Critical Updates to the San Francisco Maher Ordinance: Construction Permitting Related to Subsurface Conditions

In August 2013, the City of San Francisco adopted sweeping changes to Article 22A of the San Francisco Public Health Code also known as the “Maher Ordinance.” These changes greatly expand the types and number of properties potentially subject to Department of Public Health (DPH) review and oversight related to the characterization and mitigation of hazardous materials in soil and groundwater.

What is the Maher Ordinance?

Created in 1986, the Maher Ordinance requires that properties located along certain portions of the City known to be underlain by artificial bay-margin fill be evaluated for the potential presence of soil or groundwater contamination prior to issuance of a grading or building permit on projects disturbing at least 50 cubic yards of soil. Compliance generally requires a site history review, development of a work plan for soil and groundwater testing, and submittal of a site mitigation plan with recommendations for managing exposure to any hazardous materials disturbed during construction.

What are the Changes?

Maher Map_v2As of August 2013, the areas potentially subject to the Maher Ordinance have been expanded as shown on the map, below (red dots show expansion). In addition to the original criteria, the recent changes to the Maher Ordinance require DPH review, regardless of location, for ANY PROPERTY that:

  • Potentially contains hazardous or contaminated soil
  • Was historically zoned for industrial use
  • Has ever contained an underground storage tank (UST)
  • Is located within 100 feet of a current or former UST
  • Is located within 150 feet of a freeway

Other Regulations

In addition to Maher Ordinance requirements, a proposed development site may be subject to other environmental regulations including:

  • The San Francisco Health Code, Article 22B, Demolition and Construction Dust Control
  • The California Air Resources Board Asbestos Airborne Toxic Control Measure for Construction and Grading
  • The State Water Resources Control Board’s Waste Discharge Requirements or Order 2012-0006-DWQ Construction General Permit for Stormwater Discharges
  • The San Francisco Department of Public Works Order No. 158170 for Industrial Waste Discharges into the City’s Sewer System

To discuss how Northgate can successfully help you navigate these requirements, please contact Axel Rieke, P.E., at 510.839.0688, ext. 211, or