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With One Fourplex Bill Dead, Another Rises From the Ashes
Sunday, August 07, 2022

With One Fourplex Bill Dead, Another Rises From the Ashes

With a bang of the gavel, a last-ditch effort by the Board of Supervisors to override a veto by Mayor London Breed and finally pass a long-debated “fourplex” bill failed at their meeting Tuesday afternoon.

But just like a game of whack-a-mole, political defeat of the measure could mean the resurrection of an alternative that had been previously shelved.

The veto override, which required eight votes to pass, failed with a 7-4 vote. Board President Shamann Walton and Supervisors Catherine Stefani, Matt Dorsey and Ahsha Safaí voted against the initial legislation and also voted against overriding the mayor’s veto.

Championed by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, the vetoed legislation initially sought to build on the state’s Senate Bill 9 by allowing four units on every lot in San Francisco and six on corner lots. But in its long road to passage, supervisors tacked on amendments—such as a requirement that landlords must have owned the building for five years prior to developing it—that meant it would yield very little new housing. 

“As I have said I did not support every amendment this board made, but that is the legislative process,” Mandelman said, arguing unsuccessfully for the override vote at Tuesday’s meeting. 

Re-enter Safaí’s version. The District 11 supervisor indicated at Tuesday’s meeting that he would seek to revive his own shelved fourplex bill, which died in committee in April. Safai’s bill sought to allow up to four units on most lots and six units on corner lots, with a provision that those projects include affordable housing or pay a fee. 

Safaí said on Tuesday that he’s committed to trying to revive his legislation, but it’ll likely look different from the original.  

For one, Safaí said on Tuesday that he aims to add rent control measures to his fourplex legislation. Safaí also said that he will likely seek to amend some of its affordability provisions based on staff analysis of their feasibility.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai speaks at the Board of Supervisors meeting in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. | Juliana Yamada/The Standard

“For me one of the biggest impediments was the five-year holding period,” Safaí said of the vetoed fourplex bill. “A lot of people are house rich and cash poor, but because they are cash poor they won’t be able to access the capital and resources to actually even build on this scale.”

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who sits on the supervisors’ land use committee, voiced frustration over the prospect of considering another fourplex proposal. Safaí’s version would likely be reintroduced sometime in the fall. 

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“Apparently the mayor wants this, but it’s not good enough. So what portion of it isn’t good enough? What things should we change?” Peskin said to a representative of the mayor’s office.

In her letter explaining the veto, Breed wrote that the law undermined SB 9 and could set back housing construction even further. The state’s Department of Housing and Community Development applauded Breed’s veto, highlighting a growing tension between San Francisco policymakers and state laws that push for more housing production. 

In a statement, Mandelman said he would continue to work with his colleagues on housing initiatives, including a new version of his fourplex legislation that may return later this year. But he “strongly rejected” the notion that the state should dictate the city’s zoning. 

“Relying on State laws like SB 9 to solve our housing crisis is a complete abdication of our obligations as local leaders, and sends the sad message to San Franciscans that City Hall simply cannot come together to get things done for the people who sent us here,” he said.  

Kevin Truong can be reached at [email protected].
  • Wonderful victory for pro housing. The amendments added by the BOS were shameful and abundantly clear would have led to less housing.

  • The Mayor should form a blue ribbon committee to dig in to the non profits involved in this and follow the money. There are reasons why a few supervisors are adamant to derail housing in SF.

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