New housing formulas draw protest from San Francisco

San Francisco is protesting a new method by which Bay Area cities and towns will be asked to create new housing, in part because it would double the amount The City is recommended to build.

The method, announced by the Association of Bay Area Governments Nov. 17, creates a new way of assigning “housing responsibility” — quotas for new housing — to different cities and counties, according to ABAG spokeswoman Kathleen Cha.

To ensure that market-rate and low-income housing keeps up with population growth, California law has since 1984 required regional agencies, such as ABAG, to mandate how many new units individual cities must build. It also requires individual cities to outline how they will meet those goals — although it does not actually require cities to build housing, according to Cha.

For the first time, ABAG will create those quotas based on economic growth — those cities showing signs of job and residential growth near major transit corridors will be assigned a higher housing responsibility.

For San Francisco, ABAG will boost local quotas for the creation of new housing — which were 20,000 between 2002 and 2009 — to 40,000 between 2009 and 2016, according to San Francisco Planner Sarah Dennis. In the past seven years, The City has struggled to meet its allocation, creating only 13,000 new units by the end of 2005.

“We would be looking at 5,000 or 6,000 units a year, which San Francisco has never seen,” Dennis said. “It’s hard to imagine, especially at a time when the market is cooling off.”

Despite San Francisco’s protests, ABAG created the new methodology “based on what cities and communities have said about their own parameters, restrictions and challenges,” Cha said.

That formula will not apply to San Mateo County, the first in the state to form a “regional sub-group” to tackle housing needs as a county, according to Rich Napier, executive director of the City/County Agency of Governments of San Mateo County.

The Peninsula cities will develop their own formulas, which should allow some cities to build less housing than they would otherwise be required to build, and perhaps swap some rights to additional water and other resources to cities with the capacity to handle more intense growth.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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