Housing is at the heart of so many of our challenges. And it’s an issue that can’t be solved with one simple policy change. It’s going to require sustained and committed focus that will take years of effort. For too long, San Francisco has resisted significant change to how we approve and build housing.
The good news is that San Francisco is in a better place now than we were a year ago — and we have a path to be in an even better place next year. This is the work we need to do to be a city that is affordable for everyone — a city that welcomes families, working people, and seniors. A city that has enough housing for the next generation growing up here today to know that they, too, can afford to live in the neighborhood that they’ve called home for their entire lives.
Housing Element Implementation
At the beginning of 2023, San Francisco took the important step of passing our Housing Element, which sets the roadmap for fundamental change in how we approve, permit and get housing built in this City. Immediately upon passing that important document, I issued an Executive Directive — Housing for All — which set our immediate implementation plan to actually deliver on our commitment in the Housing Element.
As we close our 2023, we can look back on the progress we’ve made in delivering Housing for All, and the work ahead in 2024.
Here are the highlights of what we’ve done so far to meet the requirements of Housing for All:
- Of the four law changes we set out to pass on 2023, we introduced and passed all four. In addition, we introduced and advanced a fifth law to remove density restrictions, which will be at the Board of Supervisors in January.
- The Planning Department has been conducting a months-long outreach process to prepare a citywide rezoning plan to be put forward early next year.
- All 15 City Departments required to prepare a Housing Delivery Performance and Assessment Improvement Plan submitted one by the May deadline and began to implement these plans.
This work was done thanks to our city staff across a number of Departments, elected leaders fighting for pro-housing policies, and the advocates pushing relentlessly for reforms to get more housing built in this City.
The Progress So Far
Advancing housing solutions is never easy, and often complicated. But we have done significant work this year to remove barriers to housing, including by reforming our approvals process, reducing costs, and creating new tools to unlock our pipeline.
This legislation amends the Planning Code to eliminate unnecessary processes and hearings, eliminate certain code requirements and geographic restrictions, and expand housing incentive programs for new housing that fits within the City’s existing zoning laws.
The Housing Stimulus and Fee Reform Plan temporarily reduces inclusionary housing requirements on new and already approved development projects and reforms and defers development impact fees in order to spur development projects and economic activity.
Although Downtown zoning already allows for housing, the legislation advances a range of code adjustments to slash barriers that may hamper the conversion of underutilized downtown office buildings to housing — and that could unlock thousands of new housing units over time.
To ensure new housing construction can begin quickly, the legislation initiates a targeted form of public financing that will allow the critical infrastructure at large projects to be built. Power Station, a 2,600-unit housing project located in the Southeastern part of the City, is the first project to opt into using this economic tool.
The Housing Element Interagency Implementation Team submitted its One City: A Housing for All Action Plan that compiles and prioritizes the key actions for each Department involved in housing while also detailing the interdepartmental efforts needed to significantly improve housing permitting. This work is underway by Departments now.
Formed in February, the Affordable Housing Leadership Council has been working closely with City staff throughout this year to develop a strategy to rethink how we approach affordable housing in San Francisco. This strategy is focused on specific goals, including exploring new local and regional funding tools, reducing costs for affordable housing projects, and advocating at the federal and state levels for more resources.
For the last several months, the Planning Department has been leading outreach to residents and community organizations and incorporating as it develops a comprehensive rezoning proposal that will advance through the legislative process in 2024. As part of the Housing Element, we committed to reforming our zoning to allow over 35,000 new homes near the City’s transit and commercial corridors across the City.
The Work Ahead
As we look ahead to 2024, there is major work to do. If we can achieve the following five priorities in 2024, we will be well on our way to truly following through on our Housing Element and being a city that leads when it comes to housing. Those top priorities are:
Passing Density Decontrol Legislation — this will allow more housing on major commercial corridors across the City. It has been approved by the Planning Commission and is currently pending at the Land Use Committee of the Board of Supervisors, with a goal of hearing it early in 2024.
Advancing Rezoning Legislation — as mentioned above, the Planning Department has already been undergoing a months-long community outreach process to develop a comprehensive rezoning proposal and will begin presenting and advancing draft legislation early next year.
Designing new Affordable Housing Strategies — the Mayor convened an Affordable Housing Leadership Council to work with the City to devise a strategy for meeting San Francisco’s affordable housing needs. The final meeting of the Council will be in January, after which a report will be finalized and submitted to the Mayor for action.
Implementing new State Laws — Permit Center, Planning Department and Department of Building Inspection staff are setting up systems to implement new state laws that streamline housing approvals and permitting processes in San Francisco. Currently staff is preparing to implement AB 1114 by January 1, 2024. Planning is working to create a ministerial process for code-compliant projects so it is ready when SB 423 goes into effect in Spring 2024.
Continuing One City Permitting Reforms — In addition to implementing new state laws, City staff across more than a dozen departments continue to advance process improvements to prevent projects from getting stuck in the City’s complex, interdepartmental approval processes. The Permit Center is taking on a greater role as part of this effort.
This is all work we can achieve. When we focus on working through the issues and getting to yes, we can transform for the long-term, how this city delivers housing. This is important for our neighborhoods, for our residents, for the next generation growing up here, for our workers, and for the economic health and vitality of our city.