Supes defeat Mayor Breed’s November charter amendment to speed up housing

Competing measures split over definition of affordable housing

The Board of Supervisors Rules Committee on Thursday blocked Mayor London Breed’s charter amendment that would have streamlined the approval process of affordable and teacher housing by taking away certain rights to appeal the projects.

Breed issued a statement after the vote that the board’s decision was “unacceptable and we have to do better for the people of San Francisco.”

It would have required six votes by the board to place it on the ballot this November but only three had officially signed on.

“I’m tired of people saying we’re in a housing crisis and then rejecting solutions that will actually make a difference,” Breed said. “The status quo means less affordable housing will be built, more people will be priced out, and the crisis will only get worse.”

But members of the board said Thursday that the charter amendment was not the right fix for the housing crisis. They objected to how the charter would define affordable housing and teacher housing and said adequate streamlining for these kinds of projects is already afforded under Senate Bill 35.

Instead, a majority of the board members are backing a ballot measure that would permit 100 percent affordable housing and teacher housing projects on public land and other sites with affordable housing definitions they argue are more appropriate. It is not a charter amendment.

The United Educators of San Francisco also opposed the charter amendment and supports the board’s measure.

For teacher housing, the charter amendment required teacher housing developments to dedicate two-thirds of the units for employees of the San Francisco Unified School District or City College of San Francisco. The units would be affordable to those who earn up to 140 percent of the area median income. The other one-third of the units could be offered at market rates to anyone.

The board members’ measure requires teacher housing developments to make four-fifths of the units affordable to those earning between 30 and 140 percent of the area median income with an average of 100 percent. It also allows one-fifth of the units for those earning up to 160 percent of the area median income. Additionally, all the units must go to school employees.

For 100 percent affordable housing projects, under the charter amendment the units would have been required to be affordable to those earning up to 140 percent of the area median income. The board’s measure requires up to 120 percent of the area median income with an average of 80 percent of area median income.

“It is always concerning to me to support a charter amendment solely dedicated to what we do in times of crisis because a charter amendment is hard to reverse when change is needed. This locks us into a very high AMI for years to come,” Supervisor Shamann Walton said of Breed’s measure.

“This charter amendment will redefine 100 percent affordable housing to raise the income level requirements, create a definition of affordable teacher housing that will be unaffordable to most teachers and not supported by the formal body that represents educators here in San Francisco and allow market rate development as of right on public owned land. That is a major issue for me and a lot of my colleagues,” Walton said.

The current area median income for a single person is $86,200 and for a family of four, $123,150. For a single person 140 percent of the area median income is $120,700 and for a family of four $172,400.

In addition to the charter amendment, Breed is also backing a competing ballot measure that is similar to board’s, but also contains the same affordable definitions that the board criticized.

Kate Hartley, director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, said the charter amendment could have reduced the approval process of projects by up to two years and reduced construction costs, “providing the opportunity to build more affordable housing.”

She also defended the AMI levels as a means to have more funding and increase the inventory of middle income housing.

Hartley said, “We have failed in our effort to build affordable middle income housing,” Hartley said. “As of today, since 2014, the city has produced 710 affordable middle income units. We were striving to hit 5,000 [by 2020.]”

But Supervisor Sandra Fewer said the board’s proposal is “inclusiveness in my backyard.”

“I hope that the mayor will come on to ours, the one that is actually being supported 100 percent by educators in San Francisco,” Fewer said. “I believe that educators know best about what they need for their workforce.”

It is unclear if Breed and the board will keep their measures on the ballot or come to a compromise. The deadline to remove them is July 30.

The board could also vote to adopt legislation to make the changes without going to the voters.

“We are still in conversations about the initiative ordinances,” Breed’s spokesperson Jeff Cretan said.

In addition to the AMI differences, there are others.

“The Mayor’s Office initiative would permit this housing on any zoning district that allows housing except for RH-1 [single-family home areas] and it would also allow housing on publicly-zoned sites that are not under the jurisdiction of the Rec and Park Department,” said AnMarie Rodgers, director of Citywide Planning. The supervisors’ ordinance allows the same and allows for these housing types on single-family zoned sites.

“The supervisors’ ordinance, however, is more restrictive as to the housing that could be built. It would establish size minimums, occupancy restrictions and dwelling unit requirements,” she said.

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