SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — San Francisco has the longest timelines in California for anyone who attempts to build new housing, according to a report recently released by the state.
It takes an average of 523 days for a San Francisco housing project to be entitled, compared to 385 days in the second-slowest city in the state, the report, titled “San Francisco Housing Policy and Practice Review 2023,” found.
It also takes an average of 605 days for San Francisco to issue a building permit to an already-entitled housing project, the report found.
“San Francisco has perfected the art of avoiding obligations under state housing laws by
maneuvering around them through local rules that exploit loopholes and frustrate the intent of state housing laws,” the report released by the California Department of Housing
and Community Development states.
Researchers analyzed data compiled by the city and University of California Berkeley, as well as interviewed stakeholders. They found San Francisco’s local zoning and planning requirements create hurdles that require more than two years to jump over.
California’s Statewide Housing Plan requires cities to build 2.5 million new homes statewide, including 1 million affordable homes for lower-income residents, by 2031.
The report writes, “Every city and county must do its fair share to ensure that residents at all income levels have a home they can afford. Yet San Francisco stands out for several reasons. San Francisco is experiencing median rents that exceed $3,500 a month and has the highest construction costs in the state. San Francisco is an outlier on housing approvals, in part because of how it applies a blanket discretionary review process to all building permits. San Francisco’s housing approval processes are also notoriously complex and cumbersome, creating unpredictability and uncertainty.”
In order to meet its housing needs and requirements imposed by the state, San Francisco must add 10,259 new units of housing every year through 2031. But during the first six months of 2023, the city permitted just 179 new housing units — a rate of just one new home per day.
Within the past five years, only 4,076 homes were constructed in San Francisco, according to the report.
“Not In My Backyard,” also known as “NIMBY,” power plays over planning and zoning decisions stretch far back in the city’s history, the report states.
“Past planning and zoning practices created major inequities across San Francisco in terms of which neighborhoods would host the majority of the city’s housing density and affordability. Affluent NIMBYs can, and do, weaponize these process requirements to block housing,” the report wrote. “The consequence is that San Francisco underproduces housing citywide and concentrates nearly all production in the same neighborhoods.”
Planners told researchers that they felt fearful and overwhelmed while processing applications for housing developments, due to both the complexities of San Francisco’s local Planning Code and the threat of public scrutiny amplified at public hearings.
Development stakeholders unanimously agreed that the most significant and “pointless” factor driving up construction costs, was the length of time it took for a project to get through the city permitting and development processes.
The report concluded, “Some stakeholders, including planners, do not have confidence that San Francisco will implement the City’s housing element without substantial state intervention.”
Based off the findings, the report contains a litany of requirements and recommendations from state housing officials. They urged the city to “reverse course,” and move forward, by building housing with efficiency and equality.