Gov. Newsom launches unprecedented review of San Francisco housing approval process

By J.K Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, August 9, 2022

“After a year of escalating warnings, Gov. Gavin Newsom is launching an unprecedented review of San Francisco’s notoriously lengthy and difficult housing approval and permitting process, aimed at identifying and removing barriers to construction of new residential development in the city.

“The California Department of Housing and Community Development said Tuesday that it would focus on San Francisco for its first-ever ‘housing policy and practice review,’ a process that will dissect why the city has the state’s longest timeline for advancing housing projects and is the subject of the most complaints from Newsom’s Housing Accountability Unit.

“San Francisco Planning Director Rich Hillis said his department is already working closely with HCD on the housing element and that the additional scrutiny is welcome… . San Francisco’s housing element must show how the city plans to accommodate 82,069 units between 2023 and 2030.

“ ‘They are elevating this issue and wanting to shine more of a light on it, and we get it,’ said Hillis. ‘We recognize that our process is not geared toward getting housing built quickly and with certainty.’

“Mayor London Breed said she supports the state stepping in.

“Critics of the state’s efforts to force local cities to step up housing production, however, say the state’s focus on eliminating community process — and politics — from the development approval procedures will not help working families. Charlie Sciammas, policy director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, said that the state’s singular focus on removing barriers to development would lead overwhelmingly to market-rate units out of the reach of average city dwellers, leading to more displacement and homelessness.”

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