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A publication of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, Northern Section

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How will San Francisco’s western skyline change to add 80,000 homes?

By Benjamin Schneider, San Francisco Examiner, March 29, 2022

“In a document released March 25, the Planning Department confirmed that so-called ‘upzoning’ is going to be part of the plan to accommodate 82,000 new homes in San Francisco by 2031. Allowing mid-rise apartment buildings along major transit corridors in wealthier neighborhoods is ‘necessary’ to meet housing production targets and comply with laws designed to undo racial segregation, the department wrote in the third draft of its Housing Element.

“Earlier in the Housing Element process, the Planning Department presented alternative paths that would have continued to concentrate new housing development on the east side, evenly spread development across The City, or focused development along transit corridors. The Planning Department appears to be pursuing a mix of the latter two options.

“While they have not yet formulated comments on the latest Housing Element draft, a group called the Race & Equity in All Planning Coalition (REP-SF) has been the leading voice of opposition throughout the process.

“However, despite negative feedback from the REP coalition and Sunset District groups, the Planning Department did not shift its geographic focus on increasing the density of the west side.

“The new Housing Element draft also includes policies that would help stimulate development, including loosened regulations around demolishing owner-occupied buildings, and streamlined approvals for small housing developments.

“Still, these policies do not guarantee the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) will approve San Francisco’s Housing Element.

“Chris Elmendorf, a UC Davis law professor and housing expert, believes the Planning Department’s own analysis shows San Francisco’s Housing Element to be deficient. An attachment to the draft finds that downtown high-rises are the only economically feasible form of housing to build in San Francisco due to high construction costs, affordability requirements, impact fees, and long permitting times.”

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