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San Francisco Health Network
Environmental Health

Maher Ordinance and Voluntary Remedial Action

San Francisco Site Mitigation and Assessment Programs


Site mitigation, the cleanup or management of chemical contaminants in soil, soil vapor or groundwater is regulated per one or more programs within the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Environmental Health (DPH EH):  Hazardous Materials and Waste Program (HWMP), Local Oversight Program (LOP), or Maher Program and Voluntary Remedial Action Program (VRAP). Maher and VRAP are implemented by the Site Assessment and Mitigation Program (DPH SAM).

The Local Oversight Program (LOP) oversees the cleanup of properties with leaking underground fuel tanks. California underground storage tank (UST) program information is available at the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) web page.

The HWMP regulates sites that store or use hazardous materials or wastes and operating underground storage tanks. For additional information on the HWMP program see the HWMP Forms Menu.

LOP or HWMP Case or Tank closure DOES NOT exempt a property or project from the Maher Ordinance.

DPH Maher Program Steps

See also Maher Checklist and Maher Process Flow Chart

  1. Mail or deliver a Maher Application Form, a CD containing any available supporting documents (listed on application form) and a check for the application fee.  For the current fee, please refer to the Fee Schedule. The fee is listed as "INITIAL FEE" under Hazardous Waste Soil Testing. Submit the application and suporting documents early in the project design and planning process.

    NOTE:  Single family or 2 or 3 unit residential building modification/remodel projects
    may be granted a waiver from further Maher Requirements. See “Waiver” below.

  2. Submit a Subsurface Investigation (SI) Work Plan. Work plan must be approved by DPH EH Site Assessment and Mitigation Program (DPH SAM)
  3. Implement the SI work plan, prepare a Subsurface Investigation report and submit to DPH SAM for review.
  4. Prepare and submit a Site Mitigation Plan based on the information developed during the SI. The Site Mitigation Plan should include soil and groundwater handling procedures, designs for mitigating measures that control human exposure to remaining hazardous substances, an environmental contingency plan, health and safety plan and other information.
  5. DPH SAM should approve the Site Mitigation Plan before beginning site earth work.
  6. If hazardous substances will remain in the subsurface at significant concentrations or if mitigating measures will be implemented, DPH SAM may require an Activities and Use Limitation deed restriction (AUL). The purpose is to notify any future buyers/occupants of the potentially hazardous residuals beneath the property and/or mitigating measures.
  7. Perform site earthwork and implement the Site Mitigation Plan and mitigating measures.
  8. Finalize and Record Activities and Use Limitation deed restriction if applicable.
  9. Prepare a Final project Report describing Site Mitigation Plan and mitigating measure implementation/construction, any incidents that triggered the contingency plan, and documentation for transportation, disposal and testing of soil and groundwater.
  10. The Final Project Report must be certified per the Maher Ordinance.
  11. Receive a project completion or no further action needed letter from DPH SAM.  The letter will state if an AUL is in place. 


Maher Waiver for Residential Remodel/Modification Projects

  1.  Mail or deliver a Maher Application Form, a CD containing any available supporting documents (listed on application form) and a check for application fee made out to SFDPH.  For the current fee, please refer to the Fee Schedule. The fee is listed as "INITIAL FEE" under Hazardous Waste Soil Testing.
  2. At a minimum submit 3 - 4 Sanborn maps (early, mid, late 1900s) to describe site history. Historical reverse City Directory sections may also be useful. Submit a cover letter summarizing the historical information.
  3. Description of current site use and proposed project.
  4. Current and proposed site plan and elevation drawings.
  5. Plans and drawings must show the planned lateral extent and depth of planned excavation or soil disturbance. 
  6.  Information should be submitted on a CD.
  7. DPH SAM will issue a waiver from further Maher Ordinance requirements for the specific project described if appropriate. 


Maher Program Background

Properties with potential subsurface chemical contamination that require a grading or building permit may be regulated under the San Francisco Maher Ordinance: Article 22A of the San Francisco Health Code and Article 106A.3.4.2 of the San Francisco Building Code. The Maher Ordinance covers areas with current or historical industrial use or zoning, areas within 100 feet of current or historical underground tanks, filled former Bay, marsh or creek areas and areas within 150 feet of a current or former elevated highway. Sites and areas covered per the Maher Ordinance are shown as shaded areas on the Maher map. DPH case or tank closure DOES NOT exempt a site from the Maher Ordinance.

DPH EH implements the Maher Program jointly with the San Francisco Planning Department and the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI). Efforts are made to maintain communication among the San Francisco agencies.  The Planning Department and /or DBI perform an initial environmental review or permit review of projects submitted to that department.  If applicable, the Planning Department or DBI requires a project proponent to contact DPH and enter in the Maher Ordinance Program. DPH copies DBI and the Planning Department on review letters.  A project proponent may also apply to the Maher Program directly by submitting the Maher Program application and fee to the DPH.

Properties with known or potential chemical contamination outside the current Maher area may be administratively added to Maher or DPH EH may oversee the project per the San Francisco Voluntary Remedial Action Program (VRAP). 

The VRAP program is authorized per State authority in the California Health and Safety Code (H & S Code) Sections 101480-101490. H & S CODE Sections 101480 through 101483 establish a cleanup oversight program which allows a local health agency to supervise the remedial action taken at a site, set up cleanup goals at a site and issue a letter or other document that certifies that the cleanup goals have been met.