“S.F. Mayor Ed Lee Proposes Deal to Spur More Low-Cost Housing”
Neighborhoods across the west side of San Francisco could see thousands of new housing units under a measure Mayor Ed Lee is proposing that would allow builders to exceed current height restrictions in exchange for including more affordable units.
The affordable housing bonus program, which will be introduced at the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, would allow an extra two stories of height on projects that include 30 percent affordable units and an extra three stories on 100 percent affordable developments.
Unlike state and federal affordable housing programs, the measure is primarily directed at encouraging builders to provide units for middle-income families rather than low-income. It calls for 18 percent of the units to be affordable to families making between 120 and 140 percent of area median income, which is $122,000 to $142,000 for a family of four. The remaining 12 percent would cater to low- to moderate-income people.
Whereas San Francisco’s recent developments have transformed neighborhoods that have been up-zoned — places like SoMa, Rincon Hill, Mission Bay, Upper Market and Dogpatch — the density bonus would apply to transit corridors that have not been rezoned. These include main thoroughfares such as Noriega Street, Taraval Street, Geary Boulevard, Irving Street, Ocean Avenue, Balboa Street and Fulton Street. It also could include areas such as outer Mission Street in the Excelsior and San Bruno Avenue in the Portola district.
Lee said that while the city has been “successful in delivering significant amounts of affordable housing through large-scale, high-rise development” in places like the Transbay Transit District, “we need to do more.”
“With this new program, smart, sensible and well-designed infill development can also contribute, by adding thousands of permanently affordable homes throughout the city,” he said.
Lee has pledged to create 10,000 new permanently affordable housing units by 2020, a goal that is heavily tied to San Francisco voters passing a $310 million affordable-housing bond this November. Those units come with resale restrictions that keep them permanently affordable.
The measure is a local spin on a state density bonus law, on the books for decades but widely ignored until a 2013 Napa County lawsuit. The new measure would bring San Francisco into compliance with the state law while addressing issues unique to high-cost cities like San Francisco, said Planning Director John Rahaim. “The State Density Bonus Law does not fully meet the needs specific to San Francisco and does not incentivize middle-income housing,” he said.
An analysis of properties the measure could impact found 240 “soft sites” — underutilized parcels that are large enough to accommodate housing development, according to Kearstin Dischinger of the Planning Department. If all 240 soft sites were to be developed — something that is highly unlikely — the program could help generate 16,000 units, about 5,000 of which would be affordable.
“They are pretty evenly distributed throughout the area,” she said. “It’s a nice way to imagine the city growing, as opposed to the concentration of development we are experiencing in SoMa and Mission Bay.”
Already several proposals have come in to the Planning Department that could take advantage of the density bonus, including a 42-unit building at 1021 Quintara St. At 490 S. Van Ness Ave., an affordable-housing site, the density bonus would allow another three stories, bringing a proposed 72-unit building to about 100 units.
Fernando Martí, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, said his group would stay neutral on the measure. Some feel the density bonus should target slightly lower income levels, particularly for the single-person households where an individual making $100,000 — 140 percent of area median income — would qualify for an affordable for-sale unit. That income level is significantly above the $75,000 earned by a teacher with 10 years’ experience, Martí said.
While someone making $100,000 may have trouble finding a home in the current overheated market, “we question if that is the income level we should be developing programs for.”
In addition, Martí said, the up-zoning will increase land values, which ultimately would make it more expensive for nonprofit developers looking to acquire sites for 100 percent affordable projects.
But Jeff Buckley, senior adviser to the mayor on housing, called the density bonus “the centerpiece of our middle-income housing program.”
“This can fill those gaps that we are not comfortable investing public subsidies on,” said Dischinger.
J.K. Dineen is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @sfjkdineen