In a nutshell: you can’t pave the front yard without a permit. And you can’t pave 200 sq ft or more without a permit
Around 2001, San Francisco passed an ordinance that prohibits anyone from paving the front yard. At least 20% of the front must be not-paved and set aside for landscaping of some kind (including stuff like ornamental rocks). The idea was to prevent people from paving their yard so they could use it as a parking lot, and to help keep water draining into the ground rather than into the sewers. Parking cars is prohibited on unpaved lawns; there is some discussion about whether or not cars are allowed to be parked on paved front yards. The ordinance about paving applies to all concrete or projects since the ordinance was passed. So, if a property has new-looking concrete (from about 5 years or newer), the owner is expected to have complied with the ordinance — or will have to adjust accordingly (meaning: dig up the concrete to comply).
Another part of the city code prevents paving 200 square feet or more of any part of a property without a permit, because it is harmful to water runoff. Instead of being absorbed into the soil, the rain or water runs into the storm drains — and into the sewer system.
Below are notes related to the ordinances, as well as the San Francisco Planning and Zoning Department and the Department of Building Inspection — the departments responsible for compliance and complaints.
SF PLANNING & ZONING DEPT
http://www.sfgov.org – city agencies — planning department — planning code
DEPT. OF BUILDING INSPECTION
http://www.sfgov.org – city agencies — building inspection — inspection services
Handles paved front lawns; cars parking on paved front lawns
Planning Code, Article 1.2 (Dimensions, Areas, and Open Spaces)
Sec. 132(g) Landscaping. All front setback areas required by this Section 132 shall be appropriately landscaped, and in every case not less than 20 percent of the required setback area shall be unpaved and devoted to plant material.
Planning Code, Sec. 132(f) Permitted Obstructions. Only those obstructions specified in Section 136 of this Code shall be permitted in a required front setback area, and no other obstruction shall be constructed, placed or maintained within any such area. No motor vehicle, trailer, boat or other vehicle shall be parked or stored within any such area, except as specified in Section 136.
Planning Sec. 133(d) Only those obstructions specified in Section 136 of this Code shall be permitted in a required side yard, and no other obstruction shall be constructed, placed or maintained within any such yard. No motor vehicle, trailer, boat or other vehicle shall be parked or stored within any such yard, except as specified in Section 136.
CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO 2001 BUILDING, ELECTRICAL, HOUSING, MECHANICAL AND PLUMBING CODES v5, updated through 10-07-2
BUILDING CODE 2001 EDITION
Chapter 1 ADMINISTRATION
SECTION 106 — PERMITS
1.General. It shall be unlawful for any per-son, firm or corporation to commence or proceed with the construction of an impervious surface in a front yard setback area, other than a driveway as defined in the Planning Code Section 136(a)(30), unless a permit is first obtained. See Section 110, Table 1-F – Specialty Permit Fees – for applicable fee.
2.Referral to Planning Department. The Department shall refer all applications for a permit pursuant to this section to the Planning Department for a determination regarding the proposed construction’s compliance with Sections 132(g) and 136(a)(30) of the Planning Code. The Department may not issue the permit unless Planning determines the proposed construction to be compliant.
3.Penalty for violation. Any person, firm or corporation violating the provisions of this Section 106.1.14 shall be guilty of an infraction. Every violation determined to be an infraction is punish-able by (1) a fine not exceeding $100 for a first violation, (2) a fine not exceeding $200 for a second violation within one year, and (3) a fine not exceeding $500 for a third violation within one year.