Tell San Francisco Board of Supervisors: Approve Small Infill Housing Projects In Exclusionary Neighborhoods

Supervisor Preston and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors

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We are in the midst of a decades-long housing crisis. We need to be doing everything we can to build more housing. Small infill projects are critical to addressing our shortage. Exclusionary zoning in wealthy neighborhoods mean $5M McMansions are easily approved, but apartment buildings and missing middle housing are delayed and denied.

The Board has decided to indefinitely delay a four-unit project on a vacant plot of land in one of the wealthiest parts of the city. It’s time to say YES to infill projects like this one. When we drive up costs, we drive up prices. Housing delayed is housing denied.

This project has already gone through two years of red tape. It was unanimously approved at the San Francisco Planning Commission after they consulted with the San Francisco Fire Department and several professionals with expertise in architectural design and planning. Yet Supervisor Preston has decided to appeal these four units to the entire Board of Supervisors. Why did he make time to appeal this decision in the middle of a pandemic in a housing shortage? Well, it’s been two months since that decision, yet no date has been set for the appeal.

Unfortunately, long delays are a hallmark of San Francisco land use policy. The average housing project takes almost 6.5 years to be built, but oftentimes projects take much, much longer. A similar project on York St. took 41 years (that is not a typo) to get approved. The child who could have grown up in that York St. project could be raising the next generation of San Franciscans today. Every time we subject housing to these indefensible delays, we’re shutting another family out of the city. People don’t live in permit applications or conditional use hearings. People live in homes that are actually built.

Small infill projects like this are exactly what we need in the midst of a housing crisis and an economic downturn. These four homes aren’t luxury units in a gleaming skyscraper. They’re modest bungalows with no parking and no views. When they’re built, they’ll be some of the most affordable homes in the neighborhood. This project will add badly needed construction jobs and will contribute to the city budget in taxes and impact fees. The site is a vacant lot, there’s no risk of displacement. It’s mere blocks from great transit, schools, and parks. We should be making it easier to build housing like this, not delaying them arbitrarily for months or years.

But just like every other project proposed in the city, a small group of wealthy homeowners are using their money and connections to say no to housing. They’re using the same not-in-my-back-yard arguments that we hear for every project. Whether it’s concern about noise, or parking, or shadows on their garden, the message is clear: ‘We don’t want housing in our neighborhood. Sorry but we’re full.’ The project architect has put together a detailed FAQ sheet addressing these complaints, which you can read HERE. But it is unacceptable that a city as supposedly progressive as San Francisco makes it this hard to build housing on a vacant lot in one of its wealthiest neighborhoods. We cannot keep pushing development into minority communities like SOMA and the Mission, or nuclear waste sites like Hunters Point, while banning construction on the westside. The homes surrounding this vacant lot are valued between $1.5M to $5M dollars. This is exactly where we should be building more.



Our planning process takes years to approve any housing. With only a few hundred dollars, any NIMBY can delay a project by months and months. Our excuse for all this? We want to make sure that every voice is heard before making a decision. But there’s a voice we never hear from. The family of four who could live in one of the 3-bedroom homes, whose kids get to walk to Raoul Wallenberg High School, are shut out of this process. The elderly couple who could move into one of the 2-bedroom homes so that they can have a ground floor bedroom and room for visiting family or a caretaker and go for walks in Golden Gate Park, are shut out of this process. The young doctor who can finally afford to get a place to move into with her partner, where she can walk to work at St. Mary’s and her husband can finish his degree at USF, are shut out of this process.

As a San Francisco Supervisor, it is your responsibility to fix our housing crisis. Dismiss this unconscionable appeal. Stop prioritizing the concerns of wealthy homeowners and think about the families that could have access to good, stable housing in this great city. Spend less time arguing over 4 small units of housing and more time getting the stalled subsidized affordable housing developments in District 5 built. There is no excuse for not building more homes in San Francisco. San Francisco is not full.


Petition by
Theo Gordon
San Francisco, California
Sponsored by
14311353_1759091247675233_1275985991679395941_o
San Francisco, CA

To: Supervisor Preston and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors
From: [Your Name]

We are in the midst of a decades-long housing crisis. We need to be doing everything we can to build more housing. Small infill projects are critical to addressing our shortage. Exclusionary zoning in wealthy neighborhoods mean $5M McMansions are easily approved, but apartment buildings and missing middle housing are delayed and denied.

We ask the Board to immediately approve the four-unit project at 1846 Grove St. It’s time to say YES to infill projects like this one. When we drive up costs, we drive up prices. Housing delayed is housing denied.

As a San Francisco Supervisor, it is your responsibility to fix our housing crisis. Dismiss this unconscionable appeal. Stop prioritizing the concerns of wealthy homeowners and think about the families that could have access to good, stable housing in this great city. Spend less time arguing over 4 small units of housing and more time getting the stalled subsidized affordable housing developments in District 5 built. There is no excuse for not building more homes in San Francisco. San Francisco is not full.