Press Release: Supervisor Wiener to Introduce Legislation to Expedite Construction of Affordable Housing

Ordinance will streamline entitlement process by exempting 100% affordable housing projects from lengthy processes that add significant cost like conditional use authorization and rezoning

San Francisco — Today Supervisor Scott Wiener will introduce legislation to expedite the construction of affordable housing to address San Francisco’s housing crisis. The ordinance will exempt all 100% affordable housing projects from conditional use authorizations, which can add months on to the entitlement process and increase costs for projects, even if the project has no opposition. The legislation also removes any rezoning requirements for 100% affordable projects built on public lands, excluding parks and open space. Every affordable housing project that has been entitled over the last 5 years has required a conditional use authorization and, if built on public land, a rezoning.

The legislation will not prevent neighbors from receiving notice of projects in their neighborhood and will not prevent them from seeking discretionary review from the Planning Commission if they object to a project.

“We need to do everything we can to build more affordable housing now,” said Supervisor Wiener. “It takes way too long to approve affordable housing projects, and, given our housing crisis, we don’t have time to spare. Subjecting these critical projects to an unnecessary and expensive process only hurts the residents who need these homes to live in San Francisco. This legislation will get projects through our lengthy and costly approval process faster, while providing neighbors with a full opportunity to receive notice of the projects and to object if they have concerns about it.”

The legislation will allow any development comprised of 100% affordable units to bypass any otherwise-required Conditional Use authorization, such as for size, number of units, and ground floor community space. The Conditional Use process requires a lengthy planning process, culminating in a required hearing at the Planning Commission, even if there is no opposition. The process is lengthy and expensive, particularly for nonprofit affordable housing developers. Process costs for affordable housing projects can mean that fewer units are built.
These projects would still be required to abide by existing height and bulk limits, but they wouldn’t be subject to arbitrary density limits. Examples of recent affordable housing projects that required a Conditional Use Authorization include two projects for emancipated foster youth: the Booker T Washington project in the Presidio at 800 Presidio Avenue and the Edward II housing project in the Marina at 3155 Scott Street.

“We are in a housing affordability crisis and we cannot build housing to meet that demand quickly enough,” said Pat Scott, Executive Director of the Booker T Washington Community Center. “Projects for vulnerable populations, like the Booker T. Washington Community Center, often suffer unconscionable bureaucratic delays, which only serve to keep needed affordable housing units from being built and divert financial and human resources away from needed services. This legislation will help streamline the approval process for affordable housing and I strongly support it.”

“The need for affordable housing is enormous, but the process to get the projects built is long and expensive,” said Sam Moss, Executive Director of Mission Housing Development Corporation. “We all need to work to find ways to streamline and improve the process to build more affordable housing.”

100% affordable projects on publicly owned land would receive the same exemptions noted above, and would also no longer be required to go through a lengthy rezoning process that requires legislation at the Board of Supervisors. This means that affordable housing projects would be allowed as of right on all publicly zoned parcels other than parks, open space, or parcels used as open space, which would still have to be rezoned legislatively. San Francisco’s surplus property ordinance identifies a number of parcels that can be used for development. One example is at 2070 Folsom Street (17th and Folsom), which is slated for 101 affordable units.

Affordable housing projects are comprised of units affordable to people of low or moderate income, which is defined as 0–120% of area median income. San Francisco area medium income is $71,350 for a single person and $101,900 for a family of four.

The legislation will be heard at the Land Use and Transportation Committee.

CA State Senator. Urbanist. Environmentalist. Advocate for transit, housing, clean energy, criminal justice reform, health, ending poverty. Democrat. 🏳️‍🌈

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