State and Local Policy Database

San Francisco

City Scorecard Rank


San Francisco, CA

70.50Scored out of 100Updated 5/2017
Local Government Score:
6 out of 10 points
Local Government Summary List All

San Francisco’s annual Departmental Climate Action Plans detail the different strategies taken by city departments as they work toward the city’s climate and energy goals. These plans track vehicle fuel usage, building energy usage, water usage, and employee behavior. Strategies to achieve these goals include fleet reducing, new building and equipment efficiency requirements and telecommuting for employees. The San Francisco Department of the Environment (SF Environment)  coordinates city departments through the climate action planning process.  The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), the city's municipally owned electric utility, supplies electricity to city departments and other customers, offers energy efficiency services to city departments, and directly funds many of the resulting projects.

Last updated: February 2017

Local Government Energy Efficiency Goals List All

Section 902 of the Environment Code formally codified the city’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2012, 25% by 2017, 40% by 2025, and 80% by 2050. Each city department is also required to developed its own climate action plan to detail the actions that department will take to achieve the local government’s overall goal.


To meet this GHG goal, San Francisco would need to reduce emissions by 0.9% per year.


We did not find quantitative data indicating San Francisco was on track to achieve its local government greenhouse gas goals.


San Francisco requires city departments to report greenhouse gas emissions in annual Departmental Climate Action Plans. Annual Green and Blue Awards celebrate outstanding accomplishments and leadership in the field of sustainability by city staff and departments. The Municipal Green Building Task Force meets monthly for professional development, administer updates to green building policy for municipal buildings, and to affirm city goals and requirements are met.

Last updated: January 2017

Procurement and Construction List All

Vehicle Fleets and Infrastructure

San Francisco does not have fuel efficiency requirements for the public fleet. In accordance with the Healthy Air and Clean Transportation Ordinance, through July 1, 2015, each city official with jurisdiction over passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks must remove at least 5% of vehicles from his or her fleet annually. Beginning on July 1, 2015, city officials must remove all vehicles aged 12 years and older from the fleet. All city fleet vehicle purchases must comply with the San Francisco Transit-First Policy.

Note: For local fleet initiatives, policies listed must make a specific, mandatory requirement for increasing fleet efficiency. Local alternative-fuel vehicle procurement requirements that give a voluntary option to count efficient vehicles are thus not included.

Public Lighting

We could not confirm if San Francisco has adopted a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, such as the International Dark-Sky Association’s Model Lighting Ordinance. As part of the LED Streetlight Conversion Project, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has started replacing approximately 18,500 City-owned, high pressure sodium cobra-head style streetlight fixtures throughout the city with ultra-efficient LED fixtures.

New Buildings and Equipment

Section 705 of the Environment Code requires LEED Gold certification for all new municipal construction and major alteration projects of 5,000 square feet or more in city-owned facilities and city leaseholds, and it also requires that the project demonstrates either 1) a 25% compliance margin over Title 24, Part 6, 2008 California Energy Standards, or 2) a 15% compliance margin over Title 24, Part 6, 2008 California Energy Standards, combined with at least 1% of the building's energy costs offset by onsite renewable energy generation. The city’s green purchasing policy is updated every three years and includes energy efficiency considerations.

Last updated: January 2017

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

The Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance requires the benchmarking of public and private (non-residential) buildings of more than 10,000 square feet, using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. The ordinance requires disclosure of the ENERGY STAR score or the energy usage intensity if a score is not available. The 2013 Energy Benchmark Report for Municipal Buildings includes 77% of the city's building square footage. Retrofitting is accounted for annually through budgeting for energy efficiency, by the SFPUC, with retrofits prioritized based on total energy use and other key factors.

Public Employees

The city has a telecommuting policy in place.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 10 out of 12 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

The San Francisco Department of the Environment (SF Environment) leads the city’s community engagement efforts related to energy and implements energy efficiency programs in every private market sector. They recognize city businesses who save energy and provide technical assistance resources to San Francisco residents on an array of energy, transportation, zero waste, buildings & environment, and climate change projects.

Last updated: April 2017

Community-Wide Energy Efficiency GoalsList All

City Ordinance 81-08 calls for a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2017, 40% reduction by 2025, and 80% reduction by 2050.

San Francisco's Climate Action Strategy has set a goal of implementing energy-efficient policies for both residential and commercial buildings that will result in a decrease of 301,979 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030.

SF Environment annually reports progress on greenhouse gas emission reductions to both their website and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). The city has been on track to be within 25% of its 2017 greenhouse gas emissions goal.

Last updated: April 2017

Efficient Distributed Energy Systems - District Energy and Combined Heat and PowerList All

San Francisco has identified priority sites for district energy systems and provided planning assistance for district energy projects.

Last updated: April 2017

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

The city’s Climate Action Strategy includes a goal of increasing the tree canopy of the urban forest to 25% of city land area by 2030.

The city has adopted a Better Roofs Ordinance which requires new residential and commercial buildings to have either green roofs or roofs with solar panels. The city has not adopted a private tree protection ordinance or policies that require or incentivize conservation of private land.

Last updated: April 2017

Buildings Policies
Score: 19.5 out of 28 points
Buildings Summary List All

San Francisco has several building sector initiatives to improve efficiency including a “stretch” energy code, green building requirements and incentives, and required commercial energy rating and disclosure. The Department of Building Inspection manages the building energy code compliance and enforcement for the City of San Francisco.

Last Updated: January 2017

Stringency of Energy CodesList All

The State of California allows its local jurisdictions to adopt building energy codes that are more stringent than the mandatory state codes. Title 24 outlines all California building codes. Title 24, Part 6 includes the California Energy Code and the California Building Energy Efficiency Standards (BEES). Title 24, Part 11 includes the California Green Building Code. The California Energy Code, BEES and California Green Building Codes have been updated in 2016 and are effective January 1, 2017. The 2016 codes exceed the 2015 IECC and ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1-2013. To learn more about California’s building energy codes, please visit the State Policy Database.


San Francisco has developed the San Francisco Building Code (SFBC) Chapter 13C (Green Building Ordinance) which requires all new commercial buildings be 10% more efficient than the minimum state required codes. Additionally, SFBC 13C. requires new commercial buildings of 25,000 square feet or larger to achieve LEED Gold.


San Francisco has developed the San Francisco Building Code (SFBC) Chapter 13C (Green Building Ordinance) which requires all new residential buildings to be 10% more efficient than the minimum state required codes.

Last Updated: March 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

San Francisco does not have internal staff dedicated solely to energy code compliance. Third party performance testing is mandatory for various aspects of California code compliance including HERS testing, lighting controls acceptance testing, HVAC functional testing, and commissioning requirements. San Francisco does not provide upfront support or training for developers or owners for energy code compliance. 

Last Updated: January 2017

Requirements and Incentives for Efficient Buildings List All

Green Building Requirements

San Francisco Building Code Chapter 13C holds the green building requirements for all new buildings and most alterations. The standards in Chapter 13C encompass the 2010 California Green Building Standards Code, yet stretches the code with stricter local requirements. New commercial buildings greater than 25,000 square feet must meet the LEED Gold standard. New residential high rises must meet the LEED Silver standard. Administrative Bulletin 93 outlines all of the specific requirements.

Energy Audit and Retrofit Requirements

Commercial buildings over 25,000 square feet must record energy audits every five years. San Francisco’s Residential Energy Conservation Ordinance requires a minimum set of retrofits at time-of-sale. This applies to residential properties built before 1978.

Incentives and Financing for Efficient Buildings

San Francisco offers a series of incentives and financing products for commercial and residential projects through its Energy Watch and BayREN programs. For new commercial and residential construction projects, the city offers priority permitting through AB-004.

San Francisco offers commercial PACE and residential PACE funding through Energy Upgrade California which can provide funding of up to 100% of the cost of performance upgrades.

Last Updated: January 2017

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All


Chapter 20 of the San Francisco Environment Code requires audits and public transparency of benchmarks for all commercial buildings over 10,000 square feet. This chapter was approved by the city council in February 2011 and its implementation was phased in over three years. This requirement is enforced by the Director of the Department of the Environment and non-compliance may result in a fine. Training is available online through the Portfolio Manager help page.


SF ARMLS, the multiple listing service that serves the San Francisco region, includes energy efficiency fields for homes listed on the market.

Last Updated: January 2017

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 17 out of 20 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), an investor-owned utility (IOU), is the primary natural gas and electric utility serving the City of San Francisco. All gas and electric utility ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs available to PG&E customers in San Francisco are run through SF Energy Watch, a partnership between PG&E and the city. The City of San Francisco is an active promoter of the efficiency programs providing technical assistance, quality assurance, contractor training, marketing and outreach, and incentives. On the regional level, the city plays a leadership role in the Bay Area Regional Energy Network and is active in the Bay Area Climate Collaborative. On the state level, San Francisco is a founding member of Green Cities California and helped form the Local Government Sustainable Energy Coalition. The city works with those organizations and independently strongly advocates at the state level for policies that promote greater reach and depth of energy efficiency programs and additional spending requirements for energy efficiency projects for all of its utilities. 

The State of California requires spending and savings targets for its utilities through an EERS and requires local government- utility partnerships through mandate by the California PUC. To learn more about the state-requirements for electric and gas efficiency, please visit the California page of the State Database.

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, a municipally-owned utility, serves the city with access to drinking water, wastewater treatment, and stormwater management, and also provides electricity to the city's municipal departments and other retail customers (described in greater detail in the Local Government section).

Last Updated: January 2017

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

In 2015, according to PG&E, they achieved 772,000 MWh in net incremental savings, representing 0.90% of retail sales. To achieve these savings, PG&E spent $362,349,996 on electric efficiency programs in 2015, which equates to 2.77% of annual revenue. In 2015, PG&E reported savings of 22.00 MMtherms from natural gas efficiency programs, representing 1.19% of its retail sales. To achieve these savings, PG&E spent $74,216,264 on natural gas efficiency programs, which are normalized to $17.60 per residential customer. Spending on electricity and natural gas represented in this section covers the entire California service territory, not just San Francisco. PG&E offers electric and natural gas efficiency incentives and technical assistance to residential and commercial/industrial customers.

The City of San Francisco partners with its energy utilities through the San Francisco Energy Watch program (SFEW). The partnership runs many energy efficiency upgrade, incentive, technical service, and quality control programs available to single-family residential as well as commercial customers. SFEW is PG&E's longest running local government partnership and has been offering technical services and financial incentives to qualifying commercial customers and multifamily building owners in San Francisco since 2006. The program reaches an average of 462 customers each year and performs over 400 audits per year, and has saved over 180 million kWh since 2006 across over 7500 projects.

Step Up and Power Down is a partnership between PG&E and the City of San Francisco that is helping local businesses take simple actions every day to reduce energy waste. The program has exceeded its enrollment goal with 698 businesses enrolled and its savings goal with 22 million kWh saved.

The Energy Savings Assistance (ESA) Program provides eligible households with free upgrades, providing a safe, comfortable and energy-efficient home. ESA has been provided by PG&E since 1983, and is funded through a public purpose charge on customer utility bills. ESA serves customers at or below 200% of federal poverty guidelines, provides prescriptive measures through a direct install program targeting single family, multi-family and mobile homes, and is available to both owners and renters.

Last Updated: January 2017

Low-Income & Multifamily EE Programs List All

Low-Income Programs

PG&E offers the Energy Savings Assistance Program to qualified low-income residential customers. The program provides direct installation of lighting efficiency upgrades, HVAC tune-ups, smart power strips, and refrigerator recycling/replacement in order to reduce energy consumption in low-income households. This program is implemented statewide by investor-owned utilities under the direction of the California Public Utilities Commission. It leverages the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and Low-Income Weatherization Program offerings.

In 2015, according to PG&E, it achieved 31,960 MWh and 2.21 MMtherms in energy savings from its low-income programs, while spending $112,155,783 on its electric and $24,619,562 on its natural gas low-income efficiency portfolio. The program served 100,573 households in total, which we were unable to allocate to either electric or natural gas funding. 

Multifamily Programs

PG&E offers the California New Homes Multifamily Program. This comprehensive program provides support for saving energy in the residential new construction sector with a cross-cutting focus on sustainable design and construction, green building practices, energy efficiency, and emerging technologies. Through a combination of education, design assistance and financial support, the programs work to encourage building and related industries to exceed California's Title 24 energy efficiency standards. Additionally, this utility offers the Multifamily Properties Energy-Efficiency Rebates Program. This comprehensive program provides rebates for the installation of energy-efficient products in apartment buildings, mobile home parks, and condominium complexes. Rebates are available for products installed in both common areas and units.

Last Updated: June 2017

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

In order for customers to access their own energy data, PG&E makes use of the Green Button data sharing platform for its electric customers only. In order to assist large building managers with accessing aggregated energy data for building benchmarking, PG&E provides automatic data entry into Portfolio Manager upon receipt of written consent from each customer responsible for energy purchases. PG&E provides the City of San Francisco with monthly and sectoral community-wide aggregate-level electricity and gas usage information, which is published in the city’s annual greenhouse gas inventory reports. The current level of energy usage data access, on all levels, is a product of San Francisco advocating to the PUC.

Last Updated: January 2017

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

The City of San Francisco and PG&E do not offer joint water and energy efficiency programs, yet the city does have water-saving rebates independent of the energy utility. The City has updated codes requiring water-efficient fixtures/systems such as toilets, irrigation systems, and shower heads. Rebates are offered for high-efficiency washers and low-flow toilets, as well as free water saving kits. The City’s water conservation program was expanded to offer custom rebates based on projected savings as well as fixed rebates for common measures, similar to its energy efficiency programs. Additionally, the City provides a rebate for residences building a graywater recycling system on-site. San Francisco has a goal of saving 5 million gallons of water per day (1,500 million gallons per year) through conservation, by 2018 and 6 million gallons per day by 2035.

Energy Efficiency and Self-Generation

Energy efficiency projects have been completed at 11 water and wastewater facilities, with additional efficiency improvements planned as part of ongoing system renewal work. For example, through the Sewer System Improvement Program, the Southeast Treatment Plant is undergoing operational improvements and upgrades that will include increased energy efficiency and resource recovery.

The SFPUC has installed large electric cogeneration plants that utilize digester gas at two of its wastewater treatment plants, Southeast and Oceanside. Though no energy-savings target has been set, these systems generate 2 MW and 1 MW at peak, respectively. The electricity generated is used on-site. The SFPUC has also installed six different solar photovoltaic projects at its facilities, including a 5 MW solar project at Sunset Reservoir.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Phase One of the Sewer System Improvement Program (SSIP) will construct, monitor and evaluate eight green infrastructure projects to manage stormwater before it enters the combined sewer system in each of San Francisco's eight urban watersheds. As of September 2016, 4 projects were in pre-planning, 42 in planning or design, 4 in bid and award, 10 in construction, and 10 completed.

Last Updated: January 2017

Score: 18 out of 30 points
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving the city of San Francisco is The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. The district also provides the public transportation for the city and broader metropolitan area, including bus, trolley, and ferry service. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is the MPO in charge of conducting metropolitan transportation planning. Its area of jurisdiction encompasses San Francisco, and the cities and towns in the Bay Area. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is the city agency charged with managing the city’s transportation network.

Last updated: January 2017

Location Efficiency List All

San Francisco does not need a location efficient zoning codes because every property parcel is already within 1/4 mile of transit. The city has eliminated city-wide parking requirements for residential purposes. In commerical areas, all parking may be reduced when additional bicycle parking is provided. As an incentive to further densify real estate development, the General Plan allows for height and floor area ratio bonuses in transit-rich areas of the city.

Last updated: January 2017

Mode Shift List All

Modal Share Targets

We could not confirm the existence of targets to promote a modal shift in transportation in San Francisco.

Car and Bicycle Sharing

Car sharing programs currently available to the residents and visitors of San Francisco include City CarSharezipcar, and Hertz OnDemand. The city is served by a bikesharing program, Bay Area Bike Share.

Complete Streets

San Francisco adopted its complete streets policy in 2008, Public Works Code 2.4.13 (Ordinance No. 209-05). The code presents a unified set of standards, guidelines, and implementation strategies to govern how the city designs, builds, and maintains its pedestrian environment.

Last updated: January 2017

Transit List All

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, and Transportation District, San Francisco Municipal Railway transit system that serves San Francisco has received $979,634,387 in average annual funding from 2011-2015. This funding level is $210.40 per resident in the service territory of the agency, putting the city in the third highest category ($151-249) available in transit funding.

The Transit Connectivity Index measures transit service levels. It is based on the number of bus routes and train stations within walking distance for households scaled by frequency of service. San Francisco’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 45, putting it in the highest category (>39) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: January 2017

Efficient VehiclesList All

At this time, the City of San Francisco does not offer incentives to purchase hybrid, plug-in, or EV vehicles. San Francisco, along with other Bay Area cities, offer the Charging Infrastructure Promotion, a policy plan to expedite the permit and installation processes for charging outlets, provide incentives for employers who install charging infrastructure at the workplace, and develop standard regulations governing PEV infrastructure across the region in the Bay Area EV Corridor. The city has 167 EV charging stations available for public use.

Last updated: January 2017

Freight List All

Sustainable freight plan

We could not confirm if San Francisco has a sustainable freight transportation plan or any policies in place that address freight efficiency.

Smart freight

We could not confirm if San Francisco employs an internet-based application or service to coordinate freight transport.

Last updated: January 2017

Sustainable Transportation Planning List All

San Francisco’s Transportation Sustainability Program (TSP) is comprised of three components: enhance transportation to support growth, modernize environmental review, and encourage sustainable travel. Also, the city’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission has a 15% per capita reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2035.

Last updated: January 2017

Low-Income in Transit-Oriented Development Areas List All

We could not confirm if San Francisco has requirements or incentives in place to encourage the development or preservation of affordable housing in transit-served areas.

Last updated: January 2017