San Francisco considers removing barriers to new housing projects

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California Construction News staff writer

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has introduced legislation that he says will remove barriers in the city’s planning code and make it easier and faster to approve new housing. If approved, legislation will eliminate “unnecessary” processes and hearings, eliminate some requirements and geographic restrictions, and expand housing incentive programs for new housing that meets existing zoning laws.

The Housing For All Plan, could open the door for 82,000 new homes to be built over the next eight years and reforms would meets obligations set out in San Diego’s plan unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors in January and certified by the State.

“San Francisco has to take aggressive actions to fundamentally change how we approve and permit housing,” Breed said. “By removing unnecessary barriers and rules for projects that already comply with existing zoning, we can get housing built faster. If we want to create housing for working people and families in this City, we can’t just talk about wanting more housing – we have to take action to cut the rules and regulations to get more homes built.”

The proposed legislation would make significant changes to the Planning Code to remove constraints on new housing across three main categories:

Eliminate unnecessary processes   

  • amend many existing code provisions that require the approval of a conditional use authorization (CU) by the planning commission and allow new housing to be approved faster

Remove restrictive standards and geographic limitations   

  • eliminate requirements that limit the form or location of certain types of housing, including easing geographic limitations on senior housing, shelter and group housing, and reforming development standards like private open space and 1950s-era requirements for how far back a building must be offset from the property line

Expand incentives for housing  

  • eliminate certain restrictions to expand existing incentive programs for housing to expand access to the HomeSF program and waive fees for certain affordable housing projects.

“It’s no secret that San Francisco desperately needs more affordable housing,” said Sam Moss, executive director of Mission Housing Development Corporation. “By eliminating unnecessary costs and delays during the building process, this legislation will help San Francisco bring more affordable housing options to our neighbors and communities across the city.”

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