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Real Estate Opportunities

hills within the Peninsula watershed

The Real Estate Services Division (RES) of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) oversees the SFPUC’s income-producing property.

RES negotiates agreements for the lease, license, purchase and sale of real property in the SFPUC’s real property portfolio and administers existing real estate agreements. RES develops and implements policies to support the operational and real estate needs of other SFPUC divisions. RES does not provide property management services.

hills within the Alameda watershedABOUT THE SFPUC’S LANDS

The SFPUC has an enormous amount of land—approximately 66,000 acres of watershed land; 1,600 miles of water pipelines and tunnels, 160 miles of electrical transmission lines, 900 miles of sewer lines (collectively, we call this the Right of Way); reservoirs and tanks; treatment plants; maintenance yards; and offices. The SFPUC owns most of these lands in fee.

SFPUC utilities run through San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Tuolumne, Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties. The SFPUC supplies water to 2.6 million customers in those counties. In fact, the SFPUC is the largest single landowner in San Mateo and Alameda counties because maintaining a clean and reliable water supply requires vast amounts of protected watershed.


Primarily, SFPUC land is used to deliver water, power, and sewer services. Secondary uses may occur on SFPUC land if they produce income to benefit our ratepayers through rental to third-party users or help our utility partners. Secondary uses must be compatible with any primary use and SFPUC policies.

RES will analyze your proposed use, in collaboration with other SFPUC divisions, and the SFPUC will determine whether the use benefits the SFPUC or our stakeholders. Among other considerations, the SFPUC prefers to rent land to users who are responsible for managing and maintaining the rented property.

Most importantly, a use must not endanger the SFPUC’s primary purpose of delivering utility services to ratepayers.


Before the Bay Area’s intensive development occurred over the last 60 years, our Right of Way and Watershed lands sat in rural, agricultural areas. Today, much of the SFPUC’s property lies in suburbia. Our Right of Way is located behind large office buildings and shopping centers in Silicon Valley and through community parks.

pipeline in Menlo ParkRES has negotiated rental agreements for a broad range of uses including parking lots, golf courses, utility crossings, telecommunication towers, quarries, landscaping, parks, and more. RES has also learned what does not work for the SFPUC.

For example, the SFPUC disfavors any use that:

  • may contaminate our land or water with hazardous materials;
  • provides aerial utility crossing or overhead transmission lines within the Right of Way or watershed;
  • cannot effectively be removed in a timely manner, upon the SFPUC's request for maintenance or in case of an emergency;
  • fulfills another jurisdiction's open space, setback, parking, or third-party development requirements;
  • makes the Right of Way the sole emergency access to a neighboring property;
  • includes installation of structures or trees on the Right of Way;
  • would increase the SFPUC’s potential liability or diminish the security of the SFPUC’s utility infrastructure;
  • includes installation of utilities parallel to, rather than across, our pipelines or electric transmission lines; or
  • is inconsistent with any existing or future policies adopted by the SFPUC, as they may be amended or modified from time to time.

This list is not exhaustive.

Please note that RES negotiates long-term real estate agreements. Other SFPUC divisions issue daily or short-term access or use permits for SFPUC lands. The Land Engineering, Natural Resources and Lands Management, and City Distribution Divisions and the Hetch Hetchy Water and Power System may grant permits for short-term uses.

Last updated: 4/30/2021 12:37:41 PM