San Francisco’s efforts to develop affordable housing in recent years have largely neglected the outer neighborhoods such as the Sunset District. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Infill housing for Outside Lands

Investments in affordable housing must include The City’s western neighborhoods

By Deven Richardson, Karoleen Feng, and Fernando Marti

For the November 2019 ballot, San Francisco has the opportunity to pass a groundbreaking housing package, including an unprecedented $600 million bond for a wide range of affordable housing needs, and a pathway for opening up “outside lands” for affordable homes.

We look forward to the prospect of a strong big tent campaign with the mayor, the Board of Supervisors, and the entire people of San Francisco.

Infill housing for Outside Lands

The Council of Community Housing Organizations has been working closely with several supervisors on legislation to create opportunities for affordable housing sites in the City’s outer neighborhoods. Knowing that the City’s housing situation is in constant evolution, our approach was to lay the groundwork for affordable housing sites through a zoning overlay that tweaks existing zoning and entitlement standards, and can be amended and fine-tuned over time.

The strategy creates potentially hundreds of viable opportunity sites of at least 10,000 square feet in a variety of zoning categories, from residential and neighborhood commercial, to publicly-zoned sites.

From the Marina, Richmond, and the Sunset, to Ingleside, the Excelsior, Crocker-Amazon, Visitacion Valley, and the Bayview, these “outside lands” have seen less affordable housing opportunities.

With this geographic balance approach, and as more community-based housing organizations build capacity to operate in these outer neighborhoods, we are excited for the possibilities in these communities.

How does educator housing fit in?

The affordable housing zoning overlay would extend existing City law that allows for streamlining affordable housing to also include educator housing, such as the current Francis Scott Key project in the Sunset district now being prototyped.

The proposal also rezones publicly-owned sites to allow affordable housing and educator housing, without a long environmental review process to rezone for every project. The legislation was guided by the intent of the voters from the November 2015 Prop K, which directed the city to maximize 100 percent affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households on all public lands. So, in zoning for and expediting residential uses on publicly owned sites (a dramatic citywide change to the Planning Code), the legislation is careful not to encourage privatization of public land.

The Council worked closely with the public school and city college teachers, through United Educators of San Francisco and American Federation of Teachers 2121, to reach a definition of “educator housing.” It would serve the full range of critical employees needed to keep our schools running, from para-professionals and support staff to entry level and tenured veteran teachers.

When this legislation was introduced, Susan Solomon, President of the United Educators, said: “…Educators have diverse housing needs…this legislation’s streamlining tools, combined with the historic $40 million for educators in the affordable housing bond, is the package that we’ve been waiting for to keep teachers housed in the communities they love and serve!”

Building momentum

Under the banner of community lands in community hands, organizations like PODER have helped turn surplus public lands into parks, community gardens, and 100 percent affordable housing.

The City has done a lot to advance affordable housing in recent years: creating a housing trust fund in 2012; dedicating public sites to affordable housing in 2015; passing funding measures such as the 2015 housing bond and the 2016 housing preservation bond and the 2018 gross receipts tax; streamlining affordable housing within our planning code in 2016; and creating a new Office of Housing Delivery to more quickly move projects through the post-entitlement construction permitting process where delays often happen.

As a result of these transformative housing wins, we expect to see many of the projects — started during Mayor Lee’s and Mayor Breed’s tenure — open their doors to residents, adding to our existing 30,000 permanently affordable housing units, and continuing San Francisco’s four decades of leadership as a pro-affordable housing city.

Nonetheless, much of our success has been confined to areas on the east side of the city, with its parking lots, former industrial sites, and decommissioned naval bases. As our front-line neighborhoods continue to have ongoing struggles to stabilize communities most at risk of displacement threats, it’s time to expand our fight to neighborhoods that haven’t had affordable housing investments.

We urge city leaders to go into this election together as a big tent of the city’s neighborhoods, from north to south and from east to west.

This is an opportunity for the mayor, the Board of Supervisors, housing advocates, and our educators to collectively support these upcoming measures. We need big results, and the stakes have never been higher.

Deven Richardson is director of community equity, economic and workforce development for the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation, Karoleen Feng is director of community real estate for the Mission Economic Development Agency, and Fernando Marti is co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations.

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