Governor Brown’s proposed Streamlining Affordable Housing Approvals bill could potentially fast track the approval and permitting process for tens of thousands of units in San Francisco’s housing pipeline, allowing code compliant projects with up to ninety-five (95) percent market-rate units to be developed “as of right” and prohibiting the City from requiring conditional use permits or other discretionary reviews which can add years and uncertainty to a development’s timeline.

Projects within one-half mile of a major transit stop, either existing or planned and defined as “a rail transit station, a ferry terminal served by either a bus or rail transit service, or the intersection of two or more major bus routes with a service interval frequency of 15 minutes or less during the morning and afternoon peak weekday commute periods, and offering weekend service,” would need to provide five (5) percent of its total units to very low income households, or ten (10) percent to lower income households, to qualify for “as of right” development.

For project’s outside a transit priority area, a level of affordability “equal to or greater than at least twenty (20) percent or more of the residential units restricted to and occupied by individuals whose income is eighty (80) percent or less of area median gross income,” would qualify.

And any required design review would have to be completed within ninety (90) days of being submitted to the City, “and shall not in any way inhibit, chill, or preclude” development.

Introduced as trailing legislation to California’s 2016-2017 budget, the bill would apply to all cities and counties, including charter cities, “because the Legislature finds that the lack of affordable housing is a matter of vital statewide importance.” But the bill will require both State Assembly and Senate approval and it’s likely to be met with local opposition and lobbying.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by SocketSite

    Due to an editor’s fat finger error, all commenting on this post had been disabled, up until now.

  2. Posted by PeterGrrr

    Requiring MORE affordable units further from transit seems rather backwards?

    • Posted by BobN

      It’s serving two goals, encouraging people near transit to use transit and increasing the amount of affordable housing in general.

  3. Posted by MKP

    I wanted to post earlier: this is a brilliant idea.

  4. Posted by donjuan

    Interesting that all the proposed projects in the Mission fall under the category of projects being streamlined. I’m sure SF NIMBYs will be up and arms and quick to discredit this initiative.

  5. Posted by What

    This is great. I love the idea of as-of-right. I think we would get better buildings too.

    Now we just need a real architecture critic to critique them (John King does not count).

    • Posted by sassySFboy

      Agreed, counties and their NIMBYS need to follow the same set of rules. Glad to see smart executive action!

    • Posted by Orland

      You just demonstrated why your professed initial enthusiasm for this disaster in the making is so misplaced. After granting supposed “of right” power, you see the need of architectural review of the qualifying proposal. And that’s just the start of what’s wrong with the Moonbeamer’s bright idea!

      • Posted by What

        to make the architecture great in SF we need to remove the constrains to open up unthought of possibilities, but like other art forms we need a real critics to comment on them.

      • Posted by Sam

        That’s not at all what “What” said in fact

    • Posted by Neighborhood Activist

      Oh, I see. Only a critic with whom you agree would count, then?

      • Posted by What

        I didn’t say that, you did.

        I’d like a critic with an architectural background and a knowledge of the history of architecture. I’d like a stronger critic.

        • Posted by Orland

          You really haven’t explained what the role of this “critic” would be.

  6. Posted by Jake

    Looks like most of SF would be covered by this, including just about all of the Mission and Sunset (within half mile of light rail). It might get some folks in the Richmond to request less frequent bus service.

    Sadly, though, this won’t create an affordable housing boom within walking distance of the Atherton Caltrain Station, as the law also says “The development is located on a site that is either immediately adjacent to parcels that are developed with urban uses or at least 75 percent of the perimeter of the site adjoins parcels that are developed with urban uses.”

    Onward, Steamrolling Affordable (urban) Hosing.

  7. Posted by Dave

    How would this impact Peskin’s proposal to increase BMR requirements in SF? This criteria is less stringent. That would be a disaster – if Peskin’s effort for middle class housing is cut short.

    I expect huge push-back. Maybe a carve out to allow SF and other cities to up the requirements?

  8. Posted by SFRealist

    This would be a huge change if it passes

  9. Posted by Orland

    Very bad legislation. Way too much freedom to developers and way too cheaply. Hopefully, it never gets out of committee.

    Not saying change isn’t needed, but this goes ridiculously too far. Far better would be reform of CEQA law including stiff monetary consequences to be borne by plaintiffs if the court decides such an action brought has no merit.

  10. Posted by Grubber2

    The key is “code compliant” meaning projects that require zoning changes, plan amendments or variances from Planning Code (even for tiny variances like required bike parking) might not fall under the bill. Haven’t read the language yet though. As for affordable housing, I am sure the legislation sets a minimum, meaning a City can always require more (as SF already does and is attempting to increase).

    • Posted by What

      You can’t realistically get a variance on bike parking…not that tiny.

    • Posted by woolie

      I think this would preempt higher requirements.

      • Posted by kbbl

        Well, it’d preempt them when plans are code-conforming. That alone might make the regular planning process for variances more civil, as developers could threaten to just revise their plans to bypass approvals altogether. The ratio of affordable housing require seems unfortunate, but so many things about housing development seem unfortunate now that I don’t see this as being worse than status quo.

        TBH I’m far, far more interested about the implications this should have near Caltrain and BART stations in, say, Santa Clara.

  11. Posted by Government Shrinkage

    This is a blessing for the city. The SF planning département and the BOS are so obviously failing at their job of urban planning, this would inject much needed freedom, creativity and responsiveness to market conditions in the SF real estate market.

  12. Posted by Foghorn SF

    Asweome Idea! Finally someone has recognized that the process takes way to long to get a project entitled.

  13. Posted by SFRealist

    Wiener and Kim should be asked about this at every debate.

  14. Posted by Neighborhood Activist

    This is a terrible idea unless you think that maintaining some income diversity is unimportant and that people who make less than $100K per year but work in SF should have to commute from Modesto. Or WOULD commute that far.

    BMR housing is not a panacea, but cutting the requirement back to only 5% and giving developers a green light to build absolutely anything they want would be a disaster for SF. (Would cities also be required to issue demolition permits for existing housing to be razed for these new projects? I shudder to think.)

  15. Posted by Curiousbystander

    Could this be an opportunity to force the release of the valve held tight by Prop 13 for so many years for so few at the expense of everyone else who needs to live here?

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