San Francisco

San Francisco Supervisors’ Affordable Housing Plan Seeks to Alter City’s Height, Density Restrictions

It’s an all-too familiar story in the Bay Area: low-income residents losing their homes to rising rents.

In response, San Francisco supervisors Aaron Peskin and Eric Mar are floating a proposal that would give developers extra incentive to build affordable houses. If approved, they could increase the height of their buildings and add more units. In exchange, they would have to agree to keep all their existing tenants.

Affordable housing is priced below market rate, but how much below is the big question. Supporters of this proposal held a rally Tuesday morning on the steps of San Francisco City Hall.

“Yes, build! Yes, build in our neighborhoods – there are lots that are wasted that could be affordable housing,” said Sarah Sherburn-Zimmer, the director of the Housing Rights Committee.

The city has identified 240 so-called soft sites that are underdeveloped. Among them is a parking lot along the Embarcadero and a corner lot at Fell Street and Masonic Avenue.

The plan is to lift height and density restrictions, allowing an extra two floors of apartments, if developers are willing to earmark 100 percent of the new housing stock as affordable housing.

Based on this proposal, affordability would depend on each neighborhood. Eileen Ho, a restaurant manager at Pier 39, said deemed affordable housing in the North Beach a myth.

“A lot of folks that work out here would love to live here, but they just can’t afford it,” said Ho, who commutes every day from her home in San Jose.

Pilot Joel Hepokoski says it would be reasonable for developers to charge $2,000 a month. He also said he is in favor of increased density and taller building because “it’s a crisis that people who don’t make as much money have to move out of the city.”

Peskin and Mar introduced the legislation at Tuesday’s county supervisors meeting, but the issue is not nearing a vote. It will first be diverted to the Planning Commission and won’t be up for a vote for several months. Undeterred, Peskin says that’s plenty of time to build a base of support for the proposal.

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