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SF housing group asks court to block rival measure from November ballot

Supervisor Connie Chan at the Board of Supervisors meeting in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. | Juliana Yamada/The Standard

The Housing Action Coalition has asked a court to block a charter amendment placed on the ballot by members of the Board of Supervisors in a fast-moving lawsuit filed by the pro-housing group last week.

If granted, the coalition’s request would result in an injunctive order barring the charter amendment, dubbed the Affordable Housing Production Act, from going before voters on Nov. 8. Housing Action Coalition is backing a rival ballot measure that seeks to streamline affordable housing production

The group wrote in a filing that the rival amendment, primarily sponsored by District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan, is illegal on the grounds that it was not reviewed as a “project” under the California Environmental Quality Act. Along state Sen. Scott Wiener and other housing advocates, the group also characterized Chan’s amendment as a “poison pill” that would mislead voters and yield little new housing. 

Filed on Aug. 8 in San Francisco Superior Court, the lawsuit names John Arntz, head of the city’s Department of Elections. City Attorney spokesperson Jen Kwert said that the city will file its response by Aug. 24.

The lawsuit is the latest step in an ongoing fight over the two competing ballot measures, which are both described as streamlining affordable housing. 

Affordable Homes Now, backed by pro-housing groups and Mayor London Breed, would streamline housing projects that exceed affordability minimums as well as teacher housing. Chan's proposal, meanwhile, adds extra affordability requirements related to multi-bedroom units and studios and also requires homes to be built by "skilled and trained" laborers that have completed apprenticeship programs. 

Housing Action Coalition and other opponents have said that Chan’s amendment would make housing projects financially infeasible and describe it as a ploy to split the vote so that both housing amendments fail.

Chan called the lawsuit “cynical” and said that her ballot measure is community-led and will better prioritize building affordable housing than that of the mayor-backed measure it competes with.

With just weeks to go before the Nov. 8 election, the Housing Action Coalition has a limited window of time to persuade the court to declare Chan’s amendment invalid. The matter will go before a judge at a hearing scheduled for Sept. 1.