State housing regulators OK SF’s new rule to thwart builder’s remedy

Mayor’s “constraints reduction ordinance” cuts red tape and streamline development

State housing regulators OK SF ordinance to thwart builder’s remedy
Mayor London Breed (Getty)

State housing regulators have approved a law to streamline housing passed in San Francisco, staving off builder’s remedy project approvals and a loss of funding for affordable housing.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development approved the city’s “constraints reduction ordinance” passed by the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 5, saying it was consistent with state law, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The state regulator, during a scathing audit in October, had given San Francisco 30 days from Oct. 25 to pass Mayor London Breed’s ordinance to streamline the glacial process to get homes approved and built. 

The city blew its first deadline, but was given 30 more days to approve it.

If it failed to pass the ordinance, state housing regulators had threatened to decertify its Housing Element plan for 82,000 new homes by 2031 — which could jeopardize hundreds of millions in funding for affordable housing and transportation.

It could also allow developers to apply for builder’s remedy projects that skirt local planning review. 

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“Obviously this is great news for San Francisco,” Jeff Cretan, a spokesman for Breed, told the Chronicle. “We have been focused on making sure our policies not only meet the standards of HCD but also meet the standards of what we have committed to in our Housing Element.”

The legislation contains amendments that include protections for rent-controlled apartments and historic buildings. It protects single-family homes built before 1923 and rent-controlled apartments from being bulldozed for market-rate projects.

The ordinance cuts red tape that hinders development and lets many projects move forward without a hearing at the Planning Commission, according to the Chronicle.

David Zisser, an assistant deputy director with the state housing department, said the agency would continue to provide “technical assistance to help the city meet its housing commitments.” 

He said the city still needs to respond to a Nov. 28 “corrective action letter” outlining how it is implementing other “overdue required actions.”

— Dana Bartholomew

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