Supervisors Could Fast-Track Affordable Housing Projects

The ordinance builds on an Ed Lee directive to speed up housing production.

Mercy Housing at 280 Beale St. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

As the city battles a housing and homelessness crisis, affordable housing projects could soon receive a VIP pass through the development pipeline.

The Board of Supervisors next week will vote on an ordinance that would fast-track affordable housing projects through the lengthy Planning Department process. Mayor Mark Farrell introduced the bill in April to continue the September 2017 executive directive Mayor Ed Lee issued to expedite housing projects.

“We cannot let red tape and bureaucracy prevent us from helping our families and residents,” Farrell said in April.

Projects that build 100-percent affordable housing would have priority processing, like nixing a review hearing before the Planning Commission. Such projects would also be able eligible to request exceptions to parts of the Planning code that require window exposure and access to open space.

A notice 20 days before the date of a hearing or approval would become the standard to reach owners, residents in the immediate area, and neighborhood organizations by mail as well as through online notices and notices posted on a given site. The zoning administrator can waive repeated notices of an application and public notices for certain increases to an exterior will no longer be required.

The Planning Department found that the proposed changes still comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. Roughly 1,700 affordable housing units could stand to benefit from the changes, and work hours equivalent to two full-time staffers would be freed up, according to the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

The ordinance has support from the city’s planning director, John Rahaim, and from the director of SPUR’s San Francisco chapter, Adhi Nagraj. Land Use and Transportation Committee members — Supervisors Jane Kim, Katy Tang, and Ahsha Safai — recommended it to the Board for adoption last week.

If it sounds similar to YIMBY Action’s proposed but abandoned November ballot measure, it’s because it is.

“Streamlining affordable housing is something I hope San Francisco can agree on,” said Executive Director Laura Foote Clark at the Land Use and Transportation Committee meeting.

Supervisors delayed a decision on Tuesday to allow for more community input. The new rules would take effect on Jan. 1, 2019, saving YIMBYs precious election money and energy.

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