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Politics & Policy

Board of Supervisors moves on ‘missing middle’ housing, approves Recology ballot measure

A ballot measure aimed at reforming Recology will be on the June ballot after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed it unanimously at Tuesday’s meeting. Also passed on Tuesday are efforts to deregulate processes for small businesses and expedite new housing projects. 

Recology Reform

After a 2020 federal investigation revealed that San Francisco’s trash agency, Recology, had overbilled customers nearly $95 million, Supervisor Aaron Peskin set out to reform the way the department sets its rates. His ballot measure, which would hand oversight of the rate-setting process over from the Department of Public Works to the Controller’s Office, passed the full board unanimously and is set to appear in front of voters on the June 7 ballot. 

Peskin, who introduced several measures aimed at Recology, decided on Tuesday to table a more aggressive, or nuclear, option, which was designed to open up the permitting process to other companies to compete with Recology. It was also intended to prevent Recology, which dropped massive cash on its own measure, from running with a competing plan that would have given it control over the changes.

Mayor London Breed released a statement midday on Tuesday celebrating the support for Peskin’s ballot measure. But the story isn’t over: As the city attorney investigates more potential ethics violations, Peskin called for continued oversight of the trash agency. 

“This is an object lesson in what happens when you let a company throw money all over this town and get too cozy with the regulators,” Peskin said at Tuesday’s meeting. “So while this fix I think is an important fix, it’s not the whole fix. We have to go far beyond a new rate-setting process. … We also have to stamp out this kind of quid pro quo corruption in our government.”

Small Business Permitting Reform

The board also passed on Tuesday amendments to a December law that lifted restrictions for massage businesses to include acupuncturists and chiropractors. The changes come after massage therapists spoke up about the difficulty of starting a business in a field that’s been heavily regulated to stop human trafficking and prostitution.

Homeowner Incentives

Finally, supervisors voted unanimously to approve a new program, billed the Housing Development Incentive, that targets allowing homeowners to build on their own properties to incentivise increased density in neighborhoods like the Sunset or Richmond, which have a larger share of single-family homes. 

Supervisor Gordon Mar (pictured), who introduced the measure alongside Supervisor Myrna Melgar, said by helping homeowners navigate permit processes and financing, the program would make it easier for them to add units to their property—and increase the housing stock in the city as it grapples with a state-mandated task of building 82,000 new housing units by 2023. 

“Incentivising the production of ‘missing middle’ housing in our low-density neighborhoods is tremendously important because neighborhoods like the Sunset, OMI and Bayview-Hunters Point have historically been places where working class families, immigrants, and people of color have been able to buy homes and build economic security and thriving communities,” Mar said.