Mayor London Breed (center) with Supervisor Vallie Brown (left) and Supervisor Ahsha Safai (right) announced a charter amendment to build affordable and teacher housing at an event on City Hall steps on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Breed to campaign on ballot measures streamlining approval of affordable, teacher housing

Charter amendments would also rezone city-owned land

Mayor London Breed this week announced two ballot initiatives focused on expanding and accelerating affordable housing production citywide by removing bureaucratic and zoning hurdles.

Making good on a promise made in her first State of the City Address in January, Breed announced a charter amendment that will fast track 100 percent affordable and teacher housing projects by making approval “by right,” meaning they would be exempt from discretionary review and appeals if they meet zoning requirements. The charter amendment was introduced at the Board of Supervisors hearing on Tuesday and will need the votes of six supervisors to be placed on the November ballot.

Breed is also expected to introduce a separate ordinance Wednesday that would rezone all publicly owned land with the exception of parks to allow for 100 percent affordable housing and teacher housing. That measure would also go before voters in November.

Breed is running for reelection in November, and is so far unopposed. She said at a press conference at City Hall Wednesday that the initiatives, which she will campaign on this fall, were “a key part of our housing plan to fund the production of new affordable housing.”

“Just having the funding is not enough — we have to get better at approving more housing faster in this city,” said Breed. “When we have a 100 percent affordable housing or a teacher housing project proposed within zoning, we should build it. Period. No more hoops to jump through, no more commission hearings, no more appeals, no more ‘Not in my backyard.’”

The charter amendment would apply to 100 percent affordable and teacher housing projects for income levels up to 140 percent of the area median income, as well as projects with two-thirds of their residential units set aside for San Francisco Unified School District or City College of San Francisco district employees.

Under state law, 100 percent affordable housing projects capped at 80 percent of AMI are subject to “by right” approval.

District 5 Supervisor Vallie Brown, who along with District 10 Supervisor Ahsha Safai is co-sponsoring the charter amendment, said the intention is to protect San Francisco’s working class from further displacement.

“Half of our MUNI drivers live outside of The City. They have to drive hours in to drive a bus, or are sleeping in their cars because they cannot afford this city, that’s wrong,” said Brown.

“We need to build housing so that people who work for The City can actually live here.”

The streamlined review process and rezoning could help move along projects such as the Sir Francisco Scott Key Annex site in the Sunset District, where more than 100 units of affordable housing for San Francisco educators are proposed.

That project is currently undergoing a rezoning and environmental review process, which would no longer be required under Breed’s ordinance seeking to rezone public parcels.

Sam Moss, executive director of the affordable housing developer Mission Housing Development Corporation, said it is “hard for affordable housing to get funding,” but that public review and litigation can contribute to delays in much needed affordable housing coming online.

“I can attest, when we build affordable housing in neighborhoods that don’t usually have it, the nonprofit developers are starting behind the eight ball. We are thinking about the two years of community meetings we are going to need to have to convince people who don’t want affordable housing next to them to stop believing that,” said Moss.


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