Mayor Breed's Housing Constraints Legislation that Removes Barriers to New Housing Approved by Board of Supervisors

Legislation is key part of Mayor Breed’s Housing for All that will move forward San Francisco’s plans to allow 82,000 homes over eight years and remove risk of losing state funding and certification
December 05, 2023

San Francisco, CA – Today, the Board of Supervisors approved legislation introduced by Mayor London N. Breed, with support from Supervisors Myrna Melgar, Matt Dorsey and Joel Engardio, to remove barriers to make it easier and faster to approve new housing.   

The Mayor’s Housing Constraints legislation amends the Planning Code to eliminate unnecessary processes and hearings, eliminate certain code requirements and geographic restrictions, and expand housing incentive programs for new housing that fits within the City’s existing zoning laws. Today’s approval of this legislation is one critical component to the Mayor’s broader strategy of advancing the City’s goals of allowing 82,000 homes to be built in eight years.  

In February this year, Mayor Breed signed her Housing for All Executive Directive to set immediate actions into place that would provide groundwork for the City to unlock its housing pipeline, accelerate the approval of new housing projects, and create additional capacity for all types of housing across San Francisco.   

“We've got to remove barriers to new housing in San Francisco, and this legislation is a key step in making that happen,” said Mayor London Breed. “If we are going to make San Francisco an affordable place for everyone to live, we need to be aggressive in reforming how we approve housing, reduce fees and get rid of all the obstructions that get in the way of building housing.”   

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.  

“This legislation is only one step in this larger process, but a critical one,” said Supervisor Myrna Melgar, Chair of the Land Use and Transportation Committee. “It took a lot of thoughtful collaboration among diverse stakeholders to ensure that we were protecting tenants and rent-controlled housing while also being compliant with our Housing Element.  We need to keep this momentum going and continue working collectively to preserve housing and make it easier to build new types of housing for families and seniors.”    

"Today the Board of Supervisors took a big step towards meeting our housing element policy goals,” said District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey. “This legislation will make it easier to build the housing our city so desperately needs, and I applaud Mayor Breed’s leadership on ensuring San Francisco remains on track and compliant with our housing element.”  

“I cosponsored the mayor’s housing legislation because it will make it easier to build the kind of housing that Westside residents tell me they want and need,” said Supervisor Joel Engardio, who represents the Sunset neighborhoods. “These reforms will help streamline new housing production like my Dom-i-city concept, which puts four or five stories of housing on transit corridors and corner lots above a neighborhood amenity such as a grocery, cafe, childcare, or senior center. It will make it easier to provide an elevator building that gives seniors an option to downsize and age safely in place without having to leave their neighborhood. It will provide homes that let adult kids and grandkids stay in San Francisco. And it will provide missing middle homes for our police, firefighters, and teachers.”  

“When we passed the Housing Element at the beginning of the year we knew the difficult work would be in its implementation,” said Rich Hillis, Director of Planning. “We will need to continue to think boldly if we’re going to meet our Housing Element goals of building more housing, faster, in resource-rich neighborhoods and at all levels of affordability.”  

The proposed legislation will 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 most 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.  

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.   

“SF YIMBY applauds the Board of Supervisors approval of the Constraints Reduction package,” said Jane Natoli, San Francisco Organizing Director for YIMBY Action. “It’s been a long time coming and while it came down to the wire, it’s great to see our leaders come together to pass vital legislation that we agreed to in the Housing Element. This will make a huge difference as we look to solve our housing shortage in San Francisco.”  

“The Board’s overwhelming vote today in support of Mayor Breed’s Housing Element legislation will reverse generations of harmful housing policy,” said Annie Fryman, Director of Special Projects at SPUR. “It turns out that San Francisco can ensure a bright housing future when our Mayor, Departments, Supervisors, and state leaders all work collaboratively toward a single vision.”  

"The passing of the Constraints Reduction ordinance is a massive step forward for San Francisco alleviating its longstanding housing shortage,” said Corey Smith, Executive Director of the Housing Action Coalition. “Importantly, its passing was essential to the City staying in compliance with its Housing Element. The Housing Action Coalition is proud to have supported these efforts from the beginning and is deeply appreciative of Mayor Breed, Supervisor Dorsey and Supervisor Engardio for their sponsorship, as well as Supervisor Melgar for her added leadership."  

“The AIA San Francisco applauds the passage of the Mayor's Constraints Reduction ordinance, which contains critical reforms to the regulatory framework and processes that manage the production of housing and the broader built environment of our city, which we have been advocating for many years,” said Christopher Roach, Chair of the AIA San Francisco Public Policy and Advocacy Knowledge Community. “Our work as architects brings us face-to-face every day with the challenges of building and improving homes for families of all types and sizes, and thus we support this effort to foster expanding the inventory of housing options in San Francisco to foster greater neighborhood diversity, provide better housing opportunities for vulnerable populations, and contribute to a thriving city culture where everyone can flourish.”  

The importance of the reforms included in this was highlighted in the State’s recent review of San Francisco’s housing policy. The California Department of Housing and Community Development set a deadline for the City to approve the legislation as proposed by Mayor Breed. By approving the legislation today, the Board has avoided penalties that could have come from the state, including Housing Element decertification.   

Visit this page for more information about Mayor Breed’s Housing for All plan.