San Francisco Mayor Breed doubles down on plan to boost housing production

New housing legislation may shorten approval process.

San Francisco Mayor Breed doubles down on plan to boost housing production

London Breed, Mayor of San Francisco, continues her legislative campaign aimed at increasing housing production.

Breed and San Francisco District 4 supervisor Joel Engardio introduced legislation on Tuesday that would simplify - and potentially shorten - San Francisco's notorious planning approvals processes. Breed's press release announced that the legislation would:

Eliminate conditional authorizations for zoning compliant residential projects. The legislation, introduced on Tuesday, would eliminate the requirement for residential projects that otherwise comply with city zoning codes to obtain conditional authorizations. According to a release from Breed's Office, the proposal would also remove requirements that limit speciality housing projects like senior housing, shelters, or group housing. Expand housing incentives. The legislation would "expand access" to San Francisco's HomeSF Program, a local density bonus program that allows developers to trade up to two additional floors of height than what is allowed by city zoning codes for more affordable housing units on site. It would also waive fees for some affordable housing projects. The legislation did not provide any additional details Tuesday about the HomeSF program expansion or fee waivers.

Breed's Office described the new legislation as a "key piece" of the Breed Administration Housing for All Plan -- its strategy for building the more than 8,200 homes that San Francisco had to plan for during the current state housing cycle.

State law doesn't require cities to actually build out the assigned unit count, but it does require them to open the door by zoning policies and practices that are housing-friendly.

In a release on Tuesday, the mayor expressed her frustration at San Francisco's housing approval process. She stated that the city must take 'aggressive measures' in order to fundamentally alter how it approves housing and grants permits.

Data released by the state in early 2022 revealed that San Francisco had the longest wait times for planning approvals, with an average of 450 day.

Her administration is determined, if not stymied, in its pursuit of a legislatively streamlined housing production in San Francisco. Breed was instrumental in placing Proposition D on the ballot for 2022, which would offer a simplified approval process for eligible affordable housing. It was a failure, perhaps due to a competing ballot initiative that critics say was introduced by members of the Board of Supervisors in order to confuse voters. The Supervisors' ballot initiative was hailed by supporters as a way to create 'truly accessible housing'

Breed has spoken about the city's conditional-use authorization requirements in the past, including during the Business Times' event on 2023 Mayors' Economic Forecast held in February. Laura Waxmann, my colleague at the time, reported that she stressed the importance of reducing bureaucratic red-tape.

Breed, speaking at the event and referring to San Francisco's state-assigned goals for housing, said: 'It is one thing to pass the Housing Element on behalf of our Board of Supervisors. It is another to implement all the policies needed to achieve that goal of 82,000 units in the next eight year.

Breed is introducing this legislation to address several issues that are plaguing the city. These include residential and laboratory conversions in downtown, as well as zoning in Union Square and retail spaces in downtown.