San Francisco's Housing for All Legislation that Removes Barriers to New Housing Approved by Planning Commission

Growing support for fundamental change how San Francisco builds housing as part of plan to allow 82,000 homes over the next 8 years
June 30, 2023

San Francisco, CA – Today, the San Francisco Planning Commission approved legislation introduced by Mayor London N. Breed and Supervisors Joel Engardio and Matt Dorsey to remove barriers to make it easier and faster to approve new housing. This legislation amends the Planning Code to 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.    

"This is a good step forward for removing barriers to new housing in San Francisco, but we’ve still got work to do to get this legislation across the finish line,” 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.”    

The approval by the Planning Commission is a key step in this process. Next it will go to the Board of Supervisors for approval, first at the Land Use and Transportation Committee. That hearing has not yet been scheduled.    

“I’m proud to stand alongside Mayor Breed and my colleague Supervisor Engardio in support of this groundbreaking legislation. It represents just one of the vital measures we must undertake as a city to fulfill the commitment of our housing element,” said District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey. “By removing constraints and alleviating burdensome fees, we’re moving in the right direction of addressing San Francisco’s urgent housing needs.”    

“For too long, we haven’t kept up with the demand for housing that meets the needs of our young families and seniors. The result is having to say goodbye to family and friends when they have to move out of San Francisco at certain stages in life. The technical part of this legislation provides common sense reforms to outdated zoning regulations. The heart of this legislation keeps our loved ones in San Francisco by making it easier to house them,” said Supervisor Engardio, who represents the Sunset neighborhoods of District 4.  

Prior to the hearing, supporters of Housing for All gathered on the front steps of City Hall to show growing support for this critical legislation. Joining Mayor Breed and Supervisors Engardio and Dorsey to speak at the rally, were Corey Smith of the Housing Action Coalition, Jane Natoli of YIMBY Action, Annie Fryman of SPUR, and Irving Gonzales of G7 Architects, along with housing advocates from across the City.  

The California Department of Housing and Community Development is also supportive of the legislation, writing in a letter submitted last week that the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors to approve it. “Approving this ordinance would mark an important first step towards both facilitating the construction of housing and implementing the adopted housing element,” the letter states.   

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.    

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.  

“YIMBY Action applauds Planning’s approval of this process reform,” said Jane Natoli, San Francisco Organizing Director for YIMBY Action. “A core tenet of our organizing is to make it easier and more predictable to build housing by streamlining the process and this legislation boldly cuts through red tape to do just that”   

"This legislation is an excellent opportunity for San Francisco to mitigate climate change, reduce negative environmental impacts, and ensure funding remains available to expand affordable housing production,” said Amanda Brown-Stevens, Executive Director of Greenbelt Alliance. “In California, about 40% of climate pollution comes from transportation, the bulk of that from gasoline and diesel-burning vehicles on our roads.  This legislation will allow San Francisco to build more of the right housing in the right places to mitigate climate impacts and reduce housing costs and inequities."   

“The Housing For All Directive is a critical step forward on housing projects,” said Louis Mirante, Vice President of Public Policy for the Bay Area Council. “We need the fee waivers and streamlining this directive offers to make housing in SF more affordable.”  

"I strongly endorse this legislation and urge the Board of Supervisors to pass it as soon as possible," said Chris Roach, Chair of AIA San Francisco's Public Policy and Advocacy Committee.  

"Authorizing group housing and homeless shelters throughout San Francisco is essential in our response to the street crisis,” said Paulina Fayer, Executive Director of RecoverCA. “We support Housing for All.”