San Francisco Environment Department

City of San Francisco Biodiversity Guidelines

Various native plants in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Integrating Nature in the Built Environment

The Biodiversity Guidelines are meant to translate various policies, the General Plan, the Sustainability Plan, and recent biodiversity policies, into concrete actions that support the City’s biodiversity goals and the conservation and restoration of San Francisco’s natural heritage. These guidelines are a tool for integrating biodiversity into the built environment, so that urban development and all other landscaping projects support local nature. 

The current pace of global biodiversity loss is unprecedented. We are losing species at a rate 1,000 times greater than at any other time in recorded human history - 200 species go extinct every day, and an estimated one million are at risk of extinction by end of century. Ecosystem restoration of land and water and urban forestry and greening with local plant species are key strategies for supporting both biodiversity and climate resilience.

Birds, bees, butterflies, bats, and many other insect and other wildlife species will benefit from intentional selection and installation of a diversity of pollinator-friendly species. 

In order to help flourish what remains of the city’s natural environment, all projects should be viewed as resources for creating wildlife habitat. All design, construction, and landscaping efforts represent opportunities to support the City’s biodiversity vision and to enhance and increase natural continuity and connectivity, and to amplify environmental sustainability and resilience.  

The Biodiverse City Vision 

San Francisco is a place where our local species thrive in climate resilient and healthy wildlife habitats and ecosystems that are integrated throughout our city’s physical environment, connecting ALL San Franciscans to nature daily and inspiring stewardship of our unique natural heritage.  (see Biodiversity Policy page for more information.)

Ecological Design Principles 

  • Design and plant with purpose in the local ecological context for people, plants, and wildlife. 
  • Create and integrate robust habitat into the built environment. 
  • Design for successful and sustainable maintenance and stewardship.  

  • Improve and restore ecosystem services: pollination, pest control, soil health and conservation, water quality and conservation, stormwater management, temperature regulation, and local air quality. 

Incorporate Sustainable Maintenance into your Design  

Often landscapes are designed without consulting with landscape managers or maintenance personnel. As a result, several of the well-intentioned objectives listed above end up not being met because the plant selection turns out to be a failure, either due to lack of funding, lack of communication about maintenance needs, or just bad design that looks good on paper but does not work in the field. Landscape designers should always consult with maintenance colleagues prior to final sign-off on plant specifications for a project.  

View the City's Biodiversity Guidelines

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