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Farrell proposes streamlining approval process for housing development

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Mayor Mark Farrell introduced legislation Tuesday to streamline housing approvals. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Mayor Mark Farrell introduced legislation Tuesday to streamline The City’s approval process for housing development.

The legislation, he said, would clarify and create consistent public notification requirements, consolidate multiple hearings and streamline the approval of affordable housing projects. “We cannot let red tape and bureaucracy prevent us from helping our families and residents,” Farrell said.

Farrell said the legislation is in keeping with a September 2017 executive directive from late Mayor Ed Lee that called on “developers to work with City staff to create expedited schedules for housing development approvals and to make sure that project sponsors meet deadlines for submission of applications and materials, so that together we can build more housing faster.”

“The need for multiple hearings for downtown and eastern neighborhoods projects will be eliminated, with project approvals being consolidated into one Planning Commission approval for most projects,” according to a statement from the Mayor’s Office. “The bill also allows minor alterations, such as installing ADA push buttons and plaques on historic buildings, to be approved administratively rather than through a public hearing at the Historic Preservation Commission.”

The statement continued, “Eliminating public hearings for 100 percent affordable housing projects, which are already heavily vetted by communities and the Planning Department, will deliver critical affordable housing in a timelier manner.”

Farrell’s legislation comes a day after Supervisor Hillary Ronen held a hearing on the progress of seven planned 100 percent affordable housing developments in the Mission, the first of which will break ground within weeks. She also called for streamlining the approval process for affordable housing projects.

“I want the city to take meaningful steps to speed along the production of 100 percent affordable housing,” Ronen said Tuesday. “I look forward to reading through the mayor’s legislation, which focuses on planning approvals. This is not the only place housing projects get stuck. I am also looking at opportunities to improve the building permit process after entitlements are issued.”

The proposal is supported by John Rahaim, the director of the Planning Department.

“I look forward to seeing these changes take place,” Rahaim said. “This is a common-sense first step that will allow us to better allocate our time and resources where it is needed most – the production of housing and 100 percent affordable housing.”

The legislation is expected to undergo an informational hearing at the Planning Commission May 3.

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