Two SF supervisors want to sue Sacramento over housing policy

Aaron Peskin and Connie Chan accuse senator of seeking “to penalize San Francisco”

SF Supervisors Want to Sue Sacramento Over Housing Policy
Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Connie Chan with State Sen. Scott Wiener (middle) (Getty)

Some San Francisco politicians want to call their lawyer to settle their beef with Sacramento housing policies.

Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Connie Chan want the city attorney to sue the state over an alleged effort led by state Sen. Scott Wiener to “singularly penalize” the city for its work to build market-rate homes, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Peskin and Chan fired off a letter to City Attorney David Chiu last month saying the city is committed to building homes and affordable housing, and has dedicated hundreds of millions in public funds to building homes, fast-tracking permits and approving more than 70,000 units.

They say a new state law trumpeted by the former supervisor and current lawmaker from San Francisco has punished the city while “letting neighboring jurisdictions fall woefully short in creating any significant new housing at all.”  

The letter says the city has “far exceeded” production of market-rate housing — but that despite commitments and public investment in affordable housing, “we continue to fall dangerously short in our affordable housing production.”

Both Peskin and Chan highlighted the city’s challenge in building homes, including developers’ unwillingness to build when interest rates are high, along with the soaring costs of construction and labor.

They said Wiener seeks “to penalize San Francisco” by holding affordable-housing funds hostage if the city doesn’t build enough market-rate units. 

San Francisco must build 82,000 homes, including 46,000 affordable units, by 2031 or jeopardize local control of developments.

The issue, for Peskin and Chan, is Wiener’s bill, SB 423, which allows developers to seek streamlined approval of their housing projects without going through a review that allows public comment on the development.

The bill also punishes cities like San Francisco for failing to meet their housing goals. 

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The supervisors said the city will be forced to approve market-rate projects without any public input before other jurisdictions in the state. They argue that the state needs to make a “major investment in affordable housing” as developers continue to lag on building the 70,000 units of housing already approved for development. 

“Not only has Senator Wiener set up San Francisco to fail, despite all our legislative and funding efforts, he added a last-minute amendment to SB 423 that singles out San Francisco for streamlining in 2024, which is years earlier than every other jurisdiction in California,” Peskin and Chan wrote. 

Wiener has also backed other bills to encourage housing development, which critics say don’t do enough to make housing affordable for moderate- and low-income tenants.  

Wiener pooh-pooed the letter as an attempt by supervisors to file a “frivolous lawsuit” against the state, which could lead to sanctions against San Francisco. Chiu’s office told the Chronicle it would not comment on the letter.

The senator said San Francisco has the longest new-housing permitting timeline of any city in that state. He said the city has set up “extreme impediments” to new housing that have contributed to homelessness in the city and pushed out middle-class residents.

He said that’s why SB 423 specifically singles out San Francisco — because after years of underbuilding it “needs extra help and extra attention to build new homes.” 

Wiener added that the city’s recent measures to promote more housing development “should’ve been done a long time ago,” including the reduction of affordable housing in new developments and other “community benefits” that make projects slower and more expensive to build. 

“I’m glad the board finally acted and I commend them, but it took way too long,” Wiener told the Chronicle.

“We also know the board hemmed and hawed and took way too long just to pass the ordinance implementing the housing element, so it’s great that the board … has been taking these actions, but we need more local efforts at City Hall to streamline and accelerate new housing,” he said.

— Dana Bartholomew

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