Plan to help reduce home construction appeals questioned

A city lawmaker expressed concerns during a hearing Monday about a project that’s designed to reduce the number of appeals lodged against neighbors’ home-building and home-improvement plans.

Under San Francisco’s discretionary review rules, a neighbor can pay $300 to appeal against the issuance of a permit by the Department of Building Inspection, which can lead to lengthy and expensive delays for property owners.

In an effort to reduce those delays, Planning Department staff are working to impose new restrictions on appeals and to force property owners to organize neighborhood meetings before finishing their plans, Zoning Administrator Larry Badiner said Monday during a Board of Supervisors Land Use & Economic Development Committee hearing.

“We’re putting in place a more rigorous review process so neighbors don’t have to feel like their only chance [to provide project input] is discretionary review,” Badiner said.

Representatives of the building industry praised the reforms Monday, but Supervisor Sophie Maxwell expressed concerns that residents would lose opportunities to weigh in on projects before they are approved.

“Folks will say, ‘I don’t trust the Planning Department, in many cases they’re developer driven,’” Maxwell said. “Some people feel that, with discretionary review, as a neighborhood or as a community they have more input.”

Supervisor David Chiu questioned whether the department should be prioritizing the project given its heavy current workload.

No decisions were made and no votes were cast during the hearing. A follow-up hearing is planned for Nov. 2.
 

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