Civic Design Review is a Charter-mandated responsibility of the Arts Commission (see Charter Section 5.103). The Civic Design Review Committee is comprised of five Commissioners appointed by the Mayor, including two architects, a landscape architect and two other design professionals and/or lay persons. The Commissioners conduct a multi-phase review of all civic buildings, viaducts, elevated ways, gates, fences, street furniture, lamps or other structures on City and County land. The Committee also reviews historic plaques, arches, bridges, approaches and other structures extending over or onto any street, highway, park or other public place belonging to the City.
The review process ensures that each project's design is appropriate to its context in the urban environment, and that structures of the highest design quality reflect their civic stature. To this end, the committee evaluates each project's design, scale and massing for accessibility, safety and aesthetic merit. The Committee's oversight ensures that high levels of design quality are achieved, prior to the expenditure of large amounts of time and capital in the preparation of detailed construction documents.
Commemorative plaques placed on City-owned property or sidewalks also require review by the Civic Design Review Committee. The Committee reviews the design, siting, orientation, and context. Some plaques are exempt or eligible for administrative review based on certain conditions explained below. There is no charge for the review of plaques.
Note: With the exception of artwork, projects or structures placed on public property with duration of up to two years are not subject to Civic Design Review. See Public Art for information related to placing artwork on public property.
How do I get started? The Civic Design Guidelines include information for city staff representing agencies engaged in capital projects on the review process and clarify the requirements for plaque review and other small projects.
Civic Design Review Legislation
Charter Section 5.103
Guidelines and Submission forms
The Civic Design Guidelines include information on the review process and clarify the requirements for plaque review and other small projects.
Conceptual presentations are now required for projects with budgets over $5 million, but are for information purposes only. There is no formal approval required or fee for this review.
*All of the following forms are required.
Request for Review Form
All Civic Design Review applicants are required to submit a Request for Review form for each project phase to be presented at Civic Design Review. This form indicates project details, dates of review, budget, and other information pertinent to the project.
Art Enrichment Form
In accordance with Section 3.19 of the San Francisco Administrative Code, two percent (2%) of the final estimated construction costs must be allocated for Art Enrichment. This applies to both above-ground and underground costs unless specifically exempted by the Art Enrichment Ordinance. All Civic Design Review applicants are required to contact the Public Art Program Director and submit an Art Enrichment form prior to their first Civic Design Review meeting presentation.
Civic Art Collection Form
All Civic Design Review applicants must submit this form stating whether there are an existing artworks installed at the site. A site inspection must be performed to ascertain that all existing artworks are identified to ensure that the artwork will be protected during construction and/or removed and reinstalled. All costs related to the protection of the artwork, its removal, storage and reinstallation shall be borne by the capital project apart from the project’s Art Enrichment allocation.
The Civic Design Review process typically consists of a four-stage review process, which includes a Conceptual presentation for projects with budgets over $5 million and three formal phases of approval that align with the typical design and delivery process for capital improvement projects. Projects with budgets less than $5 million will have three formal phases of approval and are not required to make an Informational or Conceptual presentation. Smaller projects or simple renovations may be able to request approval for two phases concurrently. The phases of review are:
Conceptual Presentation - All projects with construction budgets over $5 million are required to make a Conceptual Design presentation prior to commencing environmental review.
Phase 1: Schematic Design - Committee will review the building’s form and massing and the preliminary design within its context.
Phase 2: Design Development - Committee will review the substantially designed project: the final form and design of the structure of the building, the overall site and the landscape.
Phase 3: Construction Documents - Final approval of the project’s design by the Arts Commission. This phase ensures that the completed project conforms to the previously approved Phase 2 submittal.
For more in-depth detail on each phase, please review the Civic Design Review Guidelines.
Yes! Informal work sessions with up to two Civic Design Review Commissioners are scheduled on the third Monday of each month from 12:30 to 2:30 PM. Please contact the Director of Design and Construction at San Francisco Public Works for projects managed and designed by Public Works. The Civic Design Review Program Director will assist you with the scheduling of reviews for designed projects designed by private architects and landscape architects.
City Charter Section 5.103 stipulates that any project that is on or over City-owned property must be reviewed by the Civic Design Review Committee regardless of its funding source. Projects undertaken by the War Memorial, the Asian Art Museum, the Fine Arts Museums, the Port of San Francisco and projects under state or federal jurisdiction are not subject to Civic Design Review. Projects with a duration of two years or less are considered temporary by the Civic Design Review Committee and do not require Civic Design Review approval.
A “structure” has been identified as any new or significantly remodeled building. This definition also includes permanent street furnishings, including, but not limited to: streetlights, benches, bollards, railings, water features, news racks, trash containers, way-finding systems and plaques.
Effective July 1, 2014, in accordance with City Ordinance 319.A, each project will be charged a lump-sum fee of $12,800. Larger, more complex projects or those involving a campus of several buildings or facilities may be assessed a higher fee at the discretion of the Director of Cultural Affairs. The fees are subject to change each new fiscal year.
Interdepartment Fund Transfer should use the below codes for SFAC’s chart fields:
Revenue Account ID: 460127
Fund ID: 11740
Department ID: 163649
Authority ID: 16577
Project ID: 10022393
Activity ID: 0001
Payments may also be sent by check to the “San Francisco Arts Commission” at 401 Van Ness, Suite 325, San Francisco, CA 94102.
Yes, the Conceptual Design presentation is mandatory for all projects with budgets in excess of $5 million. The design should be at a very preliminary stage of development. The goal of reviewing projects at the Conceptual Design Phase is to avoid unnecessary costs and delays that may be associated with subsequent Civic Design recommendations if they occur later in the design process.
Please contact Aleta Lee at Aleta.Lee@sfgov.org or (415) 252-2251.