This week the California governor's office issued a report on San Francisco's lagging pace to meet its state mandated housing production goals. The “San Francisco Housing Policy and Practice Review” found, among other things, that it takes an average of 523 days for the city to grant entitlements to a housing developer to building a project. The second slowest average in the state is 385 days. After the entitlement process, a developer still has to wait an average of 605 days for the city to issue a building permit. The second slowest average in the state is 418 days.
San Francisco is way behind pace to meet is goal under the state's Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) to build 82,069 housing units by 2031. That's 10,259 housing units including 5,825 affordable units, each year. The governor's report states that San Francisco will not meet its RHNA goal.
The report found, among other things, that San Francisco's local rules on development review and permit approvals are not in alignment with the state's Housing Accountability Act. The act prohibits city's from disapproving certain housing projects that that meet certain objective criteria.
Changes to the act made earlier this month should push San Francisco and other California cities to approve and build housing units on a more rapid pace. Assembly Bill 1633 (Ting), which was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, on October 11, 2023, prohibits a city from failing to determine that a housing project is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) if it meets certain criteria. Generally speaking, if the project is not in a hazardous or sensitive area but in an urban area near transit, the density of the project meets or exceeds 15 dwelling units per acre, and a CEQA exemption applies without there being substantial evidence that an exception to the exemption knocks it out, a city cannot disapprove it.
This is significant because one of the chief barriers to project applicants is CEQA review, which can lead to studies, public hearings, and appeals that can delay or kill a project where they may never have been any significant effects on the environment.
AB 1633 will go into effect January 1, 2024.
That won't be too soon for San Francisco housing developers or others in the state. According to its legislative findings, AB 1633 stated that “California has accumulated an unmet housing backlog of nearly 2,000,000 units and must provide for at least 180,000 new units annually to keep pace with growth through 2025.”
It's time to get housing projects efficiently through the entitlement and permitting process.