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Construction Site Runoff Control Program

Stormwater runoff from construction sites is a major source of pollution that can degrade water quality in the San Francisco Bay. To reduce the discharge of pollution to the local storm drain system and prevent infrastructure damage, the City adopted the Construction Site Runoff Ordinance in 2013. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) now manages the Construction Site Runoff Control Program to ensure that all construction sites implement Best Management Practices (BMPs). The State of California also regulates construction site runoff for large projects.

Construction Site Runoff Control At a Glance

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Project Size
Municipal Separate Storm
Sewer System (MS4)
Combined Sewer System
Projects disturbing 1 acre or more Required to comply with the State’s Construction General Permit (CGP) and the City’s Construction Site Runoff Control Ordinance:
Required to comply with the City’s Construction Site Runoff Control Ordinance: 

Projects disturbing between 5,000 ft2 and 1 acre Required to comply with the City’s Construction Site Runoff Control Ordinance:
Projects disturbing less than 5,000 ft2
  • Not required to apply for a Construction Site Runoff Control Permit
  • Required to implement Best Management Practices applicable to the project site

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Do the requirements apply to my project?

All construction sites, regardless of size, must implement BMPs to prevent illicit discharge into the combined or separate sewer systems. The methods presented in the Best Management Practices Handbook and Technical Standards and Guidelines are designed to prevent the discharge of sediment, non-stormwater and waste runoff from a site. These practices can be used to divert runoff away from contaminated areas or treat stormwater runoff before it is discharged to the storm drain.

San Francisco's Sewer System

The majority of San Francisco’s sewers are combined, meaning that all sewage and stormwater in these areas is conveyed to a treatment plant before being discharged into the Bay or Ocean. Construction projects in these areas are regulated primarily by the City’s Construction Site Runoff Control Ordinance.

Approximately 10% of San Francisco is serviced by separate sewer systems. In these areas, sewage is conveyed to a treatment plant, while stormwater is conveyed separately and discharged directly into the Bay, the Ocean, or Lake Merced without receiving treatment. This type of stormwater conveyance is referred to as a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4). Construction projects in MS4 areas must comply with Statewide General Permit requirements in addition to the City’s Construction Site Runoff Control Ordinance.

See the figure below to determine whether your project is in the MS4.

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How do I comply?

Erosion and Sediment Control Plan (ESCP)

All construction sites must implement BMPs. However, if a construction activity within the City of San Francisco disturbs between 5,000 square feet and one acre of ground surface, it must also submit an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan (ESCP) and a Project Application prior to commencing construction related activities. An ESCP is a site-specific plan that details the use, location and emplacement of sediment and erosion control devices. It must include:

  1. the location and perimeter of the project site;
  2. the location of nearby storm drains and/or catch basins;
  3. existing and proposed roadways and drainage pattern within the project site; and
  4. a drawing or diagram of the sediment and erosion control devices to be used onsite.

Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP)

Any construction activities disturbing one or more acres of soil or any project part of a larger development that disturbs one or more acres within a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) must obtain coverage under the California State Water Resources Control Board General Permit for Discharges Associated with Construction Activity (State Construction General Permit). In order to determine if your site falls within an MS4, please refer to the map of San Francisco's separate storm sewer system.

Projects that fall under the State Construction General Permit must develop a SWPPP that describes the BMPs a contractor will implement to prevent erosion and discharge of sediment and other pollutants in stormwater runoff. The SWPPP and a Project Application must be submitted to SFPUC. In order to prevent any duplicative efforts, any project requiring a SWPPP under the State Construction General Permit may submit the SWPPP in lieu of an ESCP in order to comply.

How does inspection and enforcement work?

All construction sites within the City and County of San Francisco are required to implement BMPs for erosion and sediment control. Contractors and site supervisors are responsible for ensuring that BMPs are implemented and maintained throughout the construction process and that all members of the construction site team know how to implement BMPs.

In accordance with the Construction Site Runoff Ordinance, the City can inspect any construction site at any time. Contractors, site supervisors and property owners found negligent in applying BMPs and/or adhering to stormwater rules can be cited for violations, leading to civil penalties of up to $25,000 per day including all expenses associated with remediation.

Applicants must determine if their construction site requires submittal of an ESCP under the SFPUC Control of Construction Site Runoff Ordinance, or a SWPPP under the State Construction General Permit. SFPUC staff are available to advise on the applicability of these programs. For additional information, please contact SFPUC Lead Inspector, Audie Ilejay at or (415) 695-7339.

Additional Construction Site Ordinances and Permits

Batch Wastewater Discharges Permit
All construction sites in San Francisco that plan to conduct non-routine, episodic, batch, or other temporary discharges to the City's combined sewer system must obtain a Batch Wastewater Discharge Permit from the SFPUC. Examples of such discharges include: de-watering of construction sites; de-watering of wells drilled to investigate or mitigate a suspected contaminated site; power-washing of buildings or parking lots; or any other activity that generates wastewater, other than from routine commercial or industrial processes. For more information about compliance please contact Audie Ilejay at or (415) 695-7339.

Department of Public Health Maher Program
Certain areas of the City that were once highly industrialized, contaminated, or consist of imported fill or soil and debris from 1906 earthquake are regulated by the Maher Ordinance. These areas may contain lead and other pollutants. To protect public and worker health and safety, projects in these areas that involve more than 50 cubic yards of soil disturbance require investigation, site management and reporting subject to Article 22A of the San Francisco Health Code. For more information about compliance please contact Stephanie Cushing at the San Francisco DPH Local Oversight Program at (415) 252-3926 or at

Port of San Francisco Building Permit
All construction activities taking place on Port of San Francisco property must receive a building permit from the Port Engineering Division before construction begins. For more information please contact Anna Wallace Brust at the Port of San Francisco at (415) 274-0558 or at

SFPUC Construction Site Runoff Control Program Contact 
Audie Ilejay, Supervising Wastewater Control Inspector
Collection Systems Division
(415) 695-7339

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Last updated: 1/15/2020 1:10:22 PM