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Housing & Development

Mayor Breed Axes Fourplex Bill, Saying It Will Sabotage Housing Production

Written by David SjostedtPublished Jul. 21, 2022 • 4:36pm
Homes along 16th Avenue in the Sunset district on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. Liz Hafalia / The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

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Mayor London Breed vetoed legislation on Thursday that was earlier passed by the Board of Supervisors with the ostensible goal of creating more housing on single-family lots.

Passed in June, the “fourplex” legislation allowed four units on every lot and six units on corner lots in San Francisco. But in the lengthy committee process, supervisors tacked on a number of amendments that, according to housing advocates, meant that very little housing would come of it.  

In a letter explaining her veto, Breed argued that the fourplex bill would undermine Senate Bill 9, a 2021 state law that ended single-family zoning in the state, and potentially set back housing production even further. 

“Instead of cutting bureaucracy and reducing project costs, the Board added many new requirements and imposed new financial barriers,” Breed said in the statement. 

In the version that ultimately passed the board, an amendment by Supervisor Dean Preston requires potential developers to have owned the property at least five years before adding more units. That had the effect of cutting out developers who might seek to buy single-family homes to convert into apartments. 

The bill’s author, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, acknowledged that the final version wouldn’t yield much new housing. Nonetheless, he was disappointed by Breed’s decision to scrap the bill entirely, describing it as a step in the right direction. 

“I was glad to at least get something done,” Mandelman said. “We’ve been working on the legislation for almost two years at this point”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, right, vetoed the City’s fourplex bill, which was authored by District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, left. Mayor Breed claimed that “instead of cutting bureaucracy and reducing project costs, the Board added many new requirements and imposed new financial barriers.” | Camille Cohen/The Standard

A state housing assessment requires that San Francisco submit a plan to build about 82,000 new units before 2031 or face punitive action by the state. The state’s housing authority has been taking a more aggressive stance towards jurisdictions that evade state housing laws and issued a statement applauding Breed’s veto. 

“The fourplex ordinance evades the City’s obligations under SB 9 to provide ministerial approval for small-scale projects,” wrote the California Department of Housing and Community Development in the letter. “Moreover, the ordinance would…impose more onerous conditions and requirements when compared to SB 9. Taken together, these regulatory hurdles will render such projects financially infeasible to pursue, as the City’s own analysis noted.”

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It isn’t the first time in recent history that the Board of Supervisors has raised the hackles of housing regulators. 

Last year, the state housing department slammed a decision to delay a proposed development at 469 Stevenson Street, writing that its policies are “constraining the provision of housing” in San Francisco.  

Asked whether the Board of Supervisors could work with the mayor on a new piece of fourplex legislation, Mandelman was doubtful.

“I don’t think she has a strategy for getting the fourplex bill through the board. I don’t think she has a strategy for working with the board period,” he said.

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David Sjostedt can be reached at [email protected]


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