Will ending single-family zoning create more housing?

By J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, February 28, 2021

“[In the last week of February], the city councils in Berkeley and South San Francisco took steps to end single-family zoning, with Berkeley promising to get rid of it within a year and South City initiating a study as part of its general plan update.

“But while the movement to allow multifamily buildings in zones previously limited to single-family homes is being embraced as a correction of past discriminatory policies, … whether it will actually increase housing production is a lot more complicated, according to builders and architects.

“Sean Kieghran, president of San Francisco’s Residential Builders Association, said he supports getting rid of single-family only zoning but doesn’t think it will result in many new units.

“ ‘That zoning is a tool to create housing production is a widely held and completely fallacious idea. Just because something is permitted doesn’t mean it happens. It’s very hard to find a vacant lot or tear down at a price that would work,’ said Daniel Solomon, an architect who has worked on three single-family sized lot-to-fourplex conversions.

“The model might work best in more suburban communities with larger lot sizes and less expensive land, said Peter Cohen of the Council of Community Housing Organizations. He said cities getting rid of single-family zoning should focus on who these units will be serving and how they will help solve the region’s affordable-housing crisis.”

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