Supervisor Breed responds to request to rescind upzoning on Divisadero

As reported in Hoodline, the Affordable Divis community group sent a letter to Supervisor London Breed and the SF Planning Department, requesting they rescind the rezoning of Divisadero which occurred in July 2015.

Though the Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP) was already being drafted, the rezoning went ahead anyway. While the new AHBP requires affordable units in exchange for more density, the upzoning of Divisadero means that residential developments along the corridor can get more density without being required to provide a higher percentage of affordable units.

Read Supervisor’s Breed’s response regarding the decision to upzone Divisadero:

LONDON N. BREED

Thank you for the letter and for your commitment to our neighborhood.

My goal is to help people of all income levels be able to live and stay in San Francisco.  That is why I secured $2 Million to rehabilitate over 163 unused public housing units and make them available to homeless families.  It’s why I am leading the effort to launch the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, which will generate $500 million for over 4,500 public housing units.  It’s why my neighborhood preference legislation, which will prioritize neighborhood residents for all affordable housing units, is so important to me.  (I’m happy to report it passed the Planning Commission unanimously two weeks ago and the Board’s Land Use Committee Monday.)  It’s why I supported Supervisor Kim’s recent legislation to stop “gotcha evictions” for things like hanging your laundry out to dry, and why I was a deciding vote to support the provision allowing tenants to add roommates.  And it is why I support Neighborhood Commercial Transit Districts.

As the Planning Department said in the report for my legislation:

The 2012 American Community Survey estimated San Francisco’s population to be about 807,755. The Association [of] Bay Area Governments projects continued population growth to 981,800 by 2030 or an overall increase of about 174,045 people who will need to be housed over the next 18 years. Household growth, an approximation of the demand for housing, indicates a need for some 72,530 new units in the 18 years to 2030 just to accommodate projected population and household growth.  The City’s challenge is to find new ways to accommodate more housing units into the existing urban fabric in order to meet current and future demands without negatively impacting neighborhood character.

And that—accommodating more housing without negatively impacting neighborhood character—is exactly what NCTs and other density decontrols do.  Quoting Planning again:

The City started to adopt zoning districts without density controls in 2007 as a result of the Market Octavia Plan. These new districts include the Residential Transit Oriented (RTO, RTO-Mission) Districts, the Neighborhood Commercial Transit Districts (NCT-1, NCT-2, and NCT-3) and several new named Neighborhood Commercial Districts, including the SOMA NCT, Mission Street NCT, Ocean Avenue NCT, and the Glenn Park NCT Districts [there are also the Hayes-Gough, Valencia, 24th Street, Upper Market, Folsom, Divisadero, and Fillmore NCTs]. Rather than regulating the number of units by the area of the lot, the number of units in RTO and NCT Districts is limited by height/bulk, open space, setback, and exposure requirements. This allows for slightly more units than would be permitted under the current regulations.

I can’t say if the City’s projected growth is good or bad or if the numbers themselves are accurate predictions, but I know this: San Francisco needs more housing, especially more affordable housing.

NCTs provide more units within a given building size.  They do not increase the allowable height or bulk of buildings, or remove any other neighborhood-serving regulations.  By allowing more units within the same building envelope, you create a significantly higher number of affordable units, since those are set as a percentage of overall units.  And the market rate units are smaller and thus less expensive as well.  The Divisadero NCT means more affordable units and cheaper market rate units without any height increases.

Rescinding the NCT would mean dramatically-more-expensive condos and dramatically fewer affordable units in developments on Divisadero—without requiring their building size to change at all.  Multimillion dollar condos and fewer affordable units: I do not see the upside to that course.  It is fundamentally counter to my goal of helping people of all income levels live and stay in San Francisco.

I absolutely want to see a higher requirement for onsite affordable units than what the voters implemented in 2012 with Proposition C (i.e. 12%).  It’s something I have been working on for a long time.  Unfortunately, doing so is not as simple as some have incorrectly made it seem.  Proposition C prohibits the City from increasing affordability requirements unless certain criteria are met, what’s called a “significant upzoning” in an area of 40 acres or more.  The Divisadero NCT area is not 40 acres.  So the path is more difficult, and we must be creative.

I am working closely with the Planning Department and City Attorney’s office on ways we can legally increase the affordability requirement, perhaps in connection with the local Affordable Housing Bonus Program or the California Density Bonus Law.  I want to work with the community on other ways to increase onsite affordable homes, possibly even via a citywide ballot measure next year, and would be happy to discuss ideas with your group.  And I want to be perfectly clear; I will not support any development on Divisadero that does not include a significant percentage of onsite affordable units!

I don’t own a house.  I am a lifelong renter.  And, as it happens, my building is about to be sold, meaning I face all the uncertainty and disruption that too many folks in our city are facing.  I am going to continue working for solutions to keep people like us in our homes and in our neighborhood—regardless of the political implications.

There is no silver bullet, no panacea for our housing crisis.  And that is exactly why I am working on a variety of efforts at the local, state, and even federal levels to create more affordable homes and make them available to neighborhood residents.

Sincerely,

London Breed
President of the Board of Supervisors

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