Mayor Breed hopes ‘cars to casas’ ordinance will boost San Francisco housing

The ordinance will allow property owners to build residential structures on lots that had gas stations without having to get a conditional use authorization

San Francisco /
Oct.October 13, 2021 01:47 PM
3701 Noriega Street before and after (from left to right), Mayor London Breed (Google Maps, Getty Images)

San Francisco Mayor London Breed wants to pass an ordinance that would make it easier for developers to build housing on properties that are zoned for “automobile-related” uses.

The ordinance, which has been dubbed “cars to casas,” will allow property owners to build residential structures on lots that hold gas stations, auto body shops or parking lots without having to get a conditional use authorization from the city Planning Commission, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The bill, which will go before the Board of Supervisors next week, would allow up to four units to be built on car-centric properties in neighborhoods that are zoned for single-family homes. It would also relax density limits to allow builders to fit more apartments into the “building envelope.”

The mayor’s hope is that the ordinance will help the housing shortage in San Francisco as well as cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

“Housing policy is climate policy,” Breed told the Chronicle. “Families are having trouble staying in our city because we have not built enough housing for them, and every day there is a new headline and a new study about how the impacts of climate change are taking a toll today.”

Breed made the announcement at 3701 Noriega Street, which is the site of a housing development and a grocery store that replaced a former gas station.

Over the past five years, developers proposed housing projects for 21 different gas station sites. According to the Planning Department Chief of Staff Dan Sider, 17 of those have been approved and the remaining four are still under planning review.

Some local residents expressed concern that the new ordinance would lead to tall buildings blocking views and casting shadows on green spaces, but that will not be an issue. The height limit of what can be built on the lots will remain the same.

“The whole neighborhood character argument should be out the window because we are not changing height and bulk,” Sider said to the Chronicle.

The environmental clean-up of the former gas stations will also not be changed by the new legislation. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control will continue to oversee that aspect of the operation.

[SFC] — Victoria Pruitt 






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