Policies, Principles, and Goals

The FY2020-29 Capital Plan retains many of the policies set in prior years to ensure good stewardship of public funds and assets. These include the application of funding principles, restrictions around issuing debt, and setting funding targets for priority programs. The Plan’s policies govern the level and distribution of funds that feed into the Plan while the funding principles show how the funds will be prioritized.


Pay-Go Program Policies

The Capital Plan recommends a funding level in line with the previous Plan: $157.2 million in Pay-As-You-Go (Pay-Go) in FY2020, escalated by 7% annually thereafter.

Table 2.2

General Fund Pay-Go Funding 

(Dollars in Millions) 



Plan Total 

Routine Maintenance 




ADA: Facilities 




ADA: Public Right-of-Way 




Street Resurfacing 






50 100

Recreation and Parks Base Commitment 




Capital Contribution to Street Tree Set-aside 




ROW Infrastructure Renewal 




Facility Renewal 




Total Projected Funding 





The Pay-Go Program policies associated with that funding level are: 

  • The Pay-Go funding level will grow at an annual rate of 7%. This enables the program to grow at a higher rate than inflation so that the existing backlog and ongoing needs can be addressed.

  • The Street Resurfacing Program will be funded at the level needed to achieve a “Good” Pavement Condition Index (PCI) score of 75 by FY2025.

  • ADA barrier access removal projects will continue to be prioritized, with the ongoing Curb Ramps right-of-way program fully funded.

  • Ten million dollars of Pay-Go funds each year are expected to fund critical emergencies and enhancement projects not covered through debt programs.

Several voter-determined outcomes over the past two years have affected the Pay-Go Program. Recently approved set-asides for the Recreation and Parks Department and street trees maintenance without associated revenue sources have resulted in restrictions on General Fund spending. These measures have reduced the flexibility of the Pay-Go Program.

For more information on the Pay-Go Program, please Chapter Five: Pay-As-You-Go Program.

Debt Program Policies

The policy constraint for the G.O. Bond Program is:

  • G.O. Bonds under the control of the City will not increase long-term property tax rates above FY2006 levels. In other words, G.O. Bonds under control of the City and County of San Francisco will only be used as existing bonds are retired and/or the city's assessed value grows.

Consistent with the March 2019 update of the  Five-Year Financial Plan, the G.O. Bond Program assumes growth in Net Assessed Value of 6.49% in FY2020, 4.51% in FY2021, 4.31% in FY2022, 4.03% in FY2023, 4.03% in FY2024, and 3.50% annually thereafter.

The policy constraint for the Certificates of Participation (General Fund Debt) Program is:

  • The amount spent on debt service in the General Fund Debt Program will not exceed 3.25% of General Fund discretionary revenues.

Consistent with the Five-Year Financial Plan, the Plan assumes that General Fund discretionary revenues grow 4.50% in FY2020, 3.79% in FY2021, and 3.15% in FY2022, 2.97% in FY2023, 3.19% in FY2024, and 3.50% annually thereafter.

General Policies

The Capital Plan uses the Annual Infrastructure Construction Cost Inflation Estimate (AICCIE) developed by the Office of Resilience and Capital Planning and approved by the Capital Planning Committee for the first two years of the Capital Plan. For this Plan, that figure is 6.0%. Thereafter, the Plan assumes an annual escalation rate of 5.0% unless otherwise noted.

The City uses a revolving Capital Planning Fund primarily to support pre-development of projects for inclusion in bonds with the expectation that these funds will be reimbursed at bond issuance.

Departments with major building projects within the Plan's time horizon are expected to develop estimates for the impact on the City’s operating budget as part of project development. Those impacts appear in the Plan to the extent they are known at publication and are further discussed as a standard component of requests made to the Capital Planning Committee. Operating impacts are also considered during the City’s annual budget development process. The financial impact of operations is not recorded in the Plan but is addressed for major projects in the City’s Five-Year Financial Plan.

The funding principles for the Capital Plan are the categories used to make trade-offs between competing needs. They help San Francisco to keep our long-term perspective when it comes time to make choices about major projects and offer a consistent and logical framework for some of the City’s most difficult conversations.

San Francisco strives for equity across our programs and investments. For capital, this means enabling access and supporting departments in their respective equity plans, which include considerations of race, age, income, geography, ability, and more.

FUNDING PRINCIPLE 1: Addresses Legal or Regulatory Mandate

Improvement is necessary to comply with a federal, state, or local legal or regulatory mandate.

The City faces a wide range of directives and requirements for our facilities, some with significant consequences for failure to perform. Action in these cases is required by law, legal judgment, or court order, or it can proactively reduce the City’s exposure to legal liability. The legal, financial, operating, and accreditation consequences for failure to perform are all weighed when considering these types of projects.

FUNDING PRINCIPLE 2: Protects Life Safety and Enhances Resilience

Improvement provides for the imminent life, health, safety, and/or security of occupants and/or the public or prevents the loss of use of an asset.

Life safety projects minimize physical danger to those who use and work in City facilities, including protection during seismic events and from hazardous materials. Considerations for these projects include the seismic rating of a facility, the potential for increased resilience in the face of disaster, and the mitigation of material and environmental hazards for those who visit, use, and work in City facilities.

FUNDING PRINCIPLE 3: Ensures Asset Preservation and Sustainability

Asset preservation projects ensure timely maintenance and renewal of existing infrastructure.

It is imperative to maintain the City’s infrastructure in a state of good repair so that the City’s operations are not compromised and resources are not squandered by failing to care for what we own. It is also important to support projects that lessen the City’s impact on the environment. Some assets are more critical than others; for example, some facilities provide services that cannot be easily reproduced at another location or serve as emergency operations centers. Considerations for these projects include the effect on the asset’s long-term life, importance for government operations, and environmental impact.

FUNDING PRINCIPLE 4: Serves Programmatic or Planned Needs

This set of projects supports formal programs or objectives of an adopted plan or action by the City’s elected officials.

Integrated with departmental and Citywide goals and objectives, this funding principle aims to align capital projects with operational priorities. Considerations for this type of project include confirmation that they will contribute to a formally adopted plan or action from the Board of Supervisors or the Mayor.

FUNDING PRINCIPLE 5: Promotes Economic Development

Economic development projects enhance the City’s economic vitality by stimulating the local economy, increasing revenue, improving government effectiveness, or reducing operating costs.

These projects may have a direct or indirect effect on the City’s revenues or may help to realize cost savings. Considerations for this type of project include the potential for savings, the level of revenue generation (either direct through leases, fees, service charges, or other sources; or indirect, such as increased tax base, business attraction or retention, etc.), and any improvements to government service delivery, such as faster response times, improved customer service, or increased departmental coordination.

Resilience and Sustainability

As the stewards of San Francisco’s public infrastructure, capital planning stakeholders in San Francisco look for ways to increase the City’s resilience and sustainability via our capital program. Resilience describes the capacity of San Francisco's individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems to survive, adapt, and grow, no matter what kind of chronic stresses and acute shocks they may experience. For San Francisco this means (1) the ability to quickly respond to a disaster or large shock; (2) the ability to recover from systemic crises such as economic downturns, poverty, and housing shortages; and (3) the ability to prepare for and address slow-moving disasters like climate change and sea level rise.

As a coastal city in a dense metropolitan region, San Francisco faces a wide range of challenges when it comes to promoting sustainability in our infrastructural programs and projects. Sustainability in San Francisco means promoting green building, clean energy, mass transit, urban forestry, and careful planning, as well as preserving our existing assets to reduce the need for additional building.

For more information about capital-related efforts supporting these goals, please see Chapter Four: Building Our Future.

King Tides on the Embarcadero
King Tides on the Embarcadero








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