About Bay-Friendly Rated Landscapes

Bay-Friendly Rated is a voluntary, third-party verified rating system that sets a standard of excellence for healthy, environmentally sound landscapes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Newly built or renovated commercial, civic and multifamily residential landscapes are eligible to earn the Bay-Friendly Rated Landscape label.

The rating system provides property owners and landscape professionals with a flexible, systematic framework for designing, installing and maintaining landscapes that reduce waste and pollution, conserve water and protect water quality, and contribute to a healthier community, while meeting required local and state-wide standards. Earning the Bay-Friendly Rated Landscape designation provides a credible, third-party verified demonstration of the property owner’s commitment to healthier communities and environmental stewardship.

Bay-Friendly Rated is run by the nonprofit ReScape California.

The project’s owner, landscape architect or landscape contractor must contract with a Bay-Friendly Rater to facilitate the rating process. The Rater works with the owner’s landscape design team to set the project’s environmental goals. Using the Bay-Friendly Landscape Scorecard, the Rater tracks the project’s progress toward achieving these goals during the landscape design and installation process. Projects that meet the Scorecard’s prerequisites and earn at least 60 points on the Scorecard are recognized as Bay-Friendly Rated Landscapes.

Bay-Friendly Raters are landscape professionals who have been trained in verifying ReScape California’s Bay-Friendly practices, and guiding project teams through the rating process. They are independent of ReScape California and the owner’s design team. For more about Raters, see Hiring a Bay-Friendly Rater below.

The third-party Bay-Friendly Rated verification process provides assurance that the landscape has been designed and built to meet a high standard of excellence for quality, health and environmental performance. Earning the Bay-Friendly Rated label can also help property owners promote their environmental stewardship efforts to employees, tenants, buyers and the public.

Following Bay-Friendly standards for the design, construction and management of your landscape can provide many benefits, including labor and maintenance cost savings, water and energy savings, greenhouse gas reductions, water quality improvement, compliance with stormwater and water efficiency regulations, credits toward green building rating systems, and more.

Typical Bay-Friendly Rated Landscapes achieve:

  • 50% water savings
  • 30–70% maintenance labor savings
  • 70–80% reduced runoff
  • 53 tons/acre greenhouse gas reduction

Yes, the fee is $550. There is no fee for the Preliminary Project Intake Form. The Initial Scorecard Submittal fee is $400, and the Final Scorecard Submittal fee is $150.

Fees are paid to the non-profit Bay-Friendly Coalition. The fees support the Bay-Friendly Rated program administration and the costs of recognition materials, including certificates and a Bay-Friendly Rated sign for each Rated Landscape.

Bay-Friendly Rated and the Bay-Friendly Landscape Scorecard were originally developed by StopWaste, a public agency in Alameda County, with input from local property owners, developers and landscape professionals. Bay-Friendly Rated is now managed by ReScape California, which has expanding the program throughout the Bay Area.

Eligibility and Requirements

The rating system is intended for new construction or major renovation of civic, commercial, institutional and multifamily landscape projects with an irrigated area greater than 500 square feet.

To date, more than 60 properties encompassing over 200 acres have earned the Bay-Friendly Rated designation. They include office parks, retail plazas, apartment buildings, public parks, city halls and civic centers, senior centers, libraries, fire stations, streetscapes, and more. Many of these landscapes are designed to reduce stormwater runoff and treat stormwater onsite, and include innovative green infrastructure features such as bioswales, rain gardens, pervious paving and rainwater harvesting.

ReScape California is partnering with local agencies to expand the rating system beyond Alameda County to the nine-county Bay Area region.

No. Although the Scorecard serves as a useful guideline for any landscape design project, the Bay-Friendly Rated designation is not currently available for single-family projects.

The rating system is intended as a planning tool from the very start of the landscape design process, and includes an essential pre-design Site Assessment. Also, the verification process for many practices requires submittals such as receipts that can be difficult to obtain after the fact.
Even projects that are far along in the design process may have difficulty meeting the requirements of the rating system. For these reasons, we recommend engaging a Bay-Friendly Rater in the earliest phase of design.

No. Bay-Friendly Rated is not a self-certification program. The credibility and integrity of the rating system rely on the independent verification of a third-party Rater, whose responsibilities include reviewing submittals, collecting documentation, conducting onsite verification, and completing the Scorecard.

For private properties, Bay-Friendly Rated is a voluntary program; however, a growing number of public agencies and municipalities support Bay-Friendly Rated as a streamlined means of ensuring that new or renovated landscapes meet environmental goals and regulations. To date, the County of Alameda and each of the 14 cities in the county require that most new and renovated civic landscapes that are larger than 10,000 square feet be built to the Bay-Friendly Rated standard.

Getting Started with the Rating System

To help you decide, we recommend that landscape owners, developers, and their project teams familiarize themselves with the principles and practices of ReScape California and Bay-Friendly Landscaping.

A good way to do this is to take a look at the Bay-Friendly Landscape Guidelines and the Scorecard, which you can download for free from our Resources page.

In the Guidelines, you’ll be introduced to the principles and practices of healthy, cost-effective, environmentally sound landscaping. You’ll also learn about the Bay-Friendly Landscape Scorecard. This is the main tool used during the rating process to plan, track and document the Bay-Friendly practices you choose to follow for your landscape project.

You may also wish to review the Bay-Friendly Rating Manual downloadable for free from our Resources page. The Rating Manual will be a valuable technical resource as your project moves through the rating process.

You’ll get the most benefit from Bay-Friendly practices if you incorporate them early on, while you are starting to plan for your new or renovated landscape. If you wait until the design or construction process is underway, you may lose opportunities for Scorecard points or fail to meet minimum requirements. Starting early also gives you the opportunity to incorporate beneficial or cost-saving measures that might be harder to implement later in the process.

To get started, fill out the simple Preliminary Project Intake Form and e-mail to info@ReScapeCA.org (or mail to ReScape California ∙ 1942 University Avenue, Suite 104 Berkeley, CA 94704). This two-page form will confirm your project’s eligibility and provide the Coalition with basic information about your project.

No. Submitting the Preliminary Project Intake Form merely indicates your interest in achieving the Bay-Friendly Rated standard. The information you provide allows the Coalition to assist you in taking the next steps, and to identify any Rated Landscape incentive opportunities in your jurisdiction. If you decide not to pursue a Bay-Friendly Rating, your Preliminary Project Intake Form will be held in the Coalition’s files for one year, and then will be deactivated.

When you submit your Preliminary Project Intake Form, the Coalition will respond with additional resources and assistance, including access to Bay-Friendly specifications and sample language to include in a Request for Proposals (RFP) for hiring a Rater.

To proceed with the rating process, the project owner, landscape architect or general contractor will need to contract with a Bay-Friendly Rater. The Bay-Friendly Coalition maintains a list of Raters on its online Directory of Qualified Professionals. The Rater is responsible for all subsequent Bay-Friendly Rated submittals to the Bay-Friendly Coalition.

Rated Landscape fees are paid to the Bay-Friendly Coalition according to the schedule shown below. Typically, these submittal fees are paid by the Rater, who is then reimbursed by their client (the project owner, landscape architect or landscape contractor). These submittal fees are in addition to fees for the Rater’s services. See the Hiring a Bay-Friendly Rater section below for information about fees for Rater services.



Submittal Submitted by Submittal timeframe Amount
Preliminary Project Intake Form Project owner, landscape architect, or other project team member Early in Site Analysis or Design Development No Charge
Initial Scorecard Submittal Bay-Friendly Landscape Rater Early in Design Development $400
Final Scorecard Submittal Bay-Friendly Landscape Rater After completion of construction $150

Many Bay-Friendly practices save money in the long-term by reducing the cost of items such as maintenance labor, water, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and plant replacement. Though upfront design and construction costs may be somewhat higher for a Bay-Friendly landscape than for a conventional landscape, especially if the project team is unfamiliar with Bay-Friendly standards, in the long run, a properly designed, built and maintained Bay-Friendly landscape can offer a good return on investment.

Hiring a Bay-Friendly Rater

Early in the design process, the project owner, landscape architect or landscape contractor needs to contract with a Bay-Friendly Rater. The Rater functions as an independent third party who verifies that a landscape meets the requirements of the Bay-Friendly Landscape Scorecard and complies with the rating process.

The Rater’s responsibilities include helping the project team decide which Scorecard practices to achieve, instructing the project team on required documentation, verifying implementation of the selected Bay-Friendly Scorecard practices, submitting the application and documentation to the Bay-Friendly Coalition, and maintaining records of the rating process, including design documents.

To maintain their independence and uphold the integrity of the third-party verification process, the Rater cannot be a member of your organization or serve as your project’s landscape designer or installer.

Bay-Friendly Raters are landscape professionals who have completed the comprehensive 24-hour Bay-Friendly Training and Qualification program, as well as the 20-hour Bay-Friendly Rater Training course. As part of their training, Raters learn specific Bay-Friendly principles and practices most applicable to Rated Landscapes, how to guide projects through the rating process, and the many ways in which Bay-Friendly practices can help a project meet and exceed regulatory requirements for water efficiency and stormwater management.

The experience of individual Raters with using the rating system varies. When hiring a Rater, you should use the same professional judgment that you use when hiring any consultant, contractor or vendor.

The Coalition does not set costs for Rater services. Raters are independent landscape professionals who set their own fees and who contract directly with the project owner/developer, or the project’s landscape architect or landscape contractor. Fees will vary depending on the individual Rater’s rates, the project’s complexity, and the scope of work agreed upon by the client and Rater.

The Coalition maintains a searchable Directory of Qualified Professionals who have completed the Bay-Friendly Rater Training and Qualification.

Although the Coalition cannot provide recommendations for particular Raters, we have created a sample language to include in a Request for Proposals (RFP) for selecting a Bay-Friendly Rater. The sample RFP language is available on our Resources page.

Not at this time. A Rater must be independent of the landscape design and construction project team. ReScape California is currently developing an in-house rater program for projects that have a qualified Rater on the design team.

Yes. The integrity of the rating system depends on the involvement of a third-party Bay-Friendly Rater who is not a member of your project team. Raters have participated in an extensive training program and maintain current knowledge of Bay-Friendly Rated requirements, principles and practices.

But it’s good news if your landscape architect is a Bay-Friendly Qualified Professional, Rater or Advisor. He or she will be an asset to your team as it pursues the Bay-Friendly Rated designation and can often help to streamline the rating process.

The Coalition maintains a Directory of Qualified Professionals, including Raters and Advisors.

Raters set their own fees. ReScape California does not maintain a list of Raters who provide discounted or free rating services. The project submittal fees are paid to ReScape by the Rater, who is typically reimbursed by his or her client (the project owner, landscape architect or landscape contractor). Rater fees and reimbursements need to be worked out between the Rater and client.

Completing the Rating System Process

The first step is to have a kickoff meeting with your Rater in the earliest possible stage of Site Analysis or Design Development. Also, your project team should review the Bay-Friendly Landscape Scorecard and become familiar with the Rating Manual.

Your Rater will work with you to establish a preliminary Scorecard goal and select the Bay-Friendly practices appropriate for your project. Once this goal has been established and the project is in Design Development, your Rater will submit the Initial Scorecard to the ReScape California.

The Initial Scorecard shows which Bay-Friendly practices the project team intends to incorporate in the project. The Final Scorecard will show the actual practices included once the project has been built.

There aren’t rating tiers; the Scorecard calculates a project’s specific numeric score. To achieve the Rated Landscapes designation, a project must implement the Scorecard’s nine basic required practices and earn at least 60 out of a total of 215 points.

We consider a low score to be in the range of 60 to 74 points. A medium score is in the range of 75 to 89 points. A high score is 90 or more points. To date, the highest scoring project achieved 129 points. It’s not possible to achieve all 215 points. Some points are mutually exclusive, and some practices will not be applicable to your particular project. We encourage you to achieve the highest score possible that aligns with all your other project goals.

Keep in mind that the goal isn’t to accumulate as many points as possible. The intention of the rating system is to support property owners and their project teams in their efforts to create beautiful, healthy and environmentally sound landscapes.

During your project’s design and construction phases, your Rater will verify implementation of Bay-Friendly practices by reviewing submittals, conducting a post-construction site visit to visually verify compliance, documenting compliance, and submitting forms to ReScape California. These requirements are explained in the Bay-Friendly Rating Manual.

Once the Rater submits the final documentation, the ReScape will review the submittal. Projects that meet the Scorecard’s prerequisites, achieve a minimum of 60 points on the Scorecard, and submit all required documentation and fees, will earn the Bay-Friendly Rated Landscapes designation.

The Coalition will send the project owner a letter of completion, a Bay-Friendly Rated Landscape certificate of recognition, and a Bay-Friendly Landscape sign.
If required documentation is missing or there are questions about the project’s compliance, ReScape California will contact the Rater.

No. You can use the Bay-Friendly Landscape Scorecard as a planning and tracking tool to help you create an environmentally sound landscape. However, in order to earn the Bay-Friendly Rated Landscape designation, you must follow the rating process, which includes hiring a third-party rater to verify the project’s compliance with the Scorecard requirements, and following through with the full Scorecard submittal process.