More on Housing

City policy-makers have been busy addressing the City housing issues, and this week we discuss recent developments in two areas of housing policy:  affordable housing and accessory dwelling units.

Affordable Housing

In previous updates, we have reported on legislation proposed by members of the Board of Supervisors that amends the City’s affordable housing requirements.  Two competing measures, one proposed by Supervisors Peskin and Kim, and one proposed by Supervisors Safai, Breed and Tang are now coming into focus and being considered by the Planning Commission.  Following an informational presentation at the Planning Commission on March 16, 2017, the Planning Commission is now scheduled to consider the measures again and adopt a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors this Thursday, April 27.

Planning Department staff has released its recommendations to the Planning Commission concerning the two proposals, which recommendations largely support the Safai proposal.  Of particular note is the recommendation discussed below concerning the grandfathering of existing projects.

In general, Planning Department staff recommends that the Planning Commission support the following:

  • Providing affordable units on-site: Adopting Safai proposal (18% for rental projects; 20% for ownership projects)
  • Providing affordable units off-site/in-lieu fee alternatives: Adopting Safai proposal (23% for rental; 28% for ownership)
  • Schedule of annual increases: Amending legislation to require rate increases of 1% every 2 years, until a maximum requirement is met (on-site: 23%/25% rental/owner; off-site or fee: 28%/33% rental/owner)
  • Applicability of affordability requirements: Requirements to be set at time of Environmental Application filing, but reset to current rates if a project has not received its first construction document within 3 years of entitlement.
  • In-lieu fee: Adopt Safai proposal to: (1) revise method of calculation to apply the fee on a per gross square foot basis; (2) calculate fee to match actual costs to City to construct affordable units.
  • Income levels of qualifying households for affordable units: Adopt Safai proposal with modifications:

Smaller Projects (10-24 units):
Rental: 80% Area Median Income (“AMI”)
Owner: 110% AMI

Larger Projects (25+ units):
Rental: tiers at 55, 80,and 110% AMI
Owner: tiers at 90, 110, and 140% AMI

  • Unit mix: Set unit mix requirements that would not exceed 40% total large unit requirement already in place in Plan Areas; require a mix of 2- and 3-bedroom units.
  • Grandfathering: Adopt Safai proposal to retain grandfathering for projects that provide affordable units on-site, but eliminate it for projects that choose to pay the in-lieu fee, provide affordable units off-site, or are located in the UMU (Urban Mixed-Use) Zoning District.  For most in-lieu fee/off-site pipeline projects, this would result in applying the proposed 23%/28% requirements. However, higher rates applicable under Section 419 for projects in the UMU District would continue to apply. The Department also recommends that final legislation include an express statement that grandfathering, where applicable, applies only to percentage requirements, and all other Section 415 provisions would continue to apply to pipeline projects.

Accessory Dwelling Units
This week the Board of Supervisors approved the first reading of an ordinance bringing the requirements for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in single-family homes into conformity with new mandates of state law. Under the proposed legislation, the Planning Department must approve an ADU if it, among other technical requirements: (1) is contained within the existing space of a single-family residence or accessory structure that is in an RH-1, RH-1(S), or multifamily residential zone; (2) does not require a waiver of rear yard, open space or dwelling unit exposure requirements; (3) has independent exterior access from the existing residence; and (4) has side and rear setbacks sufficient for fire safety.

The Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors are considering additional changes to existing ADU controls that have been proposed by Supervisors Farrell and Sheehy. We will monitor and report on these amendments as they are further developed.


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.