Floor area ratio (FAR) is the relationship of buildable floor area (total amount of square feet) to a given site area (amount of land). Think of floor area as the volume of a building. FAR regulations tell you “how much” building you can create. This volume can be shaped to create taller, narrower buildings or lower, wider buildings. FAR scales to the site, so a 3:1 FAR for a 20,000 square foot site would allow 60,000 square feet of building/development, whereas a 3:1 FAR for a 40,000 square foot site would allow for 120,000 square feet of building/development. More floor area means more residents, employees or customers are expected to use that space.
The City regulates FAR to help achieve multiple objectives, including regulating the overall bulk of buildings. For the Mixed Use Zones Project, allowed FAR is set at a certain level for each corresponding zone. Projects may earn additional FAR through a “bonus” system. This system provides additional floor area for buildings when the development provides key public benefits: affordable housing or affordable commercial space. The bonus program and public benefits are described in the Proposed Draft.
The City sets maximum height limits to regulate how tall buildings can be. These heights are typically established based on public expectations about the size of buildings in varying neighborhood areas, the preservation of scenic public views, and the scale of buildings near lower density residential areas.