San Francisco home and business owners who want to replace windows must consider several designs, determine measurements, figure out a budget, and finally install the windows. They also need to apply for a window replacement permit with the city. Taking the time upfront to ensure they follow the proper application procedure (SF Planning website) can prevent delays and frustration.

How to Apply for a Permit

City residents and business owners must apply for a building permit when adding or replacing windows. The application needs to include construction drawings or plans if the home or business owner intends to create a new or enlarged window opening. The city doesn’t require this information if the replacement windows are the same size and in the same location as the current windows. Some window upgrades also require inclusion of a neighborhood notification plan.

The city offers this permit application checklist (PDF download) so people understand exactly what to include with their application. Fortunately, new windows and siding require the least amount of information compared to other types of property improvement projects.

City Regulations Regarding Replacement Windows

The city requires home and business owners to obtain a permit when replacing any window that faces the street or another space considered a public right-of-way. Examples of windows that fall into this classification include:

  • Windows located on a back wall that are visible from the street or another public right-of-way.
  • Windows on a primary elevation, which typically includes the street façade of a building. The city considers all corner buildings to have two points of primary elevation.
  • Windows located in a visibly recessed area next to or near the street or on the side of a building.

Additionally, the city imposes window replacement options on historic buildings constructed in San Francisco prior to World War II.

Submitting the Permit Application

City residents or business owners should bring the completed packet of materials to the Department of Building Inspection located at 1660 Mission Street. The city encourages anyone who has not applied in the past to first visit the Planning Information Center located in the same building.

The cost of a permit depends on the cost of construction and installation for the project. Applicants can get a better idea of what they might pay by accessing the Planning Department’s fee schedule.

Understanding the Permit Review Process

The Planning Department reviews every new application to ensure that it includes all required information. If the applicant missed anything, he or she will need to come back to the office at 1660 Mission Street to submit it in person. The Planning Department will then determine whether the application complies with the Planning Code for the City of San Francisco.

Applicants required to complete neighborhood notification must mail a letter to neighbors and neighborhood groups informing them of the proposed window replacement. The Planning Department delays issue of a permit by at least 30 days to give recipients of the letter adequate time to respond.

Home or business owners will not receive a permit until the Department of Building Inspection, the Department of Public Works, and the San Francisco Fire Department have all signed off on it. Other agencies may be involved as well. After receiving the permit, the applicant must allow 15 days for any party to appeal it.

Learn more about the San Francisco Residential Design guidelines here:

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