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Politics & Policy

Supervisors confront housing plan, $728M budget shortfall

San Francisco Supervisors Dean Preston (right) and Connie Chan (left) at a Board of Supervisors meeting | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Housing will be top of mind at the Board of Supervisors this week as it takes its first vote on a sweeping new plan designed to make room for 82,000 new housing units over the next eight years. Meanwhile, the budget committee mulls Mayor London Breed’s budget instructions for what looks to be a difficult fiscal year.

Housing Element

The board will take a first vote on San Francisco’s eight-year housing framework, called the Housing Element, at Tuesday’s board meeting. 

It’s been a long and contentious road to this point, with some supervisors brought to this point kicking and screaming. Some have voiced doubts about the practicality of the proposal and will likely make their opinions known as the city looks toward implementing new zoning and other changes.

The Housing Element was amended to comply with expectations from Sacramento that the city carry more of the region’s housing burden, with a goal of adding roughly 10,000 new units per year—well above the city’s current pace. The Planning Commission approved the plan on Dec. 15

San Francisco is under the gun to approve the Housing Element by Jan. 31, which means supervisors must approve it this week, followed by a “second reading” vote next week, so it will be ready for Mayor London Breed’s signature by the end of the month. 

The plan, which includes major zoning changes and a review of existing constraints on development, has received preliminary approval from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

Approving the Housing Element doesn’t necessarily get the city out of the woodshed, however: There will likely be more back-and-forth about whether the city can meet its goals without help from the state and federal governments.

Hopes for DMV Housing

Dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles tends to inspire dread. But Supervisor Dean Preston hopes the agency can help out the city with housing. 

The board will also be voting Tuesday on Preston’s resolution calling on the agency to include affordable units in its plans to build housing at its new Fell Street field office.

The agency has been planning on building the new digs for a while now, and has considered including up to 400 units of affordable housing. Both Preston and Assemblymember Phil Ting have lobbied the agency to stay the course with the housing plans. 

The eternal question, however, is whether such a project can “pencil.” Back in 2008, the DMV contracted with local developer BUILD, which has a number of projects on the burner including the One Oak tower at Van Ness, to develop the site. It didn’t work out.  

Budgets and Backroom Politics

San Francisco heads into a new stage of its budget process this week, with commissions reviewing draft budgets and the Supervisors’ budget committee meeting Wednesday to discuss the mayor’s instructions

Breed’s budget outlook doesn’t look great: The city is projecting a two-year deficit of $728 million (or worse) as empty Downtown offices drag down revenue. The mayor’s budget instructions aim to close that yawning deficit while tackling homelessness, overdoses and the slumping economy. 

Meanwhile, departments are figuring out how to dilute the pain. The Fire Commission, Small Business Commission and others are expected to discuss draft budgets for departments this week. 

City Hall insiders expect Supervisor Connie Chan to be named budget chair in new committee assignments due to be announced this week. The supervisors’ budget chair plays a pivotal role in shaping the city’s final budget. 

A disagreement over who should serve as budget chair—fellow budget committee member Supervisor Ahsha Safaí was also reportedly seeking the gig—contributed to the supervisors’ lengthy impasse in electing a board president, according to sources. In a surprise vote, District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin won the presidency after 17 rounds of voting