San Francisco Plans for 82,000 New Housing Units

California housing regulators have granted preliminary approval for the city of San Francisco’s housing element as mandated by the state’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation process.

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January 24, 2023, 9:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

San Francisco Residential Neighborhoods

Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

State regulators at the California Department of Housing and Community Development have granted preliminary approval to the housing element of the city’s General Plan, reports J.K. Dineen in a paywalled article for the San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco’s proposed housing element would allow planned capacity for 82,000 new housing units.

The city of San Francisco has become a symbol of the housing affordability crisis facing cities around the state and country, with some of the highest housing prices and a reputation for one of the strongest coalition of anti-development politics, otherwise known as NIMBYs, in the country. Other cities around the state have struggled to meet the mandates of the state’s every-eight-years Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) process. HCD in February 2022 rejected the housing element proposed by Los Angeles before approving an updated version in June. A tally in October counted two-thirds of Southern California cities failing to meet their RHNA deadlines last year.

Cities failing to meet RHNA standards exacted by HCD regulators face a loss of local control known as the “Builder’s Remedy.”

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the city’s new housing element on Tuesday.

As noted by Dineen, the approval of the housing element is “just the start of what will likely be an intense and politically controversial three-year process of rezoning entire neighborhoods in order to allow multi-family buildings.”

Specifically, the plan commits to an October 2026 deadline for a rezoning program that would allow at least 36,282 units. New regulations will need to be passed that will permit multifamily buildings — at least 20 units per acre — without the “discretionary review” process that is used to stall and kill many housing developments in San Francisco.

As noted by Dineen, the housing element’s call for 82,000 units is exceedingly ambitious compared to the city’s track record. The city has only averaged 2,550 units a year over the last two decades. Half of the planned units must be affordable to low- and moderate-income households, adding to the challenge for the city faces in achieving its housing goals.

Monday, January 23, 2023 in San Francisco Chronicle

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