Mayor Breed Introduces Housing For All Legislation to Remove Barriers for New Housing

Proposed legislation will cut unnecessary processes and expand incentives for housing that fits within approved zoning laws
April 18, 2023

San Francisco, CA – Mayor London N. Breed and Supervisor Joel Engardio today introduced legislation to remove barriers in the San Francisco Planning Code in order to make it easier and faster to approve new housing. This legislation will eliminate unnecessary processes and hearings, eliminate certain requirements and geographic restrictions, and expand housing incentive programs for new housing that fits within the City’s existing zoning laws.   

This legislation is a key piece of Mayor Breed’s Housing For All Plan, which is the City’s effort to allow for 82,000 new homes to be built over the next 8 years. This legislation meets obligations set out in the City’s Housing Element, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors in January and certified by the State.     

"San Francisco has to take aggressive actions to fundamentally change how we approve and permit housing,” said Mayor London Breed. “By removing unnecessary barriers and rules for projects that already comply with existing zoning, we can get housing built faster. If we want to create housing for working people and families in this City, we can’t just talk about wanting more housing – we have to take action to cut the rules and regulations to get more homes built.”   

“Many residents are looking for new types of housing to meet their needs,” said Supervisor Engardio. “Young families need housing to stay in San Francisco and seniors want options to downsize without having to leave their neighborhood. This legislation will make it easier to build multi-family housing that meets the needs of residents. A good example is housing above a ground floor grocery, cafe, or community space with services.”   

The proposed legislation would make significant changes to the Planning Code to remove constraints on new housing across three main categories:   

Eliminate Unnecessary Processes   

This legislation would amend many existing code provisions that require the approval of a Conditional Use Authorization (CU) by the Planning Commission. A CU approval can add six to nine months to the housing approval process by requiring hearings and discretionary approvals for projects that already comply with zoning laws. By eliminating CUs for code-compliant projects, this legislation would allow new housing to be approved faster.  

Remove Restrictive Standards and Geographic Limitations   

This legislation would eliminate requirements that limit the form or location of certain types of housing. This includes easing geographic limitations on senior housing, shelter and group housing, as well as reforming development standards like private open space and 1950s-era requirements for how far back a building must be offset from the property line, which will provide more flexibility for new housing proposals.    

Expand Incentives for Housing  

The legislation would eliminate certain restrictions to expand existing incentive programs for housing. This would expand access to the City’s HomeSF program and allow the City to waive fees for certain affordable housing projects.     

“I’m excited to see the Mayor’s plan and the Housing Element come together in this cornerstone effort that will help deliver the housing and affordable housing that San Francisco needs,” said Planning Director Rich Hillis.    

This legislation executes on goals set forth in the Housing Element while responding to current economic conditions. High construction costs and challenging economic conditions have made most types of new housing construction infeasible. However, by reducing approval timelines and creating greater certainty for permit approvals, this legislation will help clear the path for new housing construction by limiting costs associated with the City’s own approval process.    

“It's no secret that San Francisco desperately needs more affordable housing,” said Sam Moss, Executive Director of Mission Housing Development Corporation. “By eliminating unnecessary costs and delays during the building process, this legislation will help San Francisco bring more affordable housing options to our neighbors and communities across the City.”   

“San Francisco has a number of well-meaning rules that have added up to huge administrative burdens that add cost, time, and uncertainty to building homes,” said Jane Natoli, San Francisco Organizing Director for YIMBY Action. “We applaud Mayor Breed for her work to rein in these requirements and remove arbitrary barriers from the process so we can meet our much-needed housing goals”   

"Housing for All" will go a long way toward alleviating San Francisco's decades-long housing shortage and affordability crisis by accelerating the creation of new homes for residents who need them most. That means more housing for families, teachers, students, seniors, and many others for whom it's important to live near their jobs, schools, and families and not get priced out of SF,” said Corey Smith, Executive Director at Housing Action Coalition. “We commend Mayor Breed for this critical initiative that will substantially help our city change course and become more affordable, accessible, and equitable."   

"Our vibrant city deserves housing that is affordable and plentiful, and this legislation shows Mayor Breed's commitment to deliver,” said Annie Fryman, Director of Special Projects at SPUR. “These powerful reforms tear through many decades worth bureaucratic and policy barriers that have gotten San Francisco off-track, and replace them with best practices in urban planning and government operations. In a time of housing insecurity, climate change, and economic uncertainty, passing this legislation is absolutely essential for a better housing future."  

In addition to this proposed legislation, Mayor Breed’s Housing for All Plan has consisted of the following initial actions:  

  • Issued Housing for All Executive Directive which set the immediate and near-term actions the City will take to begin to make real change to how San Francisco approves and builds housing.  
  • Passed legislation to unlock the housing pipeline by initiating a targeted form of public financing that will allow the critical infrastructure at large projects to be built and get housing construction started faster.  
  • Convened an Affordable Housing Leadership Council, which will help the City chart a path forward for meeting affordable housing goals.   
  • Initiated a proposal to streamline city permitting by improving San Francisco’s Site Permit approval process that is expected to dramatically reduce development timelines.