Following a string of well-publicized reports about San Francisco’s affordability crisis, Mayor Ed Lee stood at a new 60-unit below-market-rate development Wednesday to announce his intentions to speed up the approval process for housing development citywide and unveil new ways to address the daunting real estate market in the coming months.
“The housing agenda will be a very big, bold one,” Lee vowed of his administration in 2014.
The promise comes amid rising evictions, some rents doubling or tripling over the past three years, and housing becoming ever scarcer as the population grows. It also comes amid a rising backlash against the prospering technology industry, which is facing much of the blame for the impact.
Lee, who has encouraged the tech industry to help San Francisco’s economy climb out of the Great Recession and decrease unemployment, defended tech.
“People, stop blaming tech companies,” Lee said. “They want to actually be part of the solution.”
On Monday, Lee met with a number of tech executives to address the backlash, and on Wednesday he said he has commitments from five tech companies, including Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, to work on housing solutions.
“They’re noodling what they can do,” Lee said.
There was perhaps no more fitting example of the housing need than the 2,800 housing hopefuls who applied to rent one of the 60 new units at 474 Natoma St. a few blocks from the mid-Market Street area. Rents will range from $700 to $1,400 a month and the income requirement is between $40,000 and $60,000 for a family of four. The $30 million development by nonprofit Bridge Housing took about four years to build, a timeline Lee hopes to reduce significantly to encourage similar developments.
Lee issued an executive directive Wednesday that orders city departments to prioritize housing development and prioritize projects based on the number of below-market-rate units they contain. He also called for protecting the existing housing stock.
Lee also created a working group to issue ideas by Feb. 1 on how to increase housing production. The mayor said in addition to speeding up the 40,000 units in the pipeline, he’d like to spur the development of tens of thousands of more units.
Supervisor John Avalos offered one solution: to rezone areas to encourage higher-density, affordable developments for lower-middle-income residents.
“You can do it in District 11 along Mission Street from [Interstate] 280 all the way down to the Daly City border,” he said. “You can do it along the waterfront, you can do it in parts of South of Market; you can do it along Geary.”
Supervisor David Campos said city officials should discuss a greater investment in below-market-rate housing and increasing requirements on developers for both on-site and off-site units.
“I ask for some patience as we go through the best ideas,” Lee said. The effort builds on Lee’s $1.5 billion Housing Trust Fund approved by voters last year to invest in development during the next 30 years.