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Supervisors Vote 8-3 To Oppose Proposed Statewide Transit-Focused Density Plan

By Carrie Sisto - Published on April 05, 2018.

The Board of Supervisors this week voted to formally oppose a proposed state housing bill that would require cities to allow taller, more denser development near transit corridors.

In a divisive vote on April 3rd, eight out of 11 supervisors voted to support District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s resolution opposing state senator Scott Wiener’s SB 827 that would create a statewide transit-rich housing bonus.

While the resolution doesn't carry legal significance—the matter will be voted on by the state legislature—it illustrates the strength of the opposition. The Los Angeles city council voted unanimously against it last week

The bill as proposed would require local planning agencies to approve taller and more dense developments so long as the projects meet most other state and local zoning ordinances. But certain tenant protection and infrastructure support requirements are still missing, according to most city supervisors. 

As currently written, the bill concentrates development in some the already densest areas in the state, and imposes a one-size-fits all solution statewide, without any local community input, Peskin told the board on Tuesday. 

The city's planning department has suggested the bill would upzone nearly 96 percent of land parcels in San Francisco.

Map of areas of San Francisco affected by SB 827 via SF Planning.

Peskin’s resolution passed out of the Land Use and Planning Committee last month with amendments that shifted it to encourage Wiener to amend the bill, rather than opposing it outright.

Peskin on April 3rd amended it back to its original language fully opposing Wiener’s bill.

President and mayoral candidate London Breed opposed the resolution, arguing that Wiener has stated the bill will be “significantly amended” in just one week. 

“Knee-jerk opposition to the bill as opposed to working with our state delegation on amendments sends a clear message that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors isn’t serious abut addressing our critical housing crisis,” Breed said.  

The bill requires developers to comply with the city's displacement restrictions and inclusionary housing requirements, and it is still a work in progress, District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai said during the meeting.

"I think there is nothing wrong with allowing the process go forward and the conversation to be had," he said. The bill is about requiring underutilized spaces in the city to be better utilized, Safai added.

The majority of the supervisors, however, expressed concerns that the legislation as currently written provides a huge amount of value to landowners and developers without requiring them to return any of that increased value to the city.

All of the beige areas are limited at 40 feet in height. | MAP VIA SF PLANNING 

By allowing developers to build significantly more housing on the same area of land, they’ll gain a much larger value from the land, but SB 827 does not require any of that value to be contributed to support the neighboring residents and community, District 6 Supervisor and mayoral candidate Jane Kim said.

If we want more housing we should make state funding for any other development contingent upon the provision of new housing, she explained.

“But... you can’t just building housing,” Kim said. “You have to build the sewage system, sidewalks, an electricity grid.” Building the market-rate housing without any local requirements to contribute to transit or affordable housing stock violates local planning ordinances, she added.

Image via Board of Supervisors April 3, 2018

A range of neighborhood organizations, city groups and local businesses also supported Peskin’s resolution. 

"In the name of ‘transit friendly housing’, SB 827 undermines the ability of San Francisco, the most transit friendly city in the state, to plan and support our publicly financed transit system and it would discourage other cities from creating or expanding their own systems to avoid triggering SB 827,” the coalition wrote in a group letter.

Despite opposition from Breed and District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, and District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai, the resolution opposing Wiener’s housing bill passed. 

The resolution as passed this week will be distributed to San Francisco’s state representatives in Sacramento, while negotiations for amendments to the bill are ongoing.

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