San Francisco Chronicle

Up­hill bat­tle for hous­ing bonus plan

- By J. K. Di­neen

The city’s plan to give de­vel­op­ers ex­tra height and den­sity in ex­change for build­ing a greater num­ber of af­ford­able units faces a show­down Thurs­day at the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion.

And the odds aren’t look­ing good for those who be­lieve that squeez­ing more apart­ments onto tran­sit cor­ri­dors could help al­le­vi­ate the city’s hous­ing cri­sis.

In the works for more than a year, San Fran­cisco’s af­ford­able- hous­ing bonus pro­gram, or

AHBP, is the city’s home­cooked al­ter­na­tive to a long- stand­ing state law re­quir­ing cities to give builders an ex­tra two floors, pro­vided they make a per­cent­age of the units below mar­ket rate.

While the state law has been on the books since 1979, it was un­der the radar un­til a 2013 state Supreme Court case, Unidos del Valle de Napa y Solano vs. County of Napa. The court ruled that lo­cal gov­ern­ments must fol­low the state law or of­fer their own ver­sion of a hous­ing bonus plan.

The San Fran­cisco ver­sion of the law fo­cused on so- called “soft sites” — park­ing lots, gas sta­tions and one- story com­mer­cial build­ings — along com­mer­cial strips like Van Ness Av­enue, Ocean Av­enue, Geary Boule­vard, Irv­ing Street, Bal­boa Street, Lombard Street, Geneva Av­enue and outer Mis­sion Street. In ex­change for in­clud­ing units at 30 per­cent below mar­ket rate, de­vel­op­ers in those ar­eas could get two ex­tra sto­ries. Those do­ing 100 per­cent af­ford­able­hous­ing projects could get an ex­tra three floors.

While plan­ners see it as a mod­est propo­si­tion, the pro­posal cre­ated a small up­roar, par­tic­u­larly on the west side of town, where home­own­ers saw it as set­ting the stage for an in­va­sion of greedy down­town de­vel­op­ers look­ing to re­place quaint neigh­bor­hoods with boxy, SoMa- style apart­ment com­plexes.

Some af­ford­able- hous­ing ad­vo­cates, who would seem like the plan’s nat­u­ral al­lies, sided with the west side an­tide­vel­op­ment home own­ers, say­ing the AHBP’s pro­posed in­come lev­els re­quired to qual­ify for units were too high.

“It’s go­ing to get mas­sa­cred,” said John El­ber­ling, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of non­profit de­vel­oper Todco and an op­po­nent of the plan. “I don’t know if it will get through the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, but it will never clear the Board of Su­per­vi­sors. They have man­aged to en­rage ev­ery neigh­bor­hood in the city. No­body wants to see large new projects ap­pear­ing in the clas­sic neigh­bor­hood two- lane com­mer­cial street.”

Along the way the city has done var­i­ous things to make the AHBP more po­lit­i­cally palat­able.

The Ten­der­loin and Chi­na­town were re­moved. It was made ex­plicit that no rent con­trol units or his­toric struc­tures would be touched. It dropped the me­dian in­come lev­els needed to qual­ify for some of the units. It re­quired 18month no­ti­fi­ca­tion for com­mer­cial busi­nesses dis­placed and di­rected the city to es­tab­lish a re­lo­ca­tion fee to help them move.

But still, pro­gram pro­po­nent Tim Colen of the Hous­ing Ac­tion Coali­tion said, “It’s in trou­ble.

“It’s been nicked and cut to death.”

Colen and de­vel­op­ers are quick to point out that even if San Fran­cisco doesn’t pass its own AHBP, de­vel­op­ers are al­ready lin­ing up to take ad­van­tage of the state law, which re­quires sig­nif­i­cantly fewer af­ford­able units.

For ex­am­ple, at 333 12th St., the state den­sity bonus pro­gram would al­low de­vel­oper Pa­trick Kennedy to in­crease his pro­ject from 140 to 200 units. At 793 South Van Ness Ave., the Toboni Group has ap­plied to use the state den­sity bonus to in­crease the unit count from 54 to 73. And at 2918 Mis­sion St., de­vel­oper Robert Till­man could in­crease his de­vel­op­ment from 55 to 75 units.

Till­man, who owns a laun­dry site he would like to re­place with hous­ing on Mis­sion Street, said the “state law still ap­plies whether or not the city passes the or­di­nance.

“There are a lot of peo­ple who are protest­ing who re­ally don’t un­der­stand that the state den­sity bonus ap­plies no mat­ter what San Fran­cisco does,” Till­man said.

Kennedy said that at least two times neigh­bors sued to block den­sity bonus projects in Berke­ley. Both times the de­vel­oper won.

“You don’t like the AHBP? Fine, go ahead and kill it,” said Colen. “But don’t com­plain in a few months when the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion starts grant­ing the state den­sity bonuses.”

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA