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Proposed height increases in the Fisherman's Wharf and Aquatic Park area.

Why is this Happening in San Francisco?

"London School of Economics and UCLA Professor Michael Storper cautions that the idea that blanket upzoning will cause affordability to trickle down is a flawed premise that will lead to bad urbanism
that we will live to regret.”
read more

Our State legislators have mandated the construction of 82,069 new housing units in San Francisco by 2031, including approximately 46,000 designated as affordable. Failure to meet these quotas exposes San Francisco to the "Builder's Remedy" penalty – a suspension of our city’s development standards and zoning laws, granting developers the freedom to build without constraints. What makes this situation even more concerning is that San Francisco faces a unique one-year assessment, unlike other cities that have a more lenient four-year timeframe.


Despite already having 73,934 housing units in the pipeline ( of which 16,396 are affordable), our Mayor and Planning Department has proposed unwarranted and excessive height increases across extensive areas of San Francisco to spur development. It's crucial to note that these heightened structures won't contribute to affordable housing but rather result in luxury high-rises, displacement of tenants, and businesses, and gentrification of our neighborhoods.

The construction of 82,069 new units will result in significant challenges as there are no plans for the necessary infrastructure, police, fire, parks, schools, and transit to accommodate this influx. Residents and tenants will end up footing the bill.  This approach amounts to nothing more than a land grab and a giveaway to developers while sacrificing existing communities. San Francisco requires targeted efforts for affordable housing, involving specific site selection, funding strategies, and construction approaches, rather than a broad-brush upzoning method with uncertain outcomes. This approach relies on the false premise of supply and demand in a commodified and controlled environment that will only produce higher median prices and further contribute to the affordability shortage, the actual crisis we have today.

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Upzoning Debate

"The mantra today is that red tape is holding up the development of housing and increasing our homelessness. The narrative you hear in the mainstream media is that if we remove all zoning and red tape, the market will meet the housing demand. We argue that the market has demonstrated a long track record of neglecting to build housing truly affordable to most of our population. Instead, reliance on the market has and will continue to make our affordability crisis worse." - ​read more


The upzoning debate in San Francisco is far from settled. Navigating its complexities requires a nuanced approach that balances the need for new housing with the need to protect communities and their existing character. All points of view deserve a seat at the table, but voices must be balanced with other perspectives to ensure that any upzoning plans truly address the city's housing crisis, not simply create new boons for profiteers.

Proponents argue that upzoning addresses housing demand, making it more accessible. However, critics believe the upzoning proposals are based on unattainable mandates from the State that relied on flawed and outdated assumptions and set San Francisco up for failure.  The State's formulas and the City's response do not account for the current post-pandemic reality and fail to recognize the existing shortage of affordable housing, not luxury condos.  Critics emphasize that the most affordable housing is the existing housing stock, challenging the necessity of Planning's overzealous upzoning proposals.  If any level of upzoning is considered, critics advocate for a cautious approach, emphasizing the need for careful regulation and community involvement in the decision-making process.

Consequences of Upzoning:
  1. Luxury-Only Construction: Increased density may lead to luxury condo projects, exacerbating gentrification and displacing existing residents.

  2. Speculation and Profiteering: Upzoning may increase property values, attracting speculative investors and inflating the housing market, hindering affordability.

  3. Community Character Concerns: Residents worry about strained infrastructure, changes to neighborhood character, and lack of community involvement in denser development.


Mitigating Strategies:
  1. Inclusionary Zoning: Mandating a percentage of affordable units in new developments to ensure broader affordability.

  2. Community Benefits Agreements: Negotiating agreements with developers for community amenities, infrastructure improvements, and job opportunities.

  3. Robust Planning and Oversight: Transparent and democratic planning processes, coupled with strong regulatory frameworks, are vital to ensure upzoning serves the public good, not just developer profits.

Decisions are Based on Flawed and Exaggerated Assumptions

Inflated Housing Estimates:

  • The State's directive to build 2 million homes by 2030 was aimed at the perceived 'housing crisis,' emphasizing the need for affordable housing. However, a report by the Embarcadero Institute raises doubts, asking, 'But what if the math is wrong?'  The state’s approach to determining the housing need must be defensible and reproducible if cities are to be held accountable. Inaccuracies on this scale mask the fact that cities and counties are surpassing the state’s market-rate housing targets, but falling far short in meeting affordable housing targets. The inaccuracies obscure the real problem and the associated solution to the housing crisis—the funding of affordable housing."

    • "Senate Bill 828, co-sponsored by the Bay Area Council and Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener in 2018, has inadvertently doubled the “Regional Housing Needs Assessment” in California.  The use of an incorrect vacancy rate and double counting, inspired by SB-828, caused the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to exaggerate by more than 900,000 the units needed in SoCal, the Bay Area, and the Sacramento area. - read more

  • The existing surplus office space, vacant commercial areas, and over 72,000 entitled but unconstructed projects in San Francisco's pipeline question the necessity of such a drastic upzoning approach. The surge in tall luxury towers, often unoccupied due to high costs or purchased as investments, raises concerns about whether extensive upzoning genuinely addresses housing costs or primarily serves as an opportunity for developers to profit and alter the cityscape irreversibly.

Exaggerated RHNA figures:

  • The exaggerated premise of 2 million housing units sets the stage for flawed Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) figures, particularly the allocation of approximately 82,000 units for San Francisco by 2031.

  • The California State Auditor's evaluation of the Department of Housing and Community Development's RHNA process reveals inadequacies, emphasizing that "HCD does not ensure that its needs assessments are accurate and adequately supported."

  • San Francisco's inflated RHNA lacks consideration for economic and post-pandemic factors, raising concerns about transparency and the potential misuse of the "Builder's Remedy" without achieving public input.  An audit is urged to scrutinize the RHNA goal and assess the city's infrastructure readiness for such extensive and ineffectual transformation.

  • VIDEO: The Housing Supply Crisis: The State's False Narrative that Supports Investor Profits.

    • RHNA appears to be only tangentially relevant to the affordability problem being used as its justification​

    • RHNA process lacks a standardized framework, which enables opportunistic manipulation in the mandate-setting process

    • RHNA mandates are based on a concept of "need" that is neither demographic nor economic, allowing significant discretion

      • Projected Meed: Household projections based on interpretations of state population projections with a heavy historical (growth) bias​

      • Existing Need: Estimated accrued housing shortage in the current population based on an ad hoc combination of vacancy rates, overcrowding, and cost-burdening

    • RHNA's Affordable Housing mandates are unfunded despite being the core justification for RHNA; require "inclusionary" development

    • Inclusionary strategy results in overwhelming (and undisclosed) market rate construction: RHNA is a market rate machine.

    • RHNA is economically untethered: Assumes construction continues in declining price environments

    • Process has been captured by special interests and is inaccessible to the public ... by design

  • Summary: As implemented RHNA (1) incentivizes excessive opportunistic and undisclosed Market Rate development, (2) especially in high-value areas ("well-resourced"), which (3) creates high risk to community finances and environmental resources, (4) without materially impacting the affordability objectives that have been used as its justification.

  • Who decided the RHNA numbers?  Article: The State Housing secrecy just keeps getting worse and worse: crucial planning decisions are made behind closed doors, with Yimby stakeholders—and the public can't even get the basic records.

Unequal Audit Standards: While all cities are mandated to undergo Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) audits midway through the 8-year Housing Element cycle, a last-minute amendment by Senator Wiener, punitively exempts San Francisco. This exception singles out San Francisco for an early audit after just one year, raising concerns. A potential failure to meet affordable target goals in this audit triggers the Builder's Remedy – a suspension of our city’s development standards and zoning laws, granting developers the freedom to build without constraints enabling housing projects to proceed even if they do not adhere to local zoning laws.

Luxury Housing as a Piggybank: The City's upzoning plans fall short of ensuring affordable housing for essential workers and families. Instead, they treat neighborhoods as the piggybank, proposing to redirect impact fees from luxury condo projects to developers for affordable housing elsewhere. 

Risking Tourism Reputation & Income Source:

  • Iconic public vistas are integral to San Francisco's history, serving as shared landmarks for residents and tourists alike. The views of Coit Tower from Fisherman's Wharf, the hills from the Golden Gate Bridge, and the water from Pacific Heights contribute significantly to our city's rich history and its appeal as a tourist destination.

  • These panoramas are essential to San Francisco's biggest industry: tourism, making it not only a beautiful place to visit but also a vibrant community for residents. The proposed upzoning plans overlook the unique history and contribution to the state's tourism revenue, risking the desecration of landscapes and the loss of our collective history.

Transit Hub Excuse: Despite claiming an 'intended' 8-story height limit on streets such as Lombard, the plan designates certain intersections such as Divisadero and Fillmore for 14-story buildings, citing them as 'transit hubs.' This raises questions, especially considering that multi-million dollar luxury condo owners are unlikely to rely on Muni, even if it's conveniently located outside their door.

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Upzoning is NOT the Answer

Upzoning not only undermines affordability incentives like the State Density Bonus (SDB) but also overlooks critical infrastructure upgrades for an anticipated surge in population (82,000 units equating to approximately 200,000 new residents, a 25% increase). Unaddressed traffic and parking issues compound the problem. The intended goal of diverse housing options falters as luxury condos dominate, impacting property values and creating a disruptive corridor through neighborhoods. Removing the resident's voice exacerbates these issues, with no notifications for proposed projects using SDB and no avenue to express concerns. 

Contrary to the argument for extensive upzoning, the current zoning regulations appear sufficient. If the intended height limit is 8 stories, that is nearly achieved with the current height limit of 4-stories plus the three additional floors allowed with the State Density Bonus (SDB) that mandates 10-15% affordable units. However, the proposed upzoning may eliminate the incentive for developers to include affordable units, undermining the city's goal of achieving 44,000 affordable housing units. Gain insights from this brief video by an Oakland State Assembly candidate who resonates with our concerns.

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