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Requirement for New SF Houses: Either Living Roof or Solar Panels

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Also: Studio Gang Tower finally upzoned

Starting next year, new homes in San Francisco will have their choice between the two P’s: panels, or plants.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a bill Tuesday requiring residential buildings up to 10 stories in height (and nonresidential buildings up to 10 stories and more than 2,000 square feet) to cover at least 15 percent of the roof with solar panels, part of the city’s ongoing drive toward 100 percent renewable energy use.

The state of California already requires that new buildings have solar-ready rooftops, so this city bill merely amends the existing requirement from "solar-ready" to simply "solar."

This is the first of a one-two combination of rooftop bills; still winding its way through the process is a partner bill that would allow the option of installing living roofs.

The Planning Department has long bemoaned that San Francisco is dead last when it comes to number of living roofs. Living roofs helps decrease the amount of heat buildings radiate out into the local atmosphere while also absorbing storm water. There are fewer than 25 living rooftops (click through for a map) citywide, with nine new ones planned, including one on the Botanical Gardens nursery in Golden Gate Park.

Though passed unanimously, the solar law did briefly stall while supervisors debated the strict legal definition of the words "use" and "function."

At the same meeting, the city finally gave final approving to the long-deferred zoning amendment granting 100 extra feet and dozens of new units to the forthcoming Studio Gang-designed high-rise at 160 Folsom Street.

After drawing the matter out to its fourth board meeting (two in committee and two before the full board), the supes quietly approved it on a unanimous vote a couple of minutes in.

Although some of the supervisors seemed to cast suspicious eyes on the developer last week, support was apparently strong enough that it worth anybody taking a stand on. And so the signature spiraled spire will rise to 40 stories after all.