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San Francisco officials push for denser housing in outer neighborhoods

Houses are seen under construction on San Leandro Way in Balboa Terrace in San Francisco on Sept. 15, 2022. | Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

Mayor London Breed’s office announced new legislation Monday aimed at building more housing in San Francisco’s outer neighborhoods. It’s the latest in a series of bills that make up her “Housing for All” initiative first unveiled in February

The legislation, which is set to be introduced at the Board of Supervisors in the coming weeks, would remove existing limits on the number of housing units per lot in certain mixed-use commercial districts without affecting current height and bulk limits. Instead, it will apply “form-based” zoning similar to what’s currently in place in southeastern neighborhoods such as the Mission and Dogpatch. 

If passed, the legislation has the potential to add more density to corridors that range from Cow Hollow and Upper Polk to the Haight and Inner Sunset neighborhoods. 

Breed calls the new bill “a key step” in the effort to remove what she calls “arbitrary restrictions” that are preventing the effective development of needed housing, especially in the outer neighborhoods. 

“Creating the opportunities for more housing in all of our neighborhoods means more homes for workers, families, and seniors,” added Breed in a statement.

“We need to incentivize the development of housing where it makes the most sense, such as along commercial corridors near transit on the west side,” said co-sponsor Supervisor Myrna Melgar. “While preserving existing neighborhood character, this legislation will make space for seniors to downsize into new housing and offer opportunities for new residents, including families and workers.”

The bill follows up on earlier legislative elements of Breed’s “Housing for All” plan. First announced in her annual State of the City address in February, Breed outlined changes in housing policy that would help the city fulfill an aggressive new Housing Element mandated by the state. 

Other bills in the plan include “adaptive reuse” legislation aimed at easing the conversion of Downtown offices to housing, co-sponsored by Board President Aaron Peskin. Another bill, co-sponsored by District 4 Supervisor Joel Engardio, would streamline the review of certain higher-density housing projects. 

A number of housing advocates have signed on to support the new legislation, including Corey Smith, executive director of the Housing Action Coalition. 

“This means more, and more affordable, housing options for individuals and families of every age and phase of life—students, young workers and families, empty nesters, seniors, and more,” Smith said in a statement. 

Each of Breed’s housing bills needs to pass muster at the Board of Supervisors to become law.

Breed and Peskin’s office-to-housing conversion bill has already been reviewed by both the Planning and Building Inspection commissions and will go before the supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee in the coming weeks. The Breed and Engardio bill to streamline certain projects has yet to be heard by the Planning Commission. 

Once formally introduced, Breed and Melgar’s zoning legislation will be reviewed by the Planning Commission before being sent to the Land Use and Transportation Committee and eventually the full board.