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San Francisco activates online portal to streamline ADU development and help combat housing crisis

San Francisco, CA, USA
Symbium Corp.
Contact Partner
In Collaboration With
City and County San Francisco

Goverment Champion

SF Planning


20 Thousand USD

Project Status

Operational since 2020


affordable housing
customer service

Challenges Addressed

Housing & Affordable Housing
Digital Government
Process Improvement


Smart city
Equitable city

Funding / Financing

General Fund/Existing Public Funds
Public Private Partnership
State and local grants

Project Type


At a Glance

Symbium's BUILD portal enables city planners, design professionals, developers, and homeowners in San Francisco to understand whether an accessory dwelling unit ("ADU") (also known as second units and in-law units) is allowed on a particular parcel, what development standards apply, and the ensuing processes.

Problem Addressed

Across the United States, accessory dwelling units (“ADUs”) (also known as granny flats, second units, and in-law units) are seen as a key tool for combatting the housing crisis. The State of California has embraced this means of increasing the housing supply by passing legislation that reduces restrictions on and streamlines approvals for ADUs. This, in turn, has led to a dramatic uptick in the volume of ADU-related public inquiries and permit applications from homeowners in San Francisco and other California cities who are eager to earn extra income, provide affordable housing for family members, and age in place.

Still, challenges remain for homeowners interested in building ADUs and the planning departments that serve them. In San Francisco, like other cities, the current process for determining whether an ADU can be built on a property is laborious and time-consuming, requiring a manual review of state and local regulations. This also often involves homeowners making multiple telephone calls and in-person visits to the planning counter. On average, these inquiries take longer for staff to process given the relative inexperience of homeowners and the complex and fast-changing regulations. Challenges like this are compounded in cities like San Francisco where ADU approvals are dependent on homeowner compliance with ever-changing rules and regulations from multiple departments.

City and County of San Francisco used/is using to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

To improve the ADU approval and development process for residents and City staff, the City of San Francisco recently launched the SF portal on BUILD in partnership with Symbium. BUILD is an intuitive yet powerful web-based tool that empowers homeowners, design professionals, and city staff to:

1. Easily visualize where ADUs are allowed;

2. Understand the applicable, site-specific development standards; and

3. Understand the ensuing processes, including permits and fees, to build an ADU on any particular parcel.

Symbium's BUILD portal for SF is available to the public at


  1. Easily visualize whether an ADU is allowed on a specific parcel in your jurisdiction (i.e. Is an ADU allowed on this property?).
  2. Planners can provide an instant analysis of site-specific development standards on the spot (i.e. How big can the ADU be, what are the setbacks, and where can it be located on the property?)
  3. Understand ensuing design, permitting, and development processes to build an ADU without having to manually reference separate regs & policies (i.e. What are the next steps to build an ADU?)

Something Unique

Initially launched to streamline the ADU process for cities, Symbium's BUILD portal also supports commercial business zoning so anyone can instantly visualize where in a jurisdiction a specific business type is allowed (i.e. show me where in San Francisco a 2nd floor chain cafe is permitted).

Who Should Consider?

Cities and counties that would like to increase housing supply and streamline the accessory dwelling unit (ADU) approval process should consider Symbium's BUILD portal.

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