How-To Install Permeable Sidewalk Landscaping in San Francisco


Plant*SF co-authored the permeable sidewalk landscape permit with the San Francisco Department of Public Works (SFDPW) in order to encourage sidewalk plantings. This permit has been available for use since 2006 and features a reduced fee ($178-$239 instead of $800+) and a provision for increased areas without variance. Plant*SF continues to work with City agencies to refine the permit process.

The following guidelines are intended to aid individuals, businesses or neighborhood groups in obtaining a permit for and installing permeable landscaping in the public right-of-way (sidewalks) in San Francisco. The information may also be adapted for plantings on private property, which generally do not require a permit.

A little disclaimer: Please note that the permit process may change without notice or update on this website. The following information is believed to be correct as of January 2013. Be sure to check with your local jurisdiction before undertaking any project.

HERE'S THE PROCESS for San Francisco

Cost Summary

Costs vary due factors such as the amount of concrete removed, whether or not you do the drawings and/or labor yourself, and what species and size of plants you use. You may pay anywhere from $5 - $10 per square foot (about $50 - $100 per 'sidewalk square') for the completed project using volunteer labor, and $20 or more per square foot if hiring a professional installer. Consider transplanting plants from your back yard or using self-propogating plants to keep costs down and growth up!

Potential cost savings include how much it costs to repair/replace damaged concrete initially and over time (especially where tree roots repeatedly heave and crack sidewalks) and related root pruning of trees. Typical replace/repair costs are about $100 per 'sidewalk square' ($10 - $12 per square foot). Depaving projects tend to pay for themselves the first time this replace/repair is avoided - something to consider especially if your sidewalk is currently in need of repair.

Fixed costs are shown. Fill in the blanks with your estimated budget for other items:

Approx. Amount
Sidewalk Landscaping Permit
$178 to $239
Professional assistance with planning, drawing or plant selection (if any)
Concrete demolition and disposal (including streetspace permit)  
Permeable pavers (if any)  
Plants, trees, rock and/or other garden features  
Delivery (if any)  
Installation Labor (if any)  



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