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Board of Supervisors

Supervisors’ Preview: Housing, Housing and More Housing

Written by Mike EgeUpdated at Jul. 26, 2022 • 10:21amPublished Jul. 25, 2022 • 2:58pm
Supervisor Supervisor Ahsha Safai speaks at the Board of Supervisors meeting in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. | Juliana Yamada/The Standard

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Housing dominates this week’s agenda as the Board of Supervisors prepares to put vital business to bed before going on summer recess. On deck are a vote to override Mayor London Breed’s veto of a recently passed “fourplex” bill, and votes to place two more controversial housing proposals on the ballot. Meanwhile, yet another try at allowing fourplexes on single-family home lots is getting new life. 

Fourplex Redux

After languishing in development hell for months, a bill to allow four-unit buildings on single-family lots was finally passed in June. Introduced by District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, it was originally drafted to allow for the development of four-unit buildings on all lots throughout the city, and six-unit buildings on corner lots. But in committee, supervisors tacked on amendments that placed restrictions on projects. By the end, even Mandelman admitted that the bill would have limited impact. 

  • At this point, it appears unlikely to survive Breed’s veto, as eight votes are required to override it and the bill didn’t quite meet that high threshold in June. Breed, who is allied with pro-housing groups such as the Housing Action Coalition and SF YIMBY deemed the legislation an attempt to evade Senate Bill 9, a state law that essentially abolished single-family zoning restrictions.
  • Mandelman pushed the bill towards passage as “a small, imperfect, positive step” that would move the city at least a little closer to building more housing in low-density neighborhoods. Some colleagues, such as District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai, argued the amendments were poison pills that would end up making building more difficult. 
Supervisor Matt Dorsey speaks at the Affordable Homes Now Rally in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco on Thursday, June 16, 2022. | Eloïse Kelsey for The Standard
  • Foreshadowing the mayor’s veto, Safai and District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey both characterized the amended bill as a facile attempt to evade state legislation mandating new housing construction. Board president and District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, for his part, voted against it for different reasons, saying it would encourage more property speculation and displacement.
  • Meanwhile, Safai’s version of “Fourplex” is waiting in the wings, as it recently received recommendation from the Planning Commission. That bill would allow for a similar upzoning of residential lots for projects where some units are made affordable to “missing middle” income residents, either by providing at least one below market-rate unit or paying an inclusionary housing fee. 
  • Safai told The Standard that he is more than willing to “revive the conversationand get the board to go forward with a neighborhood upzoning plan that doesn’t subvert state law. “SB 9 needs to be preserved,” says Safai. But he noted that he was open to reasonable amendments, including applying rent control to some new units, as well as focusing the legislation on neighborhoods with little to no previous development. 

Housing Ballot Measures Set for Controversy

Looking towards 16th Ave. in the Sunset district on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. | Getty Images

Because this is the last meeting before the summer recess, the board needs to make final votes on charter amendments for the November ballot. Charter amendments approved by the board have to be submitted to the Department of Elections by end of business on Friday, July 29. Two of the remaining measures are set to push the board majority’s agenda on housing. 

See Also

  • The Affordable Housing Production Act, sponsored principally by District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan, promises to expedite certain housing projects, including 100% affordable projects and those that add more inclusionary affordable units beyond statutory requirements. It also has other restrictions that opponents say would make building under the law unfeasible. 
  • Some of those restrictions not only deal with what kind of units are built, but who gets to work on building them. Labor groups are split on the measure
  • Chan’s proposal would compete with the Affordable Homes Now measure backed by Breed and housing advocates. The Housing Action Coalition has described Chan’s measure as “a sham” designed to split the vote, and alleges the board is sending the measure to the ballot without adequate environmental review. They are exploring litigation to block Chan’s measure from going to the ballot.
  • The other housing measure, sponsored by District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin, would make use of an exception in the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a state law which otherwise prevents new housing from being under rent control, to apply it to new projects built under density bonus or other upzoning incentives. 
  • Another measure still up for vote is District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s “Student Success Fund,” which would use the city’s excess Educational Revenue Augmentation Funds (ERAF)—essentially property tax revenue earmarked for public school funding, which is given back once local schools are funded based on enrollment—to create a city-controlled fund to support academic achievement and student support programs. 
  • Meanwhile, a measure proposed by Peskin to force city employees found to have engaged in certain kinds of corruption to forfeit their pensions appears to still be stuck in committee and likely will not make it to the November ballot, due to an impasse with city employee unions. 

Other Business

While housing and election matters may take up much of this week’s agenda, some other notable legislation is also set for passage. 

  • These include a bill from Safai to help homeowners facing foreclosure over property tax defaults by mandating referral of their cases to the Mayor’s Office of Housing for assistance. 
  • Another bill would get the ball rolling on a city guaranteed income program by establishing city government support for the policy, as well as requesting the establishment of a working group for future policy. 
  • Another bill from District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar will allow tenants, and not just landlords, to take part in permit appeals. If successful, Melgar’s proposal make signatures of “verified tenants” valid for the purpose of appealing conditional use permits. 

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Mike Ege can be reached at [email protected]


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