Mission Housing Ballot Initiative, Expansion of BMR Requirements and Signage Controls

​Mission Housing Ballot Initiative Certified

After the Board of Supervisors rejected a moratorium on new market-rate housing developments in Mission in June 2015, the proponents of such a moratorium proceeded to gather signatures that would qualify a similar ballot initiative for the November ballot.  On Tuesday, the Department of Elections certified that a sufficient number of valid signatures by registered San Francisco voters were submitted with the petition, and thus the ballot initiative has been deemed to have qualified for the November ballot.  If approved by the voters in November, the initiative will impose an 18-month moratorium prohibiting issuance of building permits that seek to demolish, convert or construct a housing project with five (5) or more units, or demolish, convert or eliminate a PDR use, with the exception of projects seeking to construct 100% affordable housing projects.  The language of the moratorium initiative would allow the term to be extended by an additional 12 months by a majority of the Board of Supervisors.  The Mission moratorium would apply in an approximate area south of US 101, west of Potrero Avenue, north of Cesar Chavez Street and east of Guerrero Street.  

Introduction of Mission 2015 Interim Controls by Planning Commission

In addition to the pending ballot initiative, the Planning Commission initiated its own “Mission 2015 Interim Controls” at last week’s hearing.  If adopted, the Interim Controls would require project sponsors for new market-rate housing, retail and office developments to obtain a conditional use authorization during a proposed 6-month period for any project that would result in the loss of more than one (1) rent-controlled dwelling unit, creation of five (5) or more dwelling units, or demolition or conversion of certain community and arts uses.  The Interim Controls would not prohibit market-rate housing projects (with five (5) or more units), however, they would make the approval process more difficult as such projects would need to have a “displacement study” prepared, wherein economic data and analysis on affordable housing impacts that would occur as a result of the project would need to be provided, including an evaluation of whether, and to what extent, the project would affect nearby housing costs, property values, and number of units available to lower-income groups along with an estimate on the likely demographics for the project occupants.  As currently proposed, the Mission 2015 Interim Controls would apply to projects located in an approx. area south of Division Street, east of Potrero Avenue, north of Cesar Chavez Street and west of Mission Street, albeit including properties on both sides of Mission Street.  The Interim Controls would not apply to projects for which a planning, building or environmental application was filed on or before December 31, 2014, or to 100% affordable housing projects. The purpose of the Interim Controls would be to provide time for the City to complete an analysis on affordable housing and PDR needs while imposing additional scrutiny to certain projects during the 6-month period.  An informational hearing on the Mission 2015 Interim Controls will take place before the Planning Commission on July 23, 2015, and consideration of the adoption of the controls will take place on or after August 6, 2015.  

Expansion of BMR Requirements to Group Housing Projects

The Planning Commission recently also approved an amendment to the City’s Inclusionary Affordable Housing Program after a 5-2 vote, which upon approval of the Board of Supervisors would impose the requirements of the said program to group housing projects.  Until now, the inclusionary requirements under the Planning Code have applied only to projects exceeding certain number of “units” (currently set at ten (10) or more units), and thus the requirements have not been applied to group housing projects since group housing is not considered to consist of “units.”  As proposed by the Planning Commission, those bedrooms in group housing projects that contain less than 350 sf would be subject to pricing equal to 75% of the maximum purchase price for studio units.  The Planning Commission forwarded its approval recommendation to the Board of Supervisors and in order for the amendments to become effective, the Board of Supervisors will need to adopt the proposed ordinance.  On Monday, the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee amended the measure and continued it to July 20, on a 3-0 vote (including Supervisor Wiener), which means it is likely it will ultimately pass the full Board.  

Introduction of Interim Signage Controls for Transit Center District Plan Area

Last week Supervisor Jane Kim introduced interim zoning controls for the Transit Center District Plan area which, if approved, would 1) restrict new signs that are located within 200 feet of, and visible from, an existing or planned public park or open space so that such signage could not exceed 50 sf in size and could not be located higher than 35-ft height, and 2) require any illumination for new signs between 30-100 ft in height to provide only indirect illumination or halo-style lighting, to be dimmable, and to be turned off between 9 pm and 6 am.  The Interim Signage Controls would apply to the Transit Center District Plan area (i.e. an approx. area south of Market Street, west of Steuart Street, north of Folsom Street and east of New Montgomery and Third Street), and in an area bounded by Folsom, Harrison, Essex and Second Streets, but excluding projects located within the so-called Zone 1 of the Transbay Redevelopment Plan and in the planned Rooftop Park on top of the Transbay District Center.  The Interim Signage Controls will be heard by the Land Use and Transportation Committee of the Board of Supervisors in all likelihood sometime in September 2015 after the BOS’ August break.

“Unaffordable” Housing Exemption from Dwelling Unit Merger Approval Eliminated in Interim Controls

Earlier this month, legislation proposed by Supervisor Avalos that would require conditional use authorization for all dwelling unit mergers went into effect.  Most importantly, the exemption from Planning Commission approval for mergers of “unaffordable” units (appraised at more than $1.506M) is eliminated during the 18-month period it is in effect.  Permanent controls are expected to be developed during this period, which means this widely-used exemption may be gone for good.

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.