This Week In San Francisco Land Use – May 20, 2010

Discretionary Review Reform: Take Two

The Planning Department is developing a scaled-back proposal to reform the discretionary review (DR) process, one that does not require approval of the Board of Supervisors. The proposal, outlined in several public meetings held at the Planning Department over the past few weeks, would continue the review of all DR requests by the residential design team. The review would be driven by the DR review checklist approved by the Planning Commission last year. If the residential design team concludes that the project requested for DR is an exceptional or extraordinary circumstances or poses an emerging policy issue, the case will be brought to the Planning Commission, for a full DR hearing. If the project does not rise to this level, a preliminary hearing will be held by the Planning Commission where both the project sponsor and DR requestor will have the opportunity to present their case. A minimum of three commissioners can vote to hold a full DR hearing if they believe the case merits it.

The major distinction between these two tracks is that Planning Department staff will not prepare a full report for what they believe to be unjustifiable DR requests. This would have an immense impact on staff resources, as even simple DR cases can take up as much as 40 hours of staff time to analyze and prepare a report. The proposal was met with intense opposition during the first outreach meeting, which should be expected at the upcoming Planning Commission hearing on the proposal. The proposal, which was scheduled to be heard by the Planning Commission today, is proposed for continuance to June 17. Since it requires no approval from the Board of Supervisors, it would only need to be approved by the Planning Commission to go into effect. The last effort at DR reform was tabled at the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee.

Mayor’s Development Stimulus Package Finally Passes

After a seven-month legislative process, the Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 to pass the development stimulus after its final reading yesterday. Beginning July 1, project sponsors will be able to defer 80 or 85 percent of a project’s development fees until the first certificate of occupancy is issued. If a project is located within one of the city’s area plans (such as Eastern Neighborhoods, Market and Octavia or Balboa Park) 80 percent of fees can be deferred and if located outside these areas 85 percent of fees can be deferred. The remaining 15 or 20 percent is required to be paid at the time the first building or site permit is issued.

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