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You are here: Home » Locations » San Francisco, California » San Francisco California Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

San Francisco, California Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) in San Francisco, California is a process of evaluating a property for the potential presence of hazardous materials or environmental contamination. It is typically performed in conjunction with a real estate transaction, but it may also be required for other reasons, such as a change in land use or a regulatory compliance audit.

A Phase I ESA is conducted in accordance with the standards established by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) in its Standard E1527-21.


When conducting a Phase I ESA in San Francisco, California, or any other location, the following key steps are typically involved:
  • Site Inspection
  • Historical Research
  • Interviews
  • Regulatory Database Review
  • Records Review
  • Soil and Water Sampling
  • Report Preparation
  • Regulatory Compliance
It's important to note that in California, state regulations and guidelines may also apply, and the environmental consultant performing the assessment should be familiar with both federal and state requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) requires a Phase I ESA for all commercial real estate transactions that involve a change in ownership or use. This is to protect public health and safety by identifying and addressing potential environmental hazards before they can cause harm.
Property buyers, developers, lenders, and investors often order Phase I ESAs to evaluate the environmental risks associated with a property.
A Phase I ESA includes a historical records review, site inspection, interviews, and a report summarizing findings, including potential Recognized Environmental Conditions (RECs).
San Francisco's unique geography, including its proximity to earthquake fault lines, can be a significant concern. Also, issues related to previous industrial or commercial land use can be relevant.
In some cases, if a Phase I ESA is relatively recent and no significant changes have occurred on the property, it can be updated or re-used for subsequent transactions.
Yes, if significant environmental issues are uncovered, potential buyers or developers may reconsider their plans or negotiate for the necessary remediation before proceeding with the transaction.

Digging Deeper

The process typically includes the following steps:

Historical records review: The environmental consultant will review historical records, such as aerial photographs, city directories, and environmental databases, to identify any past or present uses of the property that could have resulted in contamination.

Site visit: The consultant will conduct a site visit to inspect the property for any potential evidence of contamination, such as spills, leaks, or unusual odors.

Interviews: The consultant will interview the property owner, current and former tenants, and other knowledgeable individuals to gather information about the property’s history and current uses.
Once the environmental consultant has completed the Phase I ESA, they will prepare a report that summarizes their findings and conclusions. The report will identify any Recognized Environmental Conditions (RECs) that were found on the property. RECs are defined as the presence or likely presence of any hazardous substances or petroleum products that could impact human health or the environment.

If RECs are identified, the environmental consultant may recommend that additional testing be conducted to determine the nature and extent of the contamination. This is known as a Phase II ESA.

Here are some of the specific environmental concerns that may be considered during a Phase I ESA in San Francisco, California:

Soil and groundwater contamination: San Francisco has a long history of industrial activity, which has resulted in soil and groundwater contamination at many sites. The environmental consultant will assess the risk of contamination based on the property’s history and location.

Lead-based paint and asbestos: Lead-based paint and asbestos are common hazards in older buildings. The environmental consultant will inspect the property for these hazards and recommend mitigation measures if necessary.

Underground storage tanks (USTs): USTs were used to store gasoline and other fuels at many commercial and industrial properties. The environmental consultant will assess the risk of UST leaks and recommend testing if necessary.

Vapor intrusion: Vapor intrusion is a process by which volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in soil and groundwater can migrate into buildings. The environmental consultant will assess the risk of vapor intrusion based on the property’s location and the presence of VOCs in the soil and groundwater.

If you are planning to purchase or develop a property in San Francisco, California, it is important to have a Phase I ESA conducted by a qualified environmental professional consultant. A Phase I ESA can help you to identify and mitigate any potential environmental risks associated with the property.

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