Analysis of San Francisco’s TDR Program

Client: City of San Francisco

In 1985, San Francisco established its Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program to encourage historic building preservation and allow new development to occur in the Downtown. It allows unused development potential from an historic preservation property to be transferred to another property in order to increase the allowable gross floor area of development above what would otherwise be allowed. The Planning Department retained Seifel to evaluate the TDR program, conduct a market analysis to evaluate the impact on the TDR market from the potential sale of TDR from publicly owned properties, and recommend how the TDR program might be improved and implemented in the future.

Seifel completed a comprehensive review and evaluation of the TDR program, which was the first time this program had been evaluated in detail since its inception. We assessed the historical pace of TDR activity, finding that TDR usage fluctuated, with peaks in 2001, 2005 and 2008. Historical data indicated that TDR pricing does not correlate with TDR supply, demand or use, but rather with the overall real estate market and various, individual circumstances related to specific TDR transactions. Seifel determined that the City has the opportunity to meet market demand for larger blocks of TDR, and based on historical demand, 1.2 million in public TDR would take 6-12 years to absorb. Seifel presented its analysis, findings and recommendations to the Capital Planning Committee and the Historic Preservation Commission.

In January 2014, the Board of Supervisors approved a resolution authorizing the City’s Director of Property to sell up to 1.1 million TDR from the City-owned War Memorial Complex at fair market value, and take additional actions as needed to accomplish TDR transfers.

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