About Bay-Friendly Rated Landscapes

Bay-Friendly Rated is a voluntary 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 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 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 varies between In-House Rated and Third-Party Rated landscapes.

All In-House Rated projects pay $1,900 in total fees.  The Initial Application Submittal fee is $1,000, and the Final Application Submittal fee is $500.  The Desk Review fee is $400 and is required for all In-House Rated Projects.

All Third-Party Rated projects pay between $1,500 and $1,900 in total fees. The Initial Application Submittal fee is $1,000 and the Final Application Submittal fee is $500. All Third-Party Raters’ first project(s) are subject to a Desk Review, requiring payment of the Desk Review fee of $400.  Once a Third-Party Rater has shown proficiency with the Rated Landscape System, a Desk Review and Desk Review fee is no longer required.

Fees are paid to the non-profit ReScape California. 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 2,500 square feet.

To date, more than 66 properties encompassing over 271 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  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, contact a Bay-Friendly Rater or contact ReScape California for assistance.  To find a Bay-Friendly Rater, visit the Directory of Bay-Friendly Qualified Professionals.

Rated Landscape fees are paid to ReScape California according to the schedule shown below. Typically, these application 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
Initial Application Fee Bay-Friendly Rater Submitted with the Initial Application $1,000
Final Application Fee Bay-Friendly Rater Submitted with the Final Application $500
Desk Review Fee Bay-Friendly Rater Submitted with the Final Application if a Desk Review is required. $400

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 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.

If you are hiring a Third-Party Rater, the Rater cannot be a member of your organization or serve as your project’s landscape designer or installer.

If you are hiring an In-House Rater, the Rater may be a member of the project team.

Bay-Friendly Raters are landscape professionals who have completed the comprehensive  Bay-Friendly Training and Qualification program, as well as the 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.

ReScape California 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.

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

Although ReScape California 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.

Yes.  An In-House Rater may be a member of the project team.

No.  The Bay-Friendly Rater on the project may act as an In-House Rater and must adhere to the procedures for In-House Rating.


Raters set their own fees. ReScape California does not maintain a list of Raters who provide discounted or free rating services. The application 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 Application to the ReScape California.

The Initial Application 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 fourteen basic required practices and earn at least 60 out of a total of 225 points.

We consider a low score to be in the range of 60 to 75 points. A medium score is in the range of 76 to 97 points. A high score is 98 or more points. To date, the highest scoring project achieved 133 points. It’s not possible to achieve all 225 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 bid set construction documents, conducting a post-construction site visit to visually verify compliance, collecting accountability forms and other documentation, and submitting forms to ReScape California. These requirements are explained in the Bay-Friendly Rating Manual.

Once the Rater submits the final submittal, 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.

ReScape California 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 Rater to verify the project’s compliance with the Scorecard requirements, and following through with the full Scorecard submittal process.