SB 50 Has Been Amended – What Does that Mean for Dolores Heights?

SB 50 has been amended. Yet it still overrides San Francisco’s thoughtful planning for density and growth. And it is a top-down, cookie-cutter proposal that benefits real estate developers . It provides significant value to developers through upzoning, by-right building, greater heights and mass. Yet, it doesn’t require developers to provide any additional contribution to fund affordable housing, transit or infrastructure.

It guts the Dolores Heights Special Use District height and rear-yard setbacks — allowing buildings to rise to 45 or 55 feet and include any number of units. When combined with other existing laws, it can allow projects to override the City’s demolition controls and our setback rules. And it can allow all of this without any additional investment in our already overtaxed transit and water infrastructure, and without even providing for any new affordable housing. Finally, Sensitive Communities (including parts of the Mission, Bayview, Tenderloin, and parts of SoMa) have no guarantees that their local plans will be implemented. Moreover, the plans must comply with the bills density requirements. So SB 50 doesn’t protect them from the market pressures that drive displacement and gentrification.

This article by a former Los Angeles city planner provides a more detailed summary.

Cities are standing up to SB 50s heavy-handed two-sizes fits all approach. San Francisco officially opposes SB 50 as the wrong way to solve our affordable housing crisis. To date, 35 other cities joined us in opposing SB 50. More cities and groups are reviewing the bill.

So, if not SB 50, how can we solve our affordability crisis in San Francisco?

Here are some ideas. Let us know what you think

  1. Continue San Francisco’s planning for growth: In 2018 the City authorized 6,097 units of new housing (only 31 single-family) – on track to produce a projected additional 92,000 housing units needed for new San Franciscans in 2040. This is more housing authorized than other Bay Area county except Alameda and Santa Clara counties with 15 to 30 times more land area.
  2. Target incentives to close gaps: Identify shortfalls in the required state RHNA goals for housing by income level (market-rate,moderate, low, and lowest). Apply the SB 50 framework to those categories (e.g., market-rate or affordable) in which cities are under-producing housing. In San Francisco, we aren’t achieving our RHNA goals for affordable housing, so apply SB 50 incentives/ waivers to affordable projects only.
  3. Prioritize affordable housing production
    1. Use our state and local bond mechanisms and tax dollars to fund affordable housing (e.g., Mayor Breeds proposed $500M bond and the announced education tax refund )
    2. Apply SB 50’s incentives and waivers to projects that are minimum 50% affordable
  4. Implement a rental registry to track rental housing stock and prevent tenant evictions/housing demolition
  5. Recommend cities conduct community-based planning to achieve the community’s housing goals. Example – Supervisor Mar has initiated community-based planning for the Sunset District neighborhoods
  6. Have SF Planning Department conduct an Environmental Impact study to quantify total development capacity and effects on transit, infrastructure, and quality of life before implementing a program with the scope and scale of SB 50
  7. Fund transit as the foundation for sustainable development before implementing SB 50. Target state transportation funds to denser areas such as San Francisco. Have SF Board of Supervisors & SFMTA solve the $21 billion deficit which SF Muni needs to fund its projected 2045 capacity
  8. Obtain funding for infrastructure investments for denser development:
    1. Developers: additional infrastructure (water, sewer, schools, etc.)
    2. Employers: increased mass transit costs (operations and capital)
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