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Top SF housing official says it’s time to rethink local control

Rachael Tanner wants to look at the big picture.

Tanner, the president of the city’s Planning Commission, was appointed by Mayor London Breed in 2020 and elected president in 2022. Trained as a city planner, she’s worked in local government, the nonprofit sector and once served on the city’s Board of Appeals.

Tanner assumed the presidency at a critical time: San Francisco is in the process of planning for how to add 82,000 new units to its housing stock—and affordable housing is top of mind, as are potential penalties of not hitting the state’s goals. 

SF Planning Commission President Rachael E. Tanner discusses her vision for housing in San Francisco in a video interview with The Standard on Oct. 13, 2022. | Video by Jesse Rogala

There’s also a state investigation underway of San Francisco’s housing policies and practices—the precise mechanism that she and the Planning Commission deal with every week. 

Tanner said she hopes San Francisco can tackle the root causes that led to the city’s unusually slow permitting timelines. According to Tanner, some aspects of discretionary review—the policy that gives her board the power to stall projects—should be on the chopping block. 

Tanner responds to the Turner Center report that designated San Francisco as one of the hardest places to get approval to build housing in a video interview with The Standard on Oct. 13, 2022. | Video by Jesse Rogala

But in the meantime, Tanner doesn’t want to lose focus on the primary goal: Housing San Franciscans, especially those who have been pushed out in the past. 

“Housing is essential for people to survive, to thrive in our community and in the world,” Tanner said.