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SF tweaks density bonus program to boost affordable housing development

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The Board of Supervisors today made changes to a city density bonus program that allows developers to add more height and units in return for a greater amount of affordable housing in a project. Only four developers have taken advantage of the program since its approval a year ago. (Kevin Kelleher/2015 S.F. Examiner)

To encourage more developers to use San Francisco’s one-year-old program that allows denser development in exchange for increased affordable housing units, the Board of Supervisors modified the program Tuesday.

Instead of requiring all projects taking advantage of “Home-SF” to provide 30 percent of units at a below-market rate, the board unanimously voted to create tiered rates.

For example, one additional story, or 10 feet, would come with a 25 percent requirement for affordable housing.

For an increased density of two stories, or 20 feet, there would be a 30 percent requirement of affordable housing units, but the unit mix by income was changed. Instead of 12 percent of the units going to low-income earners and 9 percent for median income earners as well as for middle income earners it’s now an equal split among the three incomes of 10 percent.

The board also removed the need to obtain a conditional use permit, which could be appealed to the board. Instead project permits could be appealed to the Board of Appeals.

The tweaks are meant to encourage more developers to take advantage of the local density bonus program and also not use the state’s density bonus program, which allows for a 35 percent increase in density but without requiring increased affordable housing units. The state density program also reduces the amount of control The City has over building design.

“We are really trying to drive more project sponsors to use our local density bonus program, Home-SF, rather than the state density bonus law, or even just flat out not even meeting inclusionary requirements since they are building 10 units or less,” said Supervisor Katy Tang, who introduced the legislation that created the program a year ago.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai said, “It has been somewhat frustrating to see developers not opt into this program.”

Only four developers have taken advantage of the program to date.

City planner Paolo Ikezoe told the Planning Commission last month that “Home-SF roughly doubles the density that you can fit on a site, but it results in four or five times as much affordable housing than would otherwise be provided.”

He added, “Four proposals in one year is not that many. In addition we’ve seen many good candidates for Home-SF in the past year choose not to use the program.”

In other business:

*The board continued an appeal of the Central SoMa development plan to Sept. 4, as the plan remains under debate with critics seeking more housing units and less office space as well as increased protectections against displacement. Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents area, is working on amendments to address those concerns.

The Planning Commission will re-hear the plan, likely in August, following amendments by the board’s Land Use and Transportation Committee, which is expected to hold a hearing on the plan again on Monday. The Central SoMa plan is expected to be finally approved when the board returns from its August recess in the fall.

*Kim said Tuesday that she would like some revenue from a commercial rent tax approved by voters in June to be used to boost the wages of some city workers, as requested by labor leaders. The measure, Prop. C, was approved to pay for childcare subsidies but is expected to send around $22 million a year to the general fund.

“We hope and look forward to dedicating these dollars to our lowest paid city workers,” Kim said. “As our minimum wage has risen to $15 an hour we want to ensure that our city workers are making slightly above this amount.”

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