Connie Chan introduces an affordable housing charter amendment, titled "Affordable Housing Production Act." Meanwhile, carpenters supporting a competing charter amendment backed by the mayor and pro-density groups campaigns out front. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken May 24, 2022.

The November election is already here? So you’re saying I’ll soon finally get some sweet respite from the cheesy political ads interrupting my late-night Hulu binges? 

This special edition of Mission Moves seeks to demystify (and update) a few of the upcoming housing/urbanist ballot measures. Unfortunately, you’re on the hook for multiple others. 

Let’s take a swing at D & E, the talk of the town. 

The rundown: 

So, you know San Francisco is in a housing crisis, in large part due to a slow permitting process. 

Both D, basically Mayor Breed’s measure, and  E, the Board of Supervisors’ baby, seek to resolve this by fast-tracking the approval process of projects that meet certain standards. 

It sucks, because they have similar names, and are basically identical. Each defines a project as eligible for fast-tracking if it falls into one of the following categories:

  1. 100-percent affordable.
  2. Mixed-income (both market-rate and affordable housing) but adds more affordable units than required by city law.
  3. Educator housing. 

What are the differences between D and E? 

Difference 1: Income eligibility for 100-percent affordable housing. 

The city limits who can apply for affordable housing based on income. Generally, 120 percent of the area median income has been the maximum household income for a unit, but the city has still embraced higher area median income for certain buildings in the past. 

So, what would each proposition do to income eligibility?

  • D raises that eligibility maximum to 140 percent of the area median income for some units within the project. That increase would be offset by lower eligibility elsewhere in the project, so that the average affordability of a project would be 120 percent of the area median income at maximum. 
  • E sets a unit maximum of 120 percent of the area median income, which is generally accepted as the affordable housing cap currently. The overall average affordability for the project would be set at 80 percent of the area median income, targeting a population that earns much less. 
  • In other words, D allows for some households to have a higher income, and raises a project’s average affordability higher overall. 

How high or low are those incomes? In 2022, a single individual would be at 120 percent of the medium income at $116,400. A family of four earns $179,600.

At 140 percent of the area median income, a single individual could earn $135,800;  a family of four, $209,500.

Difference 2: The definition of ‘increased affordability’

The differences boil down to how many affordable units a mixed-income project should provide in order to get benefits.

  • D states a project must include the number of affordable units required by present law, plus an additional 15 percent. A large mixed-income 100-unit project already requires 22 units. Under this definition, a project would add three units, for a total of 25, to trigger streamlining. 
  • E says a project must include the number of affordable units required by present law, plus an additional amount equal to 8 percent of the total project units. So, in a 100-unit project with 22 required affordable units, eight more units would be added to trigger streamlining. Thirty affordable units would be created in total. 

Difference 3: The type of labor used 

  • D mandates workers with prevailing wages
  • E mandates a “trained and skilled labor force.”


  • Does Prop. D change the definition of affordable housing? 

Nope. That is enshrined in the City Charter, and still requires folks who live in affordable housing to pay no more than 30 percent of their income on rental projects. 

The misconception probably originated from a misinterpretation of Prop. D. regarding its 140 percent unit cap, which is higher than the general 120 percent unit cap. 

Even with a higher cap, the rent would be restricted depending on the rent in a neighborhood, said Todd David, the executive director of Housing Action Coalition, which is sponsoring Prop. D. The rent can’t exceed 80 percent of the area median rent, which David argues would safeguard lower-income communities from pricier units.  

Food for thought: 

Is there a market for higher-earning area median income units? 

  • The city’s Small Sites program, which allows nonprofits to acquire small properties and preserve their affordability forever, is having filling its units open to those who earn 120 percent of the median area income. Staff reasoned that higher earners can afford homes on the private market for similar prices, while skipping the annual government oversight and the long lottery process associated with affordable housing. 
  • Nevertheless, a report by the city in 2020 showed the dire need for moderate-income housing, in which earners make between 80 and 120 percent of the area median income. Those earning that much include labor workers, teachers, and firefighters.

The city already allows up to 160 percent of the area median income for certain groups and types of housing. 

  • In 2019, San Francisco voters approved Prop. E, which allowed educator housing to be streamlined. To make the projects pencil out, income for these properties range from 30 percent of the area median income to 160 percent of the area median income, about 20 percent higher than Prop. D is requesting for its maximum cap. 
  • One social housing project, which would be funded primarily through Prop. I, if adopted, will be for teachers. The project, on Mission Street, would offer units for sale. That project, too, envisions a mix of 80 percent to 160 percent area median income units, according to a proposal submitted this year. 

Extra reading: 

 You can never be too informed. 

My past coverage of this topic: 

Follow Us

REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

Join the Conversation


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 *

  1. Follow the money…….Tech-affiliated donors account for at least two-thirds of the more than $1.5 million the Prop D campaign reported raising this year through Sept. 24, according to the Chronicle. Among those who have given six figures to the Prop D campaign are Twilio co-founder John Wolthuis, Pantheon CEO Zack Rosen, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, Twitch CEO Emmett Shear and the venture capitalist Garry Tan.
    Angel investor Ron Conway, known for supporting pro-tech causes and political moderates, kicked in $50,000 and another $40,000 non-cash contribution related to mail. Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger and his wife Kaitlyn each gave $50,000 in August

  2. Angel investor and Tech billionaire Jeremy Stoppelman gave $100K to Prop D. Republican and real estate mogul Dede Wilsey gave $100K too. Breed recommends a Yes vote on D. That tells you everything you need to know as many of her supporters and wealthiest donors are real estate investors.Prop D is a giveaway to Breed’s donors and to developers.

  3. Who supports and donated to the YES ON E campaign?
    Expedited approval for housing with large increase in affordable units
    Recieved $940,200 overall, including money from 15 donors who gave $500 or more. The top donors:
    Building And Construction Trades Council Of California: $325,000
    SF Building & Construction Trades Council: $285,000
    California State Association Of Electrical Workers: $75,000
    International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers: $75,000
    Plumbers & Pipefitters Union, Local 38: $75,000

  4. Hi thanks for providing this helpful comparison to clarify the policy differences between these two similar propositions. This is a thorny one.

  5. One of the main issues is that Prop D is meant to produce more market rate housing, which is at the upper end of the current definition of “affordable.” While it may not officially redefine the term, it exploits the common understanding of it, which is more along the lines of deeply affordable. It’s deeply affordable housing that this city desperately needs and is far behind its mandated goals in building.

    Another issue is that Prop D sets no deadline for building this housing and is really only streamlining entitlements that can be bought and sold on the open market. Like the entitlements to thousands of other units sitting on desks somewhere, there is no guarantee that any generated though Prop D will ever be turned into actual housing. Prop E, on the other hand, sets a two-year deadline to build or lose the entitlement.

    YIMBYs like people to believe that the Board of Supervisors are somehow a huge impediment to building, when this is simply untrue. Their only example, 469 Stevenson never had the financing. (YIMBYs lost in court on this issue). When projects are rejected because of an appeal, there is always a good reason, and this is rare. Meanwhile, it’s developers themselves who are by far the biggest reason for unbuilt projects.

    1. We need market rate homes too. When I moved to SF I was fortunate that there were new-build market-rate homes for sale. Had there not been I might have done what others I know did and buy an older property in the Mission and do an OMI.

      If you wish to preserve affordable housing then build market-rate housing. We need housing at all price points.

    2. Parsnip — That is not true. The Board of Supervisors have blocked many projects that followed the rules, included affordable housing components, but the BoS didn’t like for political reasons. I can think of two just a few blocks away off the top of my head. There are plenty more.

      1515 S Van Ness — would have been new housing YEARS ago if not for David Campos blocking it. Instead we got a navigation center which Ronen swore up and down (as reported in mission local) would only be here for one year but yet is still here ~5 years later.

      2918 Mission — would have been housing YEARS ago, but Ronen blocked it, dragging out the process before capitulating after the owner dragged the BoS to court. Now we have a big vacant lot and nothing will be built for a long time given where we are in the economic cycle (recession, high inflation and interest rates). Delays have real consequences.

  6. PROP M is also about HOUSING. Prop M will set aside subsidies to keep seniors and low-income households able to pay the rent. The money comes from taxing some of the 60,000+ EMPTY RESIDENTIAL UNITS in the City of Billionaires. Right now, whole buildings stand empty while investor owners, many are global elites, wait for them to appreciate. They sell them, pocket the money, buy more empty units…and there’s no incentive for this sick cycle to stop. Homes are not stocks. We are on track for 20,000 unhoused people in the streets of our city by this time next year. Fill these homes, or pay to play this immoral game. YES ON M. Has Mission Local endorsed Prop M, and it not, why? More info:

    1. 20,000 vagrants have already been housed. Yet now 20,000 more are camping on the streets waiting for their taxpayer subsidized homes. Your toxic ideology is just a shell game for unlimited slackers in San Francisco.

    2. Prop M will not house any folks living on the street.
      Evidently our half billion+ per annum is not enough for subsidies to keep seniors and low-income households housed. What?
      TIC conversions will accelerate.
      Ellis may now look like an even better option.
      Property title may be restructured into a different legal entity, insulating owners from the tax.

      As local rental property owners throw in the towel, there will be further consolidation by large national property management companies buying up rental stock.
      With cadres of attorneys and enough grease money for our City Family, they’ll be able to hold their own against tenants, tenant activists and lawyers.
      For-profit construction of housing for purely rental purposes will stop.
      If (BIG IF) goals are met, the result would be a dramatic decrease in vacancies. That’s the whole point, right?
      This would eventually driving up rental costs to even stupider levels as new renters compete for a diminished supply. Couple this with the push towards 1,000,000 City residents.

      Prop M is, partially, a cover to institute a rental registry bureaucracy.
      An essential next step in having City government control who gets to live where and further put themselves in control of all housing stock.
      All owners of rental (or potential rental) properties have been adjudicated as evil.
      It is best for the government to remove their property rights on our road to a utopia of unintended consequences.

  7. Respectfully Annika, you’re missing the forest for the trees. You did a great job outlining the minutiae of the differences between D and E in terms of AMI % caps, ratio of affordable to market rate, etc. — which quite frankly, I don’t expect any casual voter to understand.

    But those differences are not the material difference between D and E! D says: “Here are the rules — if you follow them, you can build more housing. Period.”. E says: “Here are the “rules” — but the rules really don’t matter because even if you follow them, you have no guarantees you can build more housing. You still need to go before the Board of Supervisors for approval and they can block new housing for any political whim or reason.” That is the real difference!