Planning Department Reviews 30-year Regional Jobs-Housing Trends

Last Thursday, Department staff provided the Planning Commission with an informational update on the City’s jobs-housing balance, providing quantitative data to assist policymakers as they consider the practical impacts of their weekly decision-making on local housing accessibility, economic growth, and transportation infrastructure.

The presentation was the second in an ongoing series intended to brief the Commission on the Department’s data-gathering and research efforts to “unearth and examine how the City’s job, housing, and transportation framework has evolved over the past thirty years,” since the adoption of the Downtown Plan and Proposition M in the 1980s.

Thursday’s discussion was replete with dense statistics and detailed tables, charts and graphics, containing few surprises for those who have been watching to City housing or jobs trends in recent years.  The following are a few of the key takeaways.

San Francisco is producing housing at a rate that meets its goals from the 1980s and is on track to at least slightly lower its jobs-housing ratio by the year 2040 (projecting 1.60 jobs per housing unit in 2040, as compared to 1.73 jobs per unit now).  Over the past 30 years, we’ve exceeded the modest housing production objectives set in the Downtown Plan, with more than 2/3rds of all housing built since 1985 located in downtown and immediately adjacent areas.

However, both the local population and job base have grown at a faster rate than housing production.   Since 1980, the City’s residential population and job base have grown steadily (+27% and +32% respectively) – a much faster rate than the increase in housing (+17%).

San Francisco housing is also increasingly occupied by higher-wage earners.   The percentage of San Francisco workers in all income brackets less than 140% AMI who live in San Francisco has declined since 1990, with the greatest declines at the lowest brackets.  As staff points out, this means that the City’s housing stock “is increasing being occupied by a greater share of its higher wage workforce, and its middle and lower wage workforce is increasingly commuting into the City.”

The Department’s analysis suggests that other Bay Area cities aren’t pulling their weight in regional housing production.  As planner Joshua Switzky explained, San Francisco is the only county in the region that has provided more housing every decade than was provided in the previous decade. Over the past 35 years, every other Bay Area county has provided significantly more job growth than housing units, with San Mateo adding more than three jobs per each added housing unit on average, and Santa Clara County providing approximately 2 new jobs per unit.

And the data-gathering has confirmed some interesting statistics on the total balance of in- and outflow workers in San Francisco.  Over the past three decades, the overall percentage of San Francisco Jobs held by San Francisco residents has been fairly stable at over 50%.  However, San Francisco has seen a slight aggregate net decline in the in-commute into the City from San Mateo, Santa Clara and Marin counties, such that more San Francisco residents are traveling out of the City for work in Santa Clara county than are traveling in.  The Department attributes at least some of this imbalance to lack of housing production in sister cities as compared to their local job growth.

The Jobs-Housing Balance Trends presentation was informational in nature, so no direct action was taken.  Time will tell how the Commission applies this data to their review of future development projects and policies, though some Commissioners expressed concerns that the City’s current jobs-housing ratio reduction goals aren’t sufficient, and urged adoption of a more aggressive strategy.

The Department’s presentation materials and more detailed findings can be found online at Planning Commission – March 2, 2017, Supporting Documents

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, the formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision, and condominium work.