A Look at Leno

With the mayoral election in June, many in the real estate industry are busy sizing up the candidates. Supervisors Breed and Kim currently serve in City Hall, so their priorities and recent legislative efforts in the development arena are well known. This week, we take a look at some of candidate Mark Leno’s positions during his lengthy service as an elected official on the Board of Supervisors (1998-2002), in the state Assembly (2002-2008), and in the Senate (2008-2016).

Though Mr. Leno’s legislative efforts are far-reaching – he sponsored bills to raise the minimum wage, promote LGBT rights, and expand tenant protections – our focus here is primarily on issues related to real estate development during Mr. Leno’s tenure as a supervisor. This is not intended to be an endorsement of any particular candidate, or, for that matter, a comprehensive review of Mr. Leno’s position on every development issue that came before him. Instead, we hope this high-level summary of his positions or votes will provide some insight into the values and priorities Mr. Leno would bring to Room 200 if elected.

Increasing Residential Density in Commercial and Manufacturing Districts.

Mr. Leno sponsored legislation to exempt residential units downtown and along the northeastern waterfront (C-3 and C-2 Districts) from FAR limits and to increase residential density limits in the same area and large areas of SoMa, Potrero Hill, and other formerly industrial parts of the City. By some estimates, this would have allowed up to 9,000 new units downtown. Ultimately, the legislation was not passed but was subsumed into area plans for Market-Octavia, Rincon Hill, Transbay, and the Eastern Neighborhoods.

Inclusionary Housing Requirements.

In 2002, then-Supervisor Leno sponsored San Francisco’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, which established a uniform set-aside policy for affordable housing in market-rate developments. Prior to the ordinance, the Planning Commission had the option of mandating affordable housing in residential projects requiring a conditional use, which lead to uneven results for similar projects and uncertainty in the development process. At the time, Mr. Leno’s efforts were hailed as a consensus-oriented approach, with support from SPUR, the SF Housing Action Coalition, along with some developers and affordable housing advocates. More recently, Mr. Leno supported the more divisive Proposition C in 2016, which doubled inclusionary housing requirements for most residential developments. Mr. Leno also supported Assemblymember Ting’s failed AB 915, which would have extended inclusionary requirements to bonus units under the state density bonus law. This would have effectively increased inclusionary requirements for density bonus projects.

Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure.

As a Supervisor, Mr. Leno advocated the tear-down of the Central Freeway in a series of competing ballot initiatives over a years-long period in the late 1990s. Leno also introduced the resolution to establish bike lanes on Valencia Street, which served as a model for the subsequent expansion of San Francisco’s bike network. Mr. Leno also passed legislation mandating bike parking in new commercial buildings and was an early supporter of City Car Share.

Notification Requirements for Neighborhood Commercial Districts.

Mr. Leno sponsored legislation that expanded public notice requirements for new construction, expansions to buildings, and changes of use in Neighborhood Commercial Districts. The upshot of this legislation was to put a 30-day hold on permits prior to Planning approval and expand opportunities for members of the public to appeal permits to the Planning Commission for discretionary review.

Limits on Office Development.

In 2000, San Francisco faced a situation similar to today: the amount of office space proposed exceeded what was likely to be available under its annual office cap. Competing ballot measures were proposed. Proposition K was sponsored by developers and would have loosened controls on office development by exempting certain areas from the cap, notably Mission Bay, the Port, the Presidio, and the Bayview Hunters Point Shipyard. It would have also increased impact fees and established a temporary moratorium on large office developments in the Mission and Potrero Hill. Proposition L was championed by slow-growth advocates and was supported by then Supervisor Leno. It would have exempted from the office cap a subset of the areas exempted under Proposition K, extended the moratorium on new offices to cover much of South of Market in addition to the Mission and Potrero Hill, and provided CEQA protections for industrial uses. Ultimately, both measures failed.


Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP  Attorney, Daniel Frattin

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full-service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development, and entitlement law. We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision, and condominium work.