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Politics & Policy

San Francisco delays housing reform bill—despite warning from state

A row of houses on Powhattan Avenue in Bernal Heights in San Francisco is pictured on July 25, 2023. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

San Francisco supervisors once again pushed to the back burner legislation to bring the city in compliance with state housing laws, postponing voting on it until after the Thanksgiving holiday, putting the city at risk of missing a key deadline. 

The Constraints Reduction Ordinance, sponsored by Mayor London Breed, Supervisor Matt Dorsey and Supervisor Joel Engardio, would streamline the Planning Code by cutting many forms of discretionary review of housing projects. On Oct. 25, California’s Department of Housing and Community Development identified passing the bill as one of 28 actions San Francisco must accomplish to remain in compliance with state law—and gave them 30 days to pass the bill. 

The supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee has been reviewing the ordinance since mid-September, adding and debating amendments mainly aimed at preventing the demolition of legacy rent-controlled housing and encouraging the production of more affordable housing. 

But the state housing department called out some of the bill’s amendments in a letter to the committee last week, warning its members to pass the ordinance as originally written. One amendment would exempt a newly designated district where it would be easier to convert single-family homes into small-scale apartment buildings on much of the city’s west side. 

“We have done a number of things to address some of the things that were in that letter before the letter was sent,” committee chair Myrna Melgar said at Monday’s meeting. “And that is to reconcile the mayor's legislation with the [special use district] that we passed.” 

Melgar added that the amendments were still under review by the City Attorney’s Office. 

Meanwhile, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman proposed more amendments, this time to preserve existing zones in his district that restrict large-floor-plan single-family homes, or what he called “monster homes.” 

The committee voted to accept Mandelman’s amendments in a duplicated file that would be incorporated into the original legislation at a later date. Members also voted to postpone further discussion until after Thanksgiving. That may or may not mean it meets the state housing agency’s deadline of 30 days from Oct. 25. 

Melgar, speaking with the Standard, explained that Department of Housing and Community Development's letter has, among other things, required that the city attorney take extra time to review the latest amendments as well as related ordinances, which would take time.

“I don’t know that it’s worth it for [the state] to not give us the extra days,” Melgar said.