Bill To Promote Housing Near Transit Amended To Address Local Concerns

A state bill to allow mid-rise, denser development near transit corridors was amended by its sponsors yesterday to address concerns raised by local planning agencies.

State Senator and former District 8 Supervisor Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) issued his first round of amendments to SB 827 to clarify that local inclusionary housing requirements would still stand and that tenant protection provisions, such as the right to return, should be upheld.

Proponents say SB 827 would create incentives for residential developments near transit stops along "high-frequency corridors." Along with Weiner, Senators Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) and Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) are co-authors of the bill, which is sponsored by California YIMBY.

The bonus would allow developments to exceed local height and density limits, and remove requirements for a project to include a minimum number of parking spaces.

Under the bill, high frequency routes are defined as corridors that offer service more than once every 15 minutes during peak commute hours.

The proposed bill aims to build on a suite of affordable housing legislation adopted last year focused on streamlining and accelerating housing development statewide.

Yesterday's changes come after SF Planning issued an analysis raising concerns about its initial language. Prior to some of the clarifications proposed today, the bill seemed to invalidate height limitations on up to 96 percent of the city's land parcels.

All of the beige areas are limited at 40 feet in height. | Map via SF Planning

When initially proposed, it seemed as if the bill would affect all land along the high-frequency routes themselves, rather than only the parcels within one-quarter of a mile from transit stops along those routes.

And while the bill's key goals--more housing near public transportation--align with San Francisco's General Plan that calls for focusing growth near transit corridors, city planners were concerned that a blanket zoning standard across all transit corridors could degrade San Francisco's open space, historic preservation, and other neighborhood-specific requirements.

The bill wouldn't limit SF Planning's ability to enforce zoning requirements aimed at protecting an area's cultural, historic, or open space assets, Wiener spokesperson Jeff Cretan told us. SB 827 "only prevents them from denying a project based only on height, density, or lack of parking," he added.

Under the proposed bill, any proposal for a mid-rise--55'-85' tall-- residential development in a transit corridor should be approved if it meets the city's other requirements for that zoning area, even if its exceeds the density limitations and does not meet the minimum parking requirements.

The bill would also eliminate any density limitations and minimum parking requirements in the same areas. Any development could still qualify for the state density bonus, which would increase both height and density allowances if on-site affordable housing is included.

SB 827 is unlikely to move forward exactly as proposed, or even as amended yesterday, as most state bills are amended throughout the legislative process.

Weiner said yesterday that he "will continue to work with a broad range of voices to make the bill as good as it can be."

The SF Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to review the most recent version of the legislation at its March 15th hearing.