The ongoing drama surrounding dueling affordable housing proposals could wind up in court, with a pro-housing group planning to sue the city to stop one from going before voters.
The Housing Action Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for more housing at all affordability levels, says it will file a lawsuit over a controversial charter amendment, introduced by District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan, on the grounds that it violates California environmental law. Chan introduced the amendment with the goal of placing it on the November 8 ballot.
Dubbed the “Affordable Housing Production Act,” Chan’s proposed ballot measure directly competes with “Affordable Homes Now,” another ballot measure backed by Mayor London Breed. Both are billed as plans to streamline affordable housing production, but Chan’s amendment tacks on additional caveats, such as size and affordability requirements for studios, that critics say would make housing projects financially unworkable.
The lawsuit has yet to be filed, but the legal basis for the lawsuit is laid out in a letter the HAC sent to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
In the letter, the HAC calls Chan’s proposed amendment a “sham” that aims to split the vote from the Breed-backed version, which they support. It argues that, because the measure aims to accelerate housing, it must complete an environmental review under CEQA, a longstanding California law that mandates environmental review of developments. The amendment had been deemed exempt from CEQA review by the city’s Planning Department, which found that the amendment was not defined as a “project” and thus did not qualify for environmental review.
The HAC’s letter said that because its aim is to accelerate housing production, Chan’s amendment would indirectly generate noise and dust from construction, thus altering the environment and requiring a CEQA review.
HAC Senior Advisor Todd David called the lack of a CEQA review “the height of hypocrisy” given the board’s past use of the law to block housing projects, including a proposed 500-unit development at 469 Stevenson that became a flashpoint in the city’s housing debate.
The recriminations went both ways, with District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin—a co-sponsor of Chan’s bill— quipping at Tuesday’s board meeting that the HAC’s use of CEQA was “an irony” because of its objections to some uses of the law. In a statement, Chan called the lawsuit "pathetic" and likened it voter suppression.
On Tuesday, the board agreed to consider Chan's proposed charter amendment at its next meeting on July 26.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that the supervisors moved to consider the item at its next meeting, as is required under the board’s rules of procedure.
Garrett Leahy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org