SF Bird-Safe Buildings Planning Code

One of the first cities to prevent birds killed by buildings (Bird-Safe Buildings Planning Code)

San Francisco, CA

How you can benefit

Birds pollinate our crops and reduce insects and disease.  Extinction of ‪pollinators‬ might increase human deaths to about 1.4 million from disease and malnutrition.  In North America:

  • Nearly half of bird species are in San Francisco (about 400).
  • Clear buildings and windows are the top killer of wild birds and kills 100 million to one billion a year. Many of those birds are endangered or threatened.  

Light at night, especially during bad weather, can cause night migrating birds to descend and become disoriented near artificial light. Then they are likely to die flying into glass or fall to the ground from exhaustion.

So in 2011, San Francisco established Standards for Bird-Safe Buildings. The standards are mostly voluntary. But the ordinance requires bird-safe standards for new buildings, additions and retrofits, and for buildings near urban bird refuges (defined as open water and green spaces, including vegetation-dense rooftops). Requirements include:

  • Façade Treatments: Netting in front of clear glass or breaking up the glass surface visually with fritting (ceramic lines or dots) which lets occupants see outside.
  • Lighting Design: Minimal lighting, shielded lighting, no uplighting or event searchlights. ƒ
  • Wind Generators: Sites must not feature horizontal access windmills or vertical access wind generators that do not appear solid.

Requirements above are similar for particularly dangerous structures like freestanding clear glass walls, skywalks, rooftop greenhouses or enclosed balconies.

Why it's a leading policy

San Francisco was one of the first U.S. cities to create requirements for new construction and major renovations. Buildings can voluntarily be part of the city Bird-Safe Certification and Acknowledgement Program.


To prevent birds from flying into windows and buildings.

Who can take action

Building developers, architects, and owners.  Also, anyone can take simple steps below during the day and at night:  

  • Turn off unnecessary indoor lights.
  • Draw blinds or curtains which can also save energy.
  • Avoid placing plants by clear windows or walls.
  • Report injured birds found outside of buildings by contacting safebirds@goldengateaudubon.org or (510) 843-6551, and San Francisco Animal Care and Control at (415) 554-9400.

You can also:

  • Let windows get grimy.
  • Hang by windows anything that glitters and moves in the breeze.
  • Hang black garbage bags in front of problem windows.


AnMarie Rodgers, City Planner, SF Planning Department, (415) 558-6395, AnMarie.Rodgers@sfgov.org

Last Updated

July 14, 2015