San Francisco approves fourplexes on single-family lots

New city law expands SB 9, includes six units for corner houses

Photo illustration of Supervisor Rafael Mandelman (Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)
Photo illustration of Supervisor Rafael Mandelman (Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

Property owners can now build fourplexes in single-family neighborhoods across San Francisco, with as many as six units on corner lots.

The city’s Board of Supervisors overcame former objections by Mayor London Breed and voted to permit the fourplexes and corner six-plexes in all parts of the city, the San Francisco Business Times reported.

Breed vetoed similar legislation last summer, saying it would curtail the construction of new homes because it contained provisions to curb speculation.

The new measure also cut language doing away with single-family zoning, which would contradict Senate Bill 9. The state law enacted this year allows homeowners to create duplexes on lots zoned for single-family homes, while streamlining approvals.

The reworked legislation sponsored by Supervisors Rafael Mandelman and Myrna Melgar also reduces the number of years that an owner must own a lot earmarked for greater density from five years to one.

Mandelman championed the fourplex ordinance, proposing two versions last year.

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His initial proposal aimed to expand on SB 9 by allowing four units on every city lot and up to six on corner lots. But it was heavily amended by supervisors, who added provisions to prevent real estate speculation.

Less than 30 property owners have applied for projects using SB 9 since Jan. 1, of which three were approved, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

While seven supervisors voted to pass Mandelman’s original fourplex legislation in June, the modified measure passed on first reading with a 10-1 vote.

Supervisor Shamann Walton delivered the one no vote. He also voted against the original fourplex legislation, saying adding density would further gentrify vulnerable communities in his district, which includes Bayview-Hunters Point in the southeast corner of the city.

A state mandate to build more housing has pushed fourplexes to the forefront. San Francisco must make room for 82,000 new homes by 2031.

— Dana Bartholomew

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