Why, you may be reasonably asking, would building affordable housing in the midst of an unprecedented housing and homelessness crisis require a petition?
Would the homes replace rent-controlled apartments or displace low-income families? Would their construction harm the environment?
The homes would replace a parking lot.
The reason you should go sign that petition is a little thing called “discretionary review.”
What it means is that nearly every city in the US permits new homes “by-right,” meaning if a construction project meets local zoning and code regulations the developer gets a permit to build.
Discretionary review means SF has given the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors the power to permit housing at their discretion. San Francisco’s discretionary review process is the single largest contributing factor to high home building costs.
Discretionary review makes housing less affordable in two ways. First, it means developers have to hire expensive consultants, including permit expeditors, to bribe public officials to get their clients through the bureaucracy faster.
Second, it empowers homeowners to stall an affordable housing project at any time for any reason. Which forces developers to pay for land they can’t build on for years as they fight with homeowner activists who have nothing but time to fight new housing. More than two years ago I attended the 26th public hearing on the Balboa Reservoir Project, which began in 2014.
Homeowner activist power incentivizes developers to make concessions that harm SF’s walkability and affordability.
Homeowner activists successfully pressured the Balboa developers to halve the number of affordable units and add more townhomes to make the development less walkable and less affordable.
As far as I know, no sitting SF Supervisor has put forward legislation that would do anything to help streamline the permitting process.
Which means, of course, that you should put all your money toward any challenger who promises to streamline the permitting process, upzone the west side, and adequately fund our addiction and mental health infrastructure.
I’ve recently started paying more attention to “VC Twitter.” And while I’m seeing a decent amount of outrage about how shitty SF is (there has been a 200%+ increase in tents in the Tenderloin and very little social distancing) I’m not seeing a lot of action or funding for fixing SF.
If you’re a VC or anyone with any money or just the will and time to sign petitions, helping isn’t rocket science. Support YIMBY Action and support candidates who support by-right permitting, upzoning the west side, and adequately funding our addiction and mental health infrastructure.