Housing for All: Three Month Update

London Breed
4 min readMay 9, 2023

San Francisco is a city that thrives on creating opportunities. We want our kids growing up here to have access to the world-class jobs we are creating. We want our families to be able to enjoy the incredible parks and open spaces we’ve created. We are where the next big idea is born and where people come to change the world. But to be able to continue to be this City, we need to be a place where people have housing.

Our housing shortage hurts our residents, our economy, and our communities. This shortage wasn’t created in a year and it won’t be solved in that short a time. But we have to act with a sense of urgency to make fundamental change to meet our ambitious housing goals to allow for 82,000 new homes to be built in the next eight years. We can’t keep doing the same thing we’ve always done or just make small changes around the edges. We need to shave months and years off our housing approval process.

We need to think big and act fast.

That’s the premise behind Housing for All. When I issued my Executive Directive three months ago, I set clear goals with deadlines for accountability. So far, we have met our initial goals, but we have much, much more to do. Because, while introducing legislation is critical, it means nothing if we don’t pass it or if we water it down to the point where it’s ineffective.

It’s also important that we clearly track progress. Here are the initial steps we’ve taken in the first 90 days:

Unlocking our Housing Pipeline: To ensure new housing that has already been approved can begin construction quickly, we initiated a targeted form of public financing that will allow the critical infrastructure at large projects to be built. Potrero 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.

Status: Approved and signed into law. Seeking more projects to utilize this tool.

Remove Unnecessary Barriers and Hearings: I’ve introduced legislation to eliminate unnecessary processes and hearings, eliminate certain development requirements and geographic restrictions, and expand housing incentive programs for new housing that fits within the City’s existing zoning laws. These changes will help to shave up to 9 months off the approval process for new housing.

This legislation will first go to the Planning Commission before moving to the Board of Supervisors for a vote. It has already earned the co-sponsorship of Supervisors Joel Engardio and Matt Dorsey, and I am hopeful it will gain more support as we move this critical legislation forward.

Status: Introduced. Pending a hearing at Planning Commission.

Remove Barriers for Office-to-Residential Conversions: Along with Board President Aaron Peskin, I’ve introduced legislation to amend the City’s Planning and Building Codes to simplify the approval process and requirements for converting existing office buildings into housing. This legislation also removes restrictions to allow for a greater variety of businesses and activities in Union Square and throughout Downtown to help fill vacant space as part of our Downtown Recovery.

Status: Introduced. Approved by Planning Commission, scheduled for a hearing at Building Inspection Commission on May 17th.

Affordable Housing Leadership Council: This Council was convened to help the City chart a path forward for meeting our affordable housing goals as laid out in the Housing Element. This Council will work closely with City staff to develop a strategy to rethink how we approach affordable housing in San Francisco.

Status: Formed. First meeting scheduled for May 31st.

Housing Element Action Plan: In addition to legislative changes, we need internal administrative reforms to how we approve and permit housing. Each City Department involved with approving housing is required to complete a Housing Delivery Performance Assessment and Improvement Plan so that City procedures can be changed to prioritize and expedite housing approvals. We received our initial departmental reports, and now we are working with them over the next two months to finalize them into a single plan.

Status: Initial Departmental reports submitted. Final Plan due July 1st

Revise Inclusionary Housing Requirements: The Controller-led process to recommend economically feasible inclusionary housing requirements was recently completed. It shows we need to reduce our requirements if we want to actually deliver new affordable homes as part of market-rate projects and generate much-needed affordable housing funding. Working with President Peskin and the Board, we are now in the process of finalizing our legislative proposal with introduction coming soon.

Status: Controller report completed and now determining final details prior to legislative introduction.

Site Permit Reform: We need to streamline the City’s process for issuing Site Permits, which will reduce permitting times for new developments and major renovations. This shift will allow for concurrent review by multiple City departments, help resolve high-level design issues earlier in the process, and clarify a project’s post-entitlement process. The Planning Department and the Department of Building Inspection held a forum on this proposal and their commissions are holding a joint informational hearing on this process on May 11th.

Status: Joint hearing scheduled at Planning and Building Inspection Commissions on proposal.

Reform Restrictive Zoning Controls: The Planning Department has been directed to introduce zoning legislation by January 2024 to accommodate the new housing we need built in neighborhoods across our entire City. These zoning changes need to be significant, and it’s critical that we explain to residents that this means their children will be able to afford to stay in San Francisco. That the people who work to support this City need places to live here. That we are doing this for seniors.

Starting this month, the Planning Department is launching a comprehensive outreach effort to update residents in neighborhoods all over San Francisco about what needs to be done and how we are going to get there. This will go on for the next several months as we craft the legislation that will allow more housing to be built across our entire City, especially in well-resourced neighborhoods on the west side of the City.

Status: Planning Department conducting citywide outreach. Legislation to be introduced early 2024.

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