Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers.
Why is this measure needed?

San Francisco faces a severe housing shortage. Thousands of residents have been forced to leave the city and region in search of cheaper housing, and those who stay face soaring rents and home prices. Our supply crisis is particularly devastating to teachers, who have some of the lowest salaries but highest housing costs in California.

The city must immediately remove obstacles to the construction of subsidized affordable and teacher housing to grow our city while remaining a diverse home for low and middle income families.

What does this ballot proposition do?

This measure only affects subsidized affordable housing and teacher housing in San Francisco. It ensures that these housing developments get speedy and fair approval from the city so they can be constructed without costly delays and appeals.

To build an affordable housing project, non-profit developers must purchase land, get permits from the city, receive financing for their project, and then build their building. This can take upwards of five to seven years, and can be delayed further if opponents appeal the project’s city-issued permits.

Our ballot measure addresses that delay. Affordable housing developers will still have to obtain all the permits required from the city and comply with all building code and zoning regulations, but once they do that, they can proceed without worry that they’ll be appealed by opponents and have their development delayed for months or years.

This measure will also ensure that San Francisco builds subsidized affordable and teacher housing in all neighborhoods, especially those that traditionally oppose such housing. Many neighborhoods abuse the permitting process to delay or kill affordable housing, which has helped create the housing shortage we now face.

This fix helps create more homes and assists affordable housing developers to:

  • Spend more time on tenant and community services for those who live in their buildings instead of fighting appeals.
  • Apply for funding sources that have strict timetables. Funds used by affordable housing developers—like cap-and-trade funds, state bonds, and state and federal tax credits—require that a building have its permits before applying for funding. Without delays, affordable developer have flexibility in applying to and receiving such funds.
  • Potentially receive more funds from traditional funding sources. Affordable housing developers turn to banks and other private funding sources when financing their projects. These institutions are risk-averse, so ensuring that there’s no chance a permit gets delayed means they may be more likely to fund a particular affordable housing development.
What does “affordable housing” and “teacher housing” mean in this measure?

The ballot measure follows the city’s definition of both affordable and teacher housing.

Affordable housing, as defined in Planning Code Section 401, is housing that is income-restricted to tenants making up to 80% of area median income for rental units and 120% of area median income for ownership units. In San Francisco, that means a four-person family making up to $92,250 would qualify for a rental unit. The same family could make up to $138,350 for an ownership unit.

Teacher housing is housing built on land owned by the San Francisco Unified School District or Community College District that is initially occupied by at least one employee of either the San Francisco Unified School District or Community College District.

How does this measure differ from State Senator Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 35?

SB35 was passed at the state level in September and applies to all California municipalities. The law ensures a by-right process for housing projects that meet their underlying zoning and are at an income level that has been underproduced in the city in which they’re proposed. For example, a housing project for above moderate-income residents in a city that has produced its state-mandated share of such housing would not be streamlined, but a project for low-income residents in a city that has not produced housing for such residents would be.

In San Francisco, we have underproduced housing at all levels, but particularly housing for low and moderate income earners. Our ballot measure ensures that SB35 is followed for subsidized affordable and teacher housing projects by creating an administrative process for dealing with by-right housing developments, so that city officials have a clear mechanism for streamlining housing.

It would also ensure that, if San Francisco approves more affordable housing than required by the state, affordable housing projects would still be streamlined, something SB35 does not do.

Our ballot measure also goes further by making sure we automatically grant the variances normally required for affordable housing construction. By streamlining these modifications, we ensure that affordable housing doesn’t get tripped up when it requires these minor tweaks.

Isn’t affordable and teacher housing already streamlined in San Francisco?

No, affordable and teacher housing is not streamlined in San Francisco and is subject to the same process and delays as any other housing development, except that the Planning Director rather than the Planning Commission can approve affordable developments. As noted, SB35 helps speed up affordable housing developments and other laws have also helped speed things along, like a law by then-supervisor Scott Wiener that exempted affordable housing from conditional use requirements.

Our ballot measure, however, goes further by exempting subsidized affordable and teacher housing projects from discretionary review and several other types of appeal, the tools most often used to delay such projects.  

Does the ballot proposition impact environmental impact review and the California Environmental Quality Act?

By mandating ministerial approvals for 100% affordable and teacher housing, CEQA review would be streamlined and replaced by the application of the city’s mandatory environmental mitigation ordinances, such as those that already prohibit shadow, wind, air quality, noise and hazardous soils impacts. Currently, the city creates an individual environmental review document to confirm that affordable developments do not have a significant negative impact on the environment.

Under this ballot measure, developers will still have to confirm that their projects meet the city’s mandatory environmental mitigation requirements, but once those findings are confirmed by the city, they cannot be appealed.

Would this ballot measure change the permits required to build housing?

No, this ballot measure does not change the building permits that affordable housing developers are required to obtain from the city. The measure would only stipulate that once developers obtain their permits, they cannot be appealed and their projects cannot be delayed.

Paid for by Affordable Housing for Teachers and Working Families, sponsored by YIMBY Action.
Major Funding by Jeremy Stoppelman, YIMBY Action, and Alexander Aickin
Financial disclosures are available at sfethics.org.