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Election 2022

Controversial Housing Amendment Heads to Ballot, Lawsuit Likely

Written by Garrett LeahyPublished Jul. 26, 2022 • 4:58pm
District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan speaks at a Board of Supervisors meeting in City Hall of San Francisco on May 3, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

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The Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 to submit a charter amendment called the Affordable Housing Production Act to the Department of Elections, raising the possibility of a lawsuit in the coming days.

The proposed amendment, which was co-sponsored by Supervisors Connie Chan and Aaron Peskin, aims to exempt certain affordable housing developments from discretionary review, which can significantly shorten construction timelines.

But its critics charge that the fine print in Chan’s proposal will make construction projects financially unfeasible, and that it’s designed to sabotage Affordable Homes Now, a similarly-named housing proposal backed by Mayor London Breed.

“We think our policies will result in more housing, more affordable housing,” said Corey Smith, Executive Director of the Housing Action Coalition, which backs Affordable Homes Now. “We’ll be looking forward to making our case for Affordable Homes Now being the best path for San Francisco to build as much housing as we can.”

Chan’s proposed amendment tacks on eligibility criteria not included in the mayor-backed amendment, including requirements for below-market-rate units with multiple bedrooms and size and rent limits for studios. Chan’s version also requires that the units be built by laborers who have completed apprenticeship programs, a requirement that has proven divisive among the city’s major unions.

Smith said that now that the amendment has passed, his organization plans to move quickly to file a lawsuit claiming that Chan’s amendment is illegal.

In a letter to the Board of Supervisors last week, the Housing Action Coalition explained its legal basis for a lawsuit, saying that the Planning Department’s determination that the amendment is exempt from environmental review violates the California Environmental Quality Act. The letter also called Chan’s amendment a “sham” designed to split the vote and sabotage the competing charter amendment backed by Breed.

In an email on Saturday, Chan called the lawsuit “pathetic.”

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Garrett Leahy can be reached at [email protected]


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