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YIMBY’s next big move: Prove San Francisco is breaking housing law

Sonja Trauss stands for a portrait at the Yes In My Back Yard office in San Francisco on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. | Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The lawsuit in the case of the infamous housing development planned for 469 Stevenson St. has turned into something much bigger.

YIMBY Law, the legal arm of the pro-housing supply group YIMBY Action, has decided to prove in court that San Francisco routinely breaks the law when it comes to denying housing projects.

The group is still deciding whether it will appeal an earlier ruling that denied its claims the Board of Supervisors acted illegally by shooting down the Stevenson project last year.

YIMBY Law boss Sonja Trauss told The Standard Thursday that she plans to submit further evidence to the Superior Court judge that San Francisco’s policies and practices around housing approvals routinely break state laws. 

A person is holding up a handmade sign that reads "RIP 469 They blocked paradise, and kept up a parking lot." with the date "October 26, 2021".
A housing advocate holds up a DIY tombstone which reads, “RIP 469, 'They Blocked paradise and kept up a parking lot.' October 26, 2021,” at a City Hall protest against the Stevenson decision. | Camille Cohen/The Standard | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

Trauss said her team of volunteers has been getting data from the city’s planning department that can help prove the city isn’t complying with state laws like the Permit Streamlining Act and the California Environmental Quality Act.

“The data’s not great, frankly,” Trauss said. “But with some effort and cleanup and massaging, we are able to show over the years patterns and practices of blowing through various deadlines.”

She said the group is still hoping the city will eventually approve the Stevenson project, especially now that a new draft environmental report was released, showing many of the concerns raised by the board were without merit. But even after the judge makes a decision about the city as a whole, her group can still appeal the Stevenson ruling.

“This whole thing is about, on the one hand, getting Stevenson actually approved so someone can move forward on those units,” Trauss said. “And then on the other, getting the judge to put the city on notice that they are systematically denying housing illegally.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated YIMBY Law’s decision about whether to appeal the judge’s ruling. The group has reserved its right to appeal.