Update: Unfortunately, Proposition D in San Francisco did not pass, a blow to streamlining affordable housing development in the city.
Greenbelt Alliance encouraged San Francisco residents to vote yes on Proposition D. Sponsored by organized labor (the Northern California Carpenters Union), nonprofit affordable housing developers (Habitat for Humanity), public policy experts (SPUR), and environmental advocates (including Greenbelt Alliance!), Proposition D, also known as the Affordable Homes Now initiative, would have streamlined San Francisco’s approval process for dense infill housing, making new affordable homes quicker and easier to build for the thousands of low and middle income San Franciscans who desperately need them.
Why We Supported Proposition D
Proposition D would have streamlined the process for certain types of new housing projects in San Francisco, granting them an expedited approval timeframe of 3-6 months, exempting them from CEQA review, and shielding them from any related litigation attempts.
Among the types of projects granted expedited review under Proposition D were 100% affordable projects, mixed-income projects, and housing projects for teachers and educators. For a mixed-income project to qualify, it must include 15% more affordable homes than currently required by city law. For 100% affordable projects to qualify, their affordability level must not exceed 140% of the area median income.
In addition to affordability requirements, the measure incorporated strong labor provisions to ensure that those working to build these new homes will also be able to be part of the communities that they create. This included requiring contractors to pay prevailing wages, create apprenticeship programs, and provide healthcare to the families of construction workers.
Why It’s Needed
San Francisco has a dire shortage of homes available to lower and middle-income families and residents, leading to some of the highest housing prices in the nation. New housing projects in San Francisco (including 100% affordable housing projects) are currently subject to discretionary review, meaning that anyone who doesn’t like the project for any reason whatsoever can delay it by filing an appeal with the planning department. This creates a long, arduous, unpredictable process that slows and stymies the construction of badly needed new homes. It also dramatically increases the cost to build and has severely impacted housing production in the city to the detriment of those most in need.
Who Will Benefit
The primary beneficiaries of Proposition D would have been low and middle-income residents of San Francisco, far too many of whom are cost-burdened by exorbitant rents and housing prices due to a severe supply shortage. The measure would have benefited everyone from teachers to janitors, MUNI drivers to nurses and firefighters, all by making it faster and simpler to build new homes, allowing new neighbors to move in and existing residents to remain in the communities they love. And it’s not just San Franciscans who could have benefited: by building more affordable housing and allowing more people to live in our urban cores, we lower transportation emissions, a key factor in fighting climate change that benefits the entire Bay Area region.
Greenbelt Alliance was proud to sponsor this effort, in large part because we recognize that our housing and climate crises are deeply entwined. While our cities may be governed separately, they do not exist in a vacuum; we live and work regionally, and when dense infill housing goes unbuilt in urban areas, demand gets pushed to outlying exurbs, resulting in grueling super commutes and the extreme production of greenhouse gas emissions that harm us all. To remedy this situation, serious reform is needed.
Photo: Affordable Homes Now Initiative