In an Executive Directive dated February 7, 2023, Mayor London Breed declared that “San Francisco needs to fundamentally change how we approve and build housing.” The Directive, titled “Housing For All,” comes on the heels of the Board of Supervisors’ January 31st adoption of its updated Housing Element, addressing San Francisco’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) of a daunting 82,000 housing units for the next eight-year cycle. (See earlier posts here and here).
With high construction costs and lengthy project approval processes, San Francisco produces only a few thousand units each year. Combining these ongoing challenges with the steep decline in demand for office space resulting from the pandemic, San Francisco is facing both an ongoing housing crisis and a less vibrant Downtown. The Mayor’s Executive Directive pointedly acknowledges these issues, identifies office-to-residential conversions in Downtown as one potential way to help resolve them, and directs that City officials and departments take specific, immediate actions to facilitate more housing development in the City.
The following are the key actions regarding housing production, generally listed by implementation deadlines:
- Create New Funding Mechanisms: By February 14, 2023, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development was directed to advance legislation to create new financing opportunities for pipeline projects that have been unable to move forward due to financing constraints, including authorizing the creation of new infrastructure financing districts (IFD). On that date, legislation was introduced by the Mayor and Supervisor Walton to create and establish rules for an IFD for the Potrero Power Station project site south of Pier 70, which would allow construction to commence on the project’s first 105 residential units.
- Remove Barriers for Office-to-Residential Conversions: By April 1, 2023, the Planning Department and DBI are directed to propose legislation to amend code requirements to facilitate the conversion of existing office uses to residential uses in Downtown San Francisco to spur pandemic recovery efforts. (Recognizing the opportunity that office-to-residential conversions present to help both the housing crisis and Downtown’s vibrancy, the Board of Supervisors also adopted a resolution on February 14, 2023 asking the Planning Department to report on potential candidates for conversion in the Downtown core, and to issue public facing criteria for office to residential conversions.)
- Reduce Procedural Requirements that Impede Housing Production: By May 1, 2023, the Planning Department is directed to advance an initial package of legislation that will remove unnecessary fees and procedural constraints that obstruct the development of housing, including eliminating Conditional Use Authorizations for certain types of housing developments.
- Housing Element Accountability and Oversight: An Interagency Implementation Team is charged with creating a Housing Element Action Plan that will describe specific steps for achieving the goals and actions set forth in the Housing Element and meeting the City’s RHNA obligations, to be presented to the Mayor by July 1, 2023.
- Reform Restrictive Zoning Controls: By January 31, 2024, the Planning Department is directed to present rezoning proposals that will allow the City to meet its RHNA target.
- Permit Review Timelines: City departments involved in development permitting, including Planning and the Department of Building Inspection (DBI), are directed to review their permit processes and reduce overall permitting timelines by at least 50% by February 1, 2024. Also by that date, the Planning Department is directed to eliminate the current Preliminary Project Application process and establish new procedures for providing early design feedback to large projects.
- Revise Inclusionary Housing Requirements: Following issuance of recommendations from the Controller’s Office (no date specified), the Planning Department is directed to propose modifications to the City’s inclusionary housing program and draft legislation that will increase overall housing production while serving the City’s affordable housing goals.
We will continue to monitor the City’s various legislative and administrative responses to the Mayor’s Directive and provide further updates.