California slams San Francisco over failure to build housing
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — San Francisco adopted a plan this past January to build 82,000 new housing units in the next eight years.
A searing new report from California Governor Gavin Newsom revealed that the plan is already failing after nine months.
To get to its 2031 goal, the city must add 10,000 new homes per year, including 5,800 affordable homes. According to the state's report, so far in 2023, the city has permitted less than one home per day.
The report, the San Francisco Housing Policy and Practice Review, revealed San Francisco is the most expensive city to build housing in California, and has the longest timelines in the state for advancing a housing project.
The report found that it takes 523 days, on average, for a developer to get the green light to construct a project in San Francisco. It then takes an average of 605 additional days to get building permits for utilities and electrical hookups.
“California’s affordability crisis is one of our own making — the decisions we made limited the creation of housing we need,” Newsom said. “Nowhere is this fact more evident than in San Francisco. This report is an important first step to address the decades of issues that have held back San Francisco’s ability to build more housing.”
The report is a first of its kind review that analyzes the patterns leading to building delays in San Francisco. The state announced that it would partner with University of California researchers in 2022 to analyze San Francisco’s housing approval practices and policies.
“San Francisco’s notoriously complex, cumbersome, and unpredictable housing approval process came onto the state’s radar for good reason, as this rigorous HCD investigation and UC Berkeley research bore out,” said California Department of Housing and Community Development director Gustavo Velasquez. “HCD does much more than name San Francisco’s housing problems with this unprecedented policy and practice review. We name very specific actions to bring the city into compliance with housing law and its own Housing Element, and which will move San Francisco into a new housing era with increased housing supply and affordability. Ultimately, these efforts will help stem the tide of displacement and make it possible for working class families to return to the city.”
The report found that San Francisco’s practices are out of compliance with California housing law and are negatively affecting development, exacerbating the city’s homelessness and affordable housing crises. Delays caused by San Francisco’s discretionary review processes and local political decisions are also negatively affecting development in the city.
Laws the city continues to violate include the California Environmental Quality Act, the state density bonus law and the Housing Accountability Act.
In San Francisco, city officials allow anyone to object to a project, even if it meets all the city’s requirements. The city also allows more environmental reviews and gives more power to its Board of Supervisors than other jurisdictions.
“My colleagues and I design research to provide insights useful to policymakers. Our hope with this work was that the state would be able to use the findings and identify actionable strategies and best practices to align local housing policies, laws, and planning practices with state requirements and priorities,” said Moira O’Neill, a researcher at UC Berkeley.
The report includes 18 required actions and an additional 10 recommended actions with implementation plans. This includes the removal of the right for any individual to obstruct projects that adhere to city regulations, along with expediting the building permit process once a project receives approval. The first steps are expected to be taken in the next 30 days.
If the city does not change its practices, the state could withhold state funding and San Francisco’s local control over development in the city.
In a statement, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said, “I agree wholeheartedly with the state that our current housing timelines are unacceptable and we cannot afford the obstruction, delay, and denial of the changes we all know this city needs.”