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Politics & Policy

Board of Supes in 3 mins: Tenderloin emergency, group housing, parklets

Housing, parklets and next steps for tackling the drug epidemic in the Tenderloin stand out as key agenda items for Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. (As always, wonks looking for the full kit and caboodle can check out the meeting’s complete agenda.)

Assessing the Tenderloin Emergency Response

The board will reconvene an ongoing hearing on Mayor London Breed’s emergency declaration on crime and drug overdoses in the Tenderloin at Tuesday’s meeting, and supervisors may hear progress reports from departments as their plan moves from crisis response to sustained operations this month. 

Mayor Breed filed a third supplement to her emergency proclamation on March 14, enabling the continued employment of emergency personnel but for no longer than June 30. This is to enable an orderly “winding down” of their deployment and ensure an orderly transition to regularly assigned personnel, according to a spokesperson. 

Those departments might still have to field some pointed questions from supervisors regarding controversies over implementation. These include: slow progress and drug use at the Linkage Center; the expanding role of Urban Alchemy, whose security “practitioners” face hazards comparable to police and patrol services but without the training; and whether staffing goals for behavioral health personnel have been met. 

There is a motion accompanying the hearing to concur or override Mayor Breed’s declaration, which was continued at previous hearings. However, that question may be becoming moot. We’re hearing Tuesday’s meeting is probably not the best platform for asserting oversight on the now ongoing response to the Tenderloin’s overdose epidemic. 

Pitting Microunits vs. SROs

Controversies over microunit housing projects, such as 450 O’Farrell St., which is now the subject of a lawsuit against the city, prompted District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin to introduce two bills addressing the issue—one of which will be heard today. 

The bill would clarify the definition of what the city calls “group housing,” which currently (and perhaps vaguely) allows for small efficiency apartments. Peskin alleges developers have been able to use the current definition as a loophole to build microunit housing, which he characterizes as a threat to low-income Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel housing because the microunits are marketed to “millennial workers who can pay higher rents and are not looking to have a permanent residence.”

At the Feb. 28 Land Use Committee meeting, Peskin described the current definition of group housing as “muddy and confusing,” adding that the issue has “given planning staff, community members and developers alike some level of heartburn.” The legislation was amended slightly and then forwarded with recommendation the following week.

The new definition would be more akin to dormitory housing, requiring minimum tenancy of 30 days and replacing limited kitchen facilities in individual units with group kitchen facilities for every 15 units. 

Peskin also introduced trailing legislation for this item, which would create a special use district covering the Tenderloin and Chinatown, where the newly defined group housing projects would be banned with a few exceptions. That bill will likely be heard by the full board next week. 

Later in session is yet another opportunity for the board to assert itself on housing when it considers a resolution urging San Francisco’s delegation in Sacramento to oppose a bill introduced by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto). Berman’s bill would exempt housing units created under the state’s Density Bonus Law from affordable housing impact fees. 

Parole for Parklets

Another Peskin bill up for a vote will give more time to businesses with parklets to comply with the new, tighter regulations around design and permitting that came with the more permanent Shared Spaces program. 

Originally envisioned as a means for storefronts and restaurants to continue business while under pandemic health restrictions, Shared Spaces parklets have become part of the city’s  “new normal” al fresco experience, but have also created new headaches for right of way and public safety. 

If Peskin’s legislation is passed, parklets that are out of code—apart from major issues such as disabled or first-responder access—won’t be fined until next April.