Oakland Extends Entitlements; SF Adds Flexibility to Affordable Housing Program; New SF Census

Recognizing Economic Climate, Oakland Provides Blanket Entitlement Extensions

Late last month, the Oakland City Council enacted an extension of all non-expired entitlements in the city through December 31, 2012.  The Council’s action extends a previous citywide extension of entitlements in the City that was to expire December 31 of this year.

Councilmembers Brunner and De La Fuente, sponsors of the resolution, cited the continuing weak housing and credit market in support of the measure.  The councilmembers acknowledged that, faced with the prospect of re-entitling a project, builders may instead choose not to develop a property, leaving a dilapidated or underused lot in place.  Ultimately, they recognized that “when an entitled project is built, it results in many benefits for the community and the City,” including new housing, jobs, infrastructure and taxes.
The extension applies to all entitlements granted under the Planning Code as well as creek protection permits.  Take note, however, that existing entitlements are not automatically extended.  A project sponsor must submit a request with the City and pay an administrative extension fee of $450.97.  The extension will not apply to properties that have been issued a citation pursuant to the City’s blighted property ordinance.
This is one area where San Francisco could follow Oakland’s lead.  The San Francisco Planning Commission has heard a number of entitlement extensions since the economic downturn in 2008 – some projects having requested an extension several times now.

San Francisco Planning Commission Adds Flexibility to Affordable Housing Requirements

The San Francisco Planning Commission is also to be commended this week for making a common-sense policy change to its affordable housing program.  Last night, the Commission approved a resolution that delegates to the zoning administrator the authority to administratively approve a project sponsor’s request to change the way they comply with the affordable housing program.  This removes the costly and timely step of having to go to a public hearing before the Planning Commission for such a move.
Last year, the Board of Supervisors amended the affordable housing program to comply with the recent Palmer decision.  Among other things, it gave a project sponsor of a residential project who has elected to provide below-market rate units on- or off-site the ability to instead pay the affordable housing fee up to the date that building or site permit addendum is pulled without obtaining Planning Commission approval.  In an effort to encourage on-site below-market rate units to be built, the policy adopted last night would allow a project sponsor who has chosen to pay the affordable housing fee the ability to build for-sale below-market rate units on-site instead, without Planning Commission approval.  The zoning administrator can approve this move administratively, which would be subject to appeal to the Board of Appeals.  Project sponsors would have this option all the way up to the first building permit or site permit addendum being pulled.
In addition, project sponsors of residential projects that were entitled prior to January 24 of this year (the date the affordable housing program amendments went into effect) did not have the option of paying the affordable housing fee after they had elected to provide on- or off-site below-market rate units.  The policy would also allow projects entitled prior to January 24 to switch from providing on- or off-site units to paying the affordable housing fee.
This policy shift will provide more flexibility to project sponsors and will avoid spending unnecessary time on a Planning Commission hearing for a relatively modest change to a project.  And the Planning Commission could use the break – they didn’t conclude their meeting until 10 p.m. last night – after starting in closed session at 10:30 a.m!

Updated Census Numbers Confirm Housing Growth in Districts 6, 10 and 11

The Planning Department has crunched the latest 2010 Census numbers and are now able to provide information on population growth in the city by supervisorial district.  As expected, District 6, consisting of South of Market and Mission Bay, was the fastest growing district over the past decade, adding 24,590 people.  Districts 10 and 11, covering the Bayview, Potrero Hill, Visitacion Valley, Excelsior, and other neighborhoods grew the next fastest, with roughly 5,400 new residents each.  The greatest population loss occurred in District 9, consisting of Bernal Heights and parts of the Mission and the Excelsior.  It shrank by 5,370 people.
All of this data will pave the way for redistricting the supervisorial districts next year.  Earlier this month, Mayor Lee appointed the final members of the nine-person resdistricting task force.  The group must present its redistricting plan by April of 2012.

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, 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.
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