Dennis Richards speak at a Planning Commission meeting. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Dennis Richards formally stepping down from Planning Commission

Commissioner took leave in December due to dispute with DBI

After taking a leave of absence from the Planning Commission in December, Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards will be formally stepping down from his position, officials said Thursday.

In a letter to Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee sent Wednesday, Richards said “I now feel that it is time to pass the torch to new Commissioners.”

Richards recently sued the Department of Building Inspection, alleging the agency took retaliatory action against him by citing him for violations on a building project after he voiced concerns about how it operated.

“I am hopeful this action will help root out any corruption or abuses and restore confidence in the Department,” Richards said. “I am very well aware that seeing the lawsuit to a jury trial will take a great deal of my time. Further, I have been taking a greater role in advocating for changes to statewide housing policies and wish to continue focus in this area.”

Richards has been active in statewide efforts to oppose state Sen. Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 50, which would override some local zoning regulations to encourage greater density and height for housing projects built near transit.

Richards has also come under fire from progressives and tenant advocates in recent months after reports emerged that he had used buyouts to get rid of tenants in a building he bought, renovated and then listed for sale at nearly $5 million more than its purchase price.

In his letter Richards said he took pride in his efforts to make sure the voices of tenants and “everyday residents” were heard, and pushed for a tenant advocate in the Planning Department, a process analyst position to provide greater fairness and “used the discretionary power of the Commission to include displacement as an extraordinary circumstance to better prevent evictions.”

He also noted that the commission “set policy precedents around the continued illegal demolition of sound housing without approval” during his tenure.

Planning Commissioner sent a letter to Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee on Wednesday March 4, 2020 resigning his position. (Courtesy)

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