A construction worker puts the final touches on a concrete mold.

Developments in Development is a “weekly” column recapping real estate, housing, planning, zoning and construction news.

This week in housing and development news: Wham! A legislative ton of bricks.

Both state and local legislators seem to have decided now is the time to throw themselves wholly into the housing fray, issuing significant directives.

Hoodline has a pretty succinct and solid rundown of the package of state legislation the Governor signed into law Friday when he came to San Francisco.

A few are money-adding measures: That’s SB2, which creates a fee estimated to raise $200-300 million a year. Also AB571, a tax credit adjustment, and SB3, a ballot initiative to authorize a $4 billion bond for low-income housing.

Then there are a few that set new rules and requirements, mostly to get cities to force or encourage developers to include affordable units in their projects by telling cities to set inclusionary housing requirements, preserve assisted living units and create special zoning adjustments.

And, of course, there’s SB35, the controversial streamlining bill meant to force cities to get housing approved faster. Fed up with municipalities delaying and rejecting new housing development, former District 8 Supervisor and now-State Senator Scott Wiener and supporters decided that if cities weren’t meeting their state-set goals on production, they would simply no longer get to initiate processes that slow down production.

The same activists who often do the opposing and delaying, however, argue that this guts cities’ ability to demand more of developers — unlike NIMBYs, activists often aren’t hoping to prevent construction, just to force developers to provide more benefits. 48 Hills this week illustrated this, pointing out that in several recent cases where supervisors were able to mediate deals between activists and developers, the developers came to the table with more than they originally offered. Why? Because they were facing delays by the appeals SB35 would streamline out of existence.

That’s, of course, only if San Francisco stops meeting its state-set goal for market-rate housing production, since the bill distinguishes between affordable and market-rate.

Not to be outdone, the Mayor has jumped in with his own decree. Here’s the executive directive itself, as well as Curbed’s summary. The highlights?

San Francisco should build 5,000 units a year. Housing projects should take less than two years to get approved, and those that don’t need an environmental review under state law shouldn’t take longer than six months. All remaining permits after that should be issued within a year. City agencies should develop policies and plans, and hire appropriate staff, to make that happen.

Take it as paternalistic or visionary, the message is clear: The state and the head of this city want to see more units yesterday.

Delay or no, two local projects got necessary approvals this week — the auto-repair shop at 1900 Mission St. (on the corner of 15th) will indeed become 11 units of housing, having satisfied Planning’s requests for design changes. And the 100-percent-affordable development at 1990 Folsom St. this week secured a zoning change that will allow its developer to turn an old industrial bakery into 143 units of housing.

All this while yet more studies come out showing how many of us are thinking of catching a train to somewhere less expensive. Berkeley has released one showing that more than half of Bay Area denizens are thinking about fleeing.  

Just more than half? Indeed, it’s not a supermajority. Are prices coming down enough to keep desperate renters holding on just a little bit longer?

In these still-desperate times, Curbed seems to be reanimating the tiny-home fad of yesteryear, republishing this tidbit about prefab tiny homes, less charitably known as “aspirational camper trailers.” Because why flee the state if I could live on a parking lot — in a home complete with copper fixtures or a drawbridge deck, no less?

Yes, okay, so I’m bitter. But you know where that fad isn’t dead? In the discussion around homelessness, where a more bare-bones box can really make a huge difference — from sleeping on the ground with no protection to having at least a place to sleep and store belongings.

With some additional work, these boxes can become increasingly safe and clean. See, for example, Amy Farah Weiss’ campaign to raise $65,000 for work toward building out shelters that serve as an intermediate step between the street and a house.

So, about that state legislation making it harder to disapprove housing or shelters — Google shocked Mountain View officials this week by threatening to block a massive housing proposal proposed largely on its property if it doesn’t get more office space in exchange. Given this is almost literally their backyard … does that make Google a truly epic NIMBY?

An earlier version of this column indicated SB2 could generate up to $300 billion a year – this figure has been corrected to $300 million.

Follow Us

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

Leave a comment
Please keep your comments short and civil. Do not leave multiple comments under multiple names on one article. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *