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In response to record growth in San Francisco’s downtown in the mid-1980s, San Francisco created the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program to preserve the City’s “unique historic, architectural and aesthetic character.” The TDR program allows property owners to transfer unused development potential from a preservation property to other properties to ultimately be used on a development property in order to increase allowable gross floor area above what would otherwise be allowed. For the past three decades, the TDR program has helped the City to accommodate growth downtown while providing owners of historic buildings with incentives to maintain cultural resources.

The San Francisco Planning Department retained the Seifel Consulting team to conduct a comprehensive review of the City’s existing TDR program and make recommendations about how best to implement it in the future, including whether to certify TDR on City owned public buildings. Seifel was asked to analyze the impact of the potential sale of TDR from public properties on the TDR market.

The Seifel team completed a comprehensive review of the City’s existing TDR program and policies, and conducted in-depth analysis on the Planning Department’s database used to track TDR certification, transfer and use. It assessed the historical pace of TDR activity, key market factors in TDR transactions, and the value of TDR to the real estate development community. To provide insight into program implementation, as well the TDR market and pricing, the team interviewed brokers and other stakeholders involved in the TDR market and prepared case studies on specific TDR transactions in San Francisco. Finally, the team researched historic preservation-related TDR programs in other cities.

Click here for a copy of the Seifel team's TDR Study, included in the July 2013 San Francisco Planning staff report.