are more widely permitted
  • Retail workspaces (e.g. co-working facilities) are now permitted in conjunction with restaurant uses



“We can help clients see beyond today, looking down the road at what is possible and how it can be accomplished. And we get them those answers, fast – in days, not weeks or months,” says WDA Founder William Duff. “This enables our clients to quickly try out multiple ideas to find the best solutions.” William adds, “the economy will recover, and those that are best positioned for that recovery will be the ones that thrive.”



Sarah Mergy, Wendy Osaki, Brenna Daugherty

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