Breed try­ing to re­duce fees for af­ford­able hous­ing units

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - BAY AREA - By Do­minic Fra­cassa

San Fran­cisco Mayor London Breed is ready­ing leg­is­la­tion to elim­i­nate thou­sands of dol­lars in fees the city charges when 100 per­cent af­ford­able hous­ing projects and ac­ces­sory dwelling units are built or ren­o­vated.

The or­di­nance — which could be in­tro­duced at the Board of Su­per­vi­sors’ meet­ing Tues­day meet­ing or next week — is Breed’s lat­est ef­fort to chip away at what she sees as the ad­min­is­tra­tive forces that make it harder to build hous­ing.

“We have to re­move the bar­ri­ers and bu­reau­cracy that get in the way of build­ing more hous­ing,” Breed said. “This means not only stream­lin­ing how we build hous­ing, but also cut­ting fees so our dol­lars can go to­ward build­ing more af­ford­able hous­ing and so more peo­ple will come for­ward to build in-laws, al­low­ing us to add new rent-con­trolled units through­out city.”

Breed’s pro­posal wouldn’t ex­pe­dite projects but would make them less ex­pen­sive to get mov­ing.

The or­di­nance would pre­vent the city from

mov­ing money from one pocket to an­other. In San Fran­cisco, the Mayor’s Of­fice of Hous­ing and Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment is the main source of fund­ing for af­ford­able hous­ing projects.

Sam Moss, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mis­sion Hous­ing De­vel­op­ment Corp., said it was “fairly lu­di­crous” for an­other city agency, the Depart­ment of Build­ing In­spec­tion, to then take a por­tion of that money back for per­mit re­views and in­spec­tion ser­vices, which is how the process cur­rently works.

“Why would we do that? It’s com­mon sense not to do that,” Moss said. “We have a cri­sis right now, and if we don’t ex­er­cise all the tools in the tool­box, then what are we do­ing? This is some­thing I ap­plaud,” he said of the mayor’s pro­posal.

The fees the in­spec­tion depart­ment as­sesses are pro­por­tional to the over­all con­struc­tion cost of a given project, said Bill Strawn, a spokesman for the agency. Larger, more com­plex and ex­pen­sive projects gen­er­ally re­quire more time and staff re­sources, which trans­late to higher fees for those ser­vices.

Moss said the build­ing in­spec­tion per­mit­ting fees alone don’t usu­ally make or break new af­ford­able hous­ing de­vel­op­ments or ren­o­va­tions of ex­ist­ing ones. But re­lief from some of the costs would al­low his non­profit to rein­vest money into the early plan­ning stages of new projects.

The Ten­der­loin Neigh­bor­hood De­vel­op­ment Corp. and the Mis­sion Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Agency are just a few weeks away from break­ing ground on a 143-unit, 100per­cent af­ford­able hous­ing com­plex at 1990 Fol­som St. in the Mis­sion Dis­trict, a project the two or­ga­ni­za­tions de­vel­oped jointly.

Ac­cord­ing to the Mayor’s Of­fice of Hous­ing, the build­ing in­spec­tion per­mit­ting fees alone for that project were about $150,000.

“I’m re­ally en­thused about this,” said TNDC Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Don Falk. Lift­ing the build­ing in­spec­tion fees on af­ford­able projects “will ag­gre­gate into a fair sum of money over time that MOHCD will be able to use to fund more projects. This is a big deal.”

The or­di­nance is also meant to en­cour­age the de­vel­op­ment of ac­ces­sory dwelling units, or ADUs, of­ten called in-law or granny flats. In Au­gust, Breed in­structed city de­part­ments to clear within six months the back­log of some 900 ADUs stuck in the ap­proval pipe­line — a dead­line that will ex­pire at the end of the month. She also man­dated that the city speed up the re­view of new re­quests to build ADUs.

On top of mak­ing it eas­ier to get an ADU built, Breed’s pro­posed or­di­nance would also make them less ex­pen­sive. City of­fi­cials said the build­ing in­spec­tion per­mit fees for ADUs range from $7,000 to $10,000, on av­er­age.

The Depart­ment of Build­ing In­spec­tion col­lected nearly $1.4 mil­lion in per­mit fees from 100 per­cent af­ford­able hous­ing projects in the last fis­cal year and just over $568,000 from ADUs.

Jes­sica Chris­tian / The Chron­i­cle 2018

Mayor London Breed speaks at the Septem­ber grand open­ing of the 990 Pa­cific Ave. de­vel­op­ment in Chi­na­town.

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