Real Estate Business
Housing approval needs to be faster Mayor says
San Francisco might take one more step to speed up the slow process of approving new homes.
The San Francisco Chronicle said that Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Joel Engardio have started a bill that would get rid of a lot of thehousing approval hearings that can take months or even years and slow down new building plans.
The proposed law aims to change how developers, lawyers, and lobbyists must keep going back to the city’s Planning Commission to get conditional use approvals.
Breed said in a statement that the bill would “get rid of unnecessary processes and hearings, get rid of certain requirements and geographic restrictions, and expand housing incentive programs for new housing that fits with the city’s existing zoning laws.”
City codes that say the Planning Commission has to approve a conditional use authorization would be changed with the proposed changes. This can add six to nine months to the time it takes to approve zoning-compliant housing projects.
The changes focus on “high-resource” neighborhoods on the north and west sides of San Francisco, like the Sunset District, and “high-resource” neighborhoods on the east side, like Rincon Hill, SoMa, Civic Center, and Mission Bay.
Two months ago, Breed announced her Housing for All Plan to speed up home building and meet a state-mandated goal of building 82,000 homes in eight years. The proposed law comes after that.
Engardio, who represents the Sunset District, said seniors “want options to downsize without having to leave their neighborhood.”
He said that the law would make it easier to build apartments that meet the needs of residents, such as apartments above a store, cafe, or community service provider on the ground floor.
The proposed bill would get rid of rules that “limit the shape or location of certain types of housing,” such as senior housing and housing for groups.
It would also change rules from the 1950s about how much private open space an apartment complex needs and how far it must be from the property line.
Hearings now happen for most projects with more than five units. Building on a lot bigger than 5,000 square feet in some neighborhoods triggers a conditional use.
In other parts of the city, it can be triggered by any project taller than 65 feet or by any development that wants to use the state density bonus program to get more units and height in exchange for more affordable units.
Housing approval in San Fransicso one of slowest
San Francisco is the slowest city in the state regarding getting housing approval. It may take at least two proposals from politicians to get things going.
The San Francisco Chronicle said that Supervisor Ahsha Safai and Mayor London Breed are working on separate bills to speed up the city’s complicated and time-consuming housing approval process.
The bill was announced a few days after an entrepreneur and former candidate for State Assembly, Bilal Mahmood, wrote an opinion piece in The Chronicle that says it usually takes more than 1,000 days to process and review San Francisco housing projects also need at least 87 permits.
State housing regulators say that the city has the longest average time for housing approval and permits in the state. As a result, they are looking into the city’s housing approval process. It can take years for a housing project to be approved.
This week, Safai plans to ask the City Attorney to write up changes that will speed up the approval of project site permits, which, according to Safai, take between 4 and 18 months to get right now.
Breed plans to introduce a bill next month that would move some of the oversight of site permits from the Department of Building Inspection to the Planning Department so that reviews of housing approval can be done more quickly.
The plans come at a time when the city wants to approve 82,000 housing units over the next eight years. Developers are struggling with rising construction costs, and residents are struggling with some of the highest housing costs in the country.
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Long waits for permits can cost projects tens of thousands of dollars or even kill them.
According to Safai, site permits, which are optional reviews that let projects get some design, environmental, and zoning approvals, are now reviewed by as many as ten different city stations in order.
Safai and Supervisor Myrna Melgar are now trying to get city staff to look at site permits simultaneously and limit what details are looked at. With the changes, both residential and commercial projects, except for high-rises, would need site permits.
Safai has been working on the proposal for almost a year and has talked to small businesses, city staff, and the Residential Builders Association, representing the construction and real estate industry.
Under Breed’s plan, the Department of Building Inspection would no longer be in charge of design, environmental review, and zoning approvals for site permits. Instead, these things would be done by the Department of Planning. Her office said that the change would cut down on redundancies and the number of changes developers would have to make for residential and business projects.
Her office said that Breed’s changes would have cut review times for some past projects by 65%.
For example, housing approval for a large apartment project on Market Street would have taken 2.3 years instead of 4.25 years. Instead of taking 2.5 years, approving a condo project on Tennessee Street would have taken ten months.
Reference: SF’s Mayor Breed launches legislation to speed housing approvals