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Please note that this text contains only Part 2 Objectives, Policies and Implementation Programs of the Housing Element. Draft Part 1: Data and Needs Analysis for 2004  is available separately here.

View table of contents: HOUSING ELEMENT





This second part of the Housing Element sets forth objectives, policies, and implementing programs to address the critical housing needs identified in Part I. In the last decade, San Francisco's population grew while new housing construction failed to keep pace. San Francisco households grew an average 2,400 annually, yet addition to the housing stock averaged just about 1,000 a year. Vacancy rates plummeted and even middle-income householders found themselves paying 50% or more of their income to rents.

The State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), with the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), has estimated that San Francisco needs to build over 2,700 new units a year to meet its share of the region's projected housing demand. As recent production fell short of this annual target, 3,200 new units a year must be built between 2001 and 2006 to meet regional housing goals. At least 40% of these new housing construction should be affordable to low and very low income households, and 32% affordable to households of moderate means.

Objectives and policies are general in nature and serve as the framework for decision making and priority-setting. They address specific needs and are followed by related implementation actions. For these implementation actions to succeed, three major prerequisites must be met:

  • An adequate supply of land must be identified;
  • Regulatory and other impediments must be removed while incentives are identified and provided; and
  • Adequate financing must be available for both private and non-profit housing development.

San Francisco is a mature built-up city with very few large open tracts of land to develop. Still, opportunities for new housing do exist. Scattered across the City are vacant or underused lands suitable for in-fill development. As many as 29,000 new housing units could be built on such parcels under current zoning standards. But high land prices add tremendous costs to housing development. A particularly vocal citizenry can delay or even stop new development. And as housing demand rises, so do housing costs.

Despite this, San Francisco continues to be a highly desirable place to live. It is a traditional employment hub and most workers who live in San Francisco can reduce commute distances and use the city's extensive transit network. Schools, services, institutions and cultural opportunities enrich San Francisco's neighborhoods. Residents value the City's unique combination of natural setting, built environment, and cultural diversity. New residents will continue to be attracted to San Francisco's new and established neighborhoods. City policy makers must determine how to comfortably accommodate the present and future population, keeping it diverse with varying incomes, household size, and composition. Policy makers must also preserve values that San Francisco residents cherish. There must be opportunities for families, children, seniors, and people of different cultural backgrounds to contribute to the unique blend that is San Francisco.

Addressing Housing Needs

Current and future residents of limited means are likely to need assistance to continue to live in San Francisco. Many future San Francisco workers will be earning below 80% of the area's median income. Sales clerks and secretaries, as well as technical professionals and bank executives, must be able to live here. The City must also house the additional firefighters, policemen, teachers, and health, recreation and primary care providers needed to support the City's growing population. Even construction workers who will be building the new houses will need housing they can afford.

The high cost of being a San Francisco resident has already become evident in who now lives here. While service workers make up 44% of the City's workforce, only 14% of residents are employed as service workers. Unless housing is available for local service workers and their families, these trends will continue. Upper income (market rate) housing makes up most of the housing produced in the last 10 years and in the last several years has even exceeded projected needs for this market segment. Federal and state subsidies have provided some funds to build housing affordable to very-low and low-income householders, but moderate-income householders have found themselves in a tight squeeze for housing they can afford.

The average San Francisco household size, which has grown steadily smaller following the War, increased in the 1990s as housing costs rose and forced shared rentals among non-relatives. Family households, which now make up less than half of all San Francisco households, are dramatically under-served by new market rate housing that seldom provides more than two-bedroom units. The proportion of children in the City sank from 25% to less than 15% from 1990 to 2000. Steps must be taken to encourage units suitable for families in neighborhoods with schools, libraries, parks and other services. San Francisco will need to aggressively produce affordable housing to avoid becoming a city where only the rich live or a city with few children.

Increasing the City's housing supply and preserving existing neighborhood character are not mutually exclusive goals. The Planning Department's aim is to plan for growth to enhance the best qualities of San Francisco, strengthen the character of existing neighborhoods, and create new ones. Planning efforts must respond to human needs, ensuring that new development contributes to creating a more livable city. In-fill development should be encouraged in established residential neighborhoods where supporting infrastructure and community services already exists. New neighborhoods planned in redevelopment areas such as Mission Bay and the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard will provide housing in a variety of unit sizes, at both market and affordable rates. Neighborhood services, as well as community facilities, will also be provided.

Neighborhood commercial corridors also provide opportunities for additional upper residential stories to be built above ground level retail. These areas are along transit lines and offer greater possibilities for linking housing, employment, and transportation. Reduced residential parking requirements in these transit intensive areas could be an added incentive to build housing above commercial uses. Denser construction, where it is already allowed, can also significantly boost housing counts and add vitality to street life as well. Sites near downtown and along transit corridors show the most promise for such development.

However, much of the new housing built in the last decade was produced on less-expensive industrial land in the City's eastern portion, displacing some needed services and threatening the vitality of the City's diverse economy. Frequently this development was unconnected to the amenities typically expected and provided in established residential areas, amenities that contribute to the viability and livability of thriving residential neighborhoods. Continuing this trend without clear policies and rules that balance the optimizing of land uses while preserving and enhancing neighborhood character could result in the loss of crucial support services, threaten the City's economy, and diminish the overall quality of life.

Citywide Action Plan

To meet the challenge of housing production and affordability, the Planning Department will address the housing targets developed by HCD-ABAG through initiatives of a Citywide Action Plan (CAP). The CAP comprehensively explores the challenge of meeting the need for both housing and jobs in ways that capitalize upon and enhance the best qualities of San Francisco as a place. The CAP will direct a mix of housing and neighborhood-serving uses to places with good public transit and urban amenities, new office uses to the City's compact downtown core, and needed industrial uses to core industrial lands in portions of the City's east side, thereby releasing the rest for housing and other uses. A new Land Use Element will identify specific sites in these areas for housing.

The CAP promotes housing by increasing densities in areas well served by transit. Specific strategies in these areas include: reducing parking requirements; floor-to-area ratio (FAR) exemptions; removing density caps in certain areas; increasing height limits; utilizing air-rights for housing; and increased density and height limits at key corner lots.

These strategies will be applied throughout the City. Generally, increased housing densities and reduced parking requirements will be proposed in areas well served by transit. In the Central Waterfront area, a mix of uses is being planned to accommodate housing in a largely industrial area. Lands occupied by the former Central Freeway around Market Street and Octavia Boulevard are being programmed for new housing while increasing existing residential densities. In Balboa Park, new housing is planned capitalizing on city owned land and an existing transit node. In the Downtown area, dense housing is planned on underutilized parcels. In the redevelopment areas of Mission Bay and Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, new neighborhoods are planned that promise approximately 7,600 units. However, these density increases must be combined with the capture of some of the added development value through the provision of public benefits.

The Eastern Neighborhoods, representing roughly one-quarter of the City, are being studied and re-zoned to identify core areas where vital production, distribution, and repair (PDR) businesses are needed to maintain economic diversity. These core areas will be zoned to promote business and job expansion while the rest of the Eastern Neighborhoods will allow or expressly encourage housing. In the Mission District and South of Market, residential densities will be increased along transit corridors and additional land will be re-zoned for housing. In Showplace Square, housing will be integrated into a vibrant and historic light industrial area. In Bayview, a town center will be created around the planned rail service allowing greater residential densities. In Visitacion Valley, an existing brownfield site will be developed into housing, open space, and neighborhood serving retail. These rezoning efforts can boost the City's housing capacity by as much as 12,000 additional housing units.

Other strategies to increase housing include the expanded Jobs Housing Linkage Program that requires new large commercial developments to provide housing or pay an in-lieu fee to meet the housing demand new jobs generate. The recently revised and expanded inclusionary affordable housing ordinance now applies to all new residential developments of 10 units or more. Publicly owned lands are also being reviewed to assess residential development potential while revenues from surplus public land sales will be dedicated to future affordable housing production. Institutional Master Plans will be required to encourage higher educational institutions to provide housing. Education programs to foster the acceptance of new housing, particularly affordable housing, are also planned.

Although there are more than enough in-fill housing sites to meet projected housing needs and aggressive housing policies and programs are set to encourage housing development, realizing the City's housing targets would require tremendous financing. It has been estimated that enormous amounts of public funding would be necessary to bridge the gap between the state-mandated housing production targets and what can be realistically be expected in the next five and a half years (Table I-58).

Financing for housing production will continue to be affected by economic cycles. With the availability of future public subsidies impossible to predict, an optimistic assumption would anticipate funding that would sustain the previous decade's affordable housing production. Achieving production and affordability targets are clearly very difficult, but accepting more "realistic" ones will only weaken efforts to obtain the additional resources necessary to meet the City's housing needs. Consequently, the City will uphold these housing production targets and annually assess priorities against the reality of available resources.

The objectives and policies detailed below address the state's, the region's and the City's goals of achieving decent, suitable, and affordable housing for current and future San Franciscans. Increasing the City's housing stock, protecting and conserving existing units, and encouraging housing choice are objectives predicated on affordability. The homeless and households with special needs are given particular attention as these vulnerable populations have limited housing options. Livability will not be sacrificed with the push to expand the City's housing supply. New housing will be directed to appropriate locations, with sufficient supporting infrastructure, institutions and urban amenities. The implementing programs accompanying these objectives and policies are in response to meeting San Francisco's fair share of the regional housing needs. These objectives and policies are instructed by and consistent with two of the General Plan's Priority Policies. These are:

  • That the City's supply of affordable housing be preserved and enhanced.

  • That existing housing and neighborhood character be conserved and protected in order to preserve the cultural and economic diversity of our neighborhoods.





New housing, particularly permanently affordable housing, is required to help meet the City's housing needs. New housing is needed to accommodate projected population growth, improve the jobs/housing balance so that fewer new San Francisco workers will have to live outside the city and commute to work, relieve rent pressures, meet the needs of specific population groups not adequately housed in the existing stock, and reduce homelessness.

New residential development must be of a character and stability that enhances the City's neighborhoods and maintains the quality of life for existing and future residents. How this new residential development can be accommodated without jeopardizing the very assets that make living in San Francisco desirable must be discussed. In order to enhance the city's livability, the supply of housing must be increased and new housing developments should respect the scale and character of the surrounding neighborhood. The lot pattern and building bulk should relate to surrounding properties. Transit and other public and private services should be available to serve the new residents. High quality design should ensure that new residential development is compatible with, and enhances, its surroundings. Neighborhood groups, project sponsors, and City agencies should work together to create designs that contribute to great neighborhoods for current and future residents.

To ensure a balanced approach to development and the rate of change in San Francisco, the City should use its planning powers including zoning and permit review to encourage residential development in areas where it can be accommodated well and discourage it where it is less appropriate. The City should use its zoning and land use controls, environmental review processes, General Plan policies, area plans, and capital improvements and financial programs to address the location and intensity of growth in San Francisco.

In order to advance General Plan policies, including the Housing Element, the Planning Department is engaged in several on-going projects and studies on overall growth in the City and housing need. These efforts include the Better Neighborhoods program, the drafting of a new Land Use Element of the General Plan, and community planning activities for the Eastern Neighborhoods of the City. These projects will result in specific zoning and design guidelines that will encourage housing development in appropriate locations throughout San Francisco.

Over the past decade, the City's employment growth has far exceeded the production of housing. The significant jobs/housing imbalance specifically meant that not enough new housing was built to meet the needs of the City's expanding workforce. This jobs/housing imbalance has particularly harmed lower-income households who are unable to compete in the housing market as demand for and the cost of housing escalates. In the face of increasing pressures in the housing market, households with the fewest resources such as households with children and those with special needs became the most vulnerable to extreme rent burden, evictions, or even homelessness.

Encourage higher residential density in areas adjacent to downtown, in underutilized commercial and industrial areas proposed for conversion to housing, and in neighborhood commercial districts where higher density will not have harmful effects, especially if the higher density provides a significant number of units that are affordable to lower income households. Set allowable densities in established residential areas at levels which will promote compatibility with prevailing neighborhood scale and character where there is neighborhoods support.

San Francisco enjoys an extensive network of transit lines and along transit-preferential streets are numerous in-fill-housing opportunities. While different zoning controls may result in different housing configurations and densities on these parcels, residential parking requirements in these cases should be, if appropriate, modified.

Proximity to transit does influence rates of auto ownership and the need for parking. Some 29% of the City's households do not own cars and 31% of San Franciscans take public transit to work. These rates are even higher for households living in areas well served by transit. Locating new housing along transit-served areas supports the City's transit first policy and can discourage car dependency.

Additional housing should be encouraged in neighborhood commercial districts, including floors above ground-level commercial uses, and in areas well served by transit. There is a reduced need for automobile use in these areas due to their proximity to transit, services, employment, and entertainment. Parking and traffic problems can be further addressed by community parking facilities and car-sharing programs, and other creative transportation programs.

Moderate to high densities presently exist in many established residential areas adjacent to downtown. These levels should be maintained. These neighborhoods provide housing close to urban employment centers, homes for newcomers, and serve as centers for culture and the arts. They are among the traditional neighborhoods that give San Francisco its flavor and character. New neighborhoods close to downtown should be built emulating these urban densities to foster urban values.


  • A citywide action plan (CAP) should provide a comprehensive framework for the allocation of higher density, mixed-use residential development in transit-rich areas with stable urban amenities in place. In these areas, specific CAP strategies should include: higher densities and reduced parking requirements in downtown areas or through a Better Neighborhoods type planning process; pedestrian-oriented improvements to enhance the attractiveness and use of transit.

  • All City agencies, including the Mayor's Office of Housing and the Redevelopment Agency, will continue to provide support for below market rate housing in other areas well served or planned to be served by transit.

Encourage housing development, particularly affordable housing, in neighborhood commercial areas without displacing existing jobs, particularly blue-collar jobs or discouraging new employment opportunities.

The City's neighborhood commercial districts offer the potential for new additional housing over ground floor retail uses. In many cases, additional floors can be constructed to make full and efficient use of appropriately scaled height limits. If necessary, private open space requirements could also be modified, with alternative access to the outdoors considered. New housing represents not only an expanded market to support neighborhood retail, but its residents will serve as the eyes and ears of the streets. In the long term, neighborhood commercial district controls and standards should be revised to recognize and enhance the supporting role and centrality of these districts to the surrounding residential districts.


  • The Planning Department will develop proposals in neighborhood commercial districts (NCDs) well served by transit to strengthen their function as a traditional "town center" for the surrounding residential districts.

  • The Planning Department will review planning and permit procedures to remove impediments to the production of housing and neighborhood serving uses in commercial and neighborhood commercial areas near transit corridors that are defined and determined to be served by sufficient and reliable transit.

Identify opportunities for housing and mixed-use districts near downtown and former industrial portions of the City.

Opportunities exist for new residential development in downtown areas. New housing can also be developed in some underused industrial and commercial districts in parts of the city without significant displacement of existing residential units or viable commercial and industrial activities. Housing should also be encouraged in former industrial areas where newer residential neighborhoods have already become established. Certain sites, because of their location or existing use, may not be appropriate for new residential development.


Downtown areas and areas subject to a Better Neighborhoods type planning process will be expected to absorb major office and residential developments over the next decade. Planning and zoning code changes should include floor-to-area ratio exemptions. These development bonuses would be conferred only in cases where in return the development will provide major public benefits to the community.

  • The Planning Department will introduce zoning changes in the traditionally industrial eastern part of the City. The areas under study are: Mission, South of Market, Showplace Square/Potrero Hill, Bayview Hunters Point, and Visitacion Valley. Housing, especially affordable housing, will be encouraged in former industrial areas where residential neighborhoods are established and urban amenities are in place or feasible.

  • The Planning Department will continue to encourage housing development on brownfield sites where clean-up costs are not prohibitive and attractive residential neighborhoods can be established.

Locate in-fill housing on appropriate sites in established residential neighborhoods.

In established residential neighborhoods, new in-fill housing construction should be located: on vacant sites that are not designated for open space; where buildings cannot feasibly be rehabilitated or brought to acceptable levels of seismic safety; and where non-conforming uses have been terminated.


  • The Planning Department and the Planning Commission will continue to approve new in-fill housing construction in compliance with residential guidelines in established neighborhoods.

Support development of affordable housing on surplus public lands.

Opportunities for housing development, particularly permanently affordable housing, on surplus vacant or underused public property should be aggressively pursued. The Planning Department should work with the Department of Real Estate, which manages the disposition of surplus public lands, to maintain a comprehensive and updated inventory of publicly held lands. City agencies should continue to identify and make available underutilized sites within their jurisdiction. In some cases the air rights of these sites may be made available for housing without interfering with their current public use. Housing over public parking, transit facilities or water storage facilities are examples of such joint use. City property no longer needed for the purpose for which it was acquired or for some other public purpose, such as open space and recreation land, should be considered for rezoning, sale, or lease for development of permanently affordable housing. The City also owns several significant land holdings outside the City and County borders. Revenues generated from sale of surplus lands should be channeled into the City's Affordable Housing Fund. Similarly, federal or state lands acquired by the City should be considered directly as affordable housing resources. Development of publicly owned or controlled sites in redevelopment areas designated for housing should be expedited.


  • The City will require quarterly reporting of all publicly owned land to the Assessor's Office. The Planning Department will also work with the Department of Real Estate, which manages the disposition of surplus public lands to examine the feasibility of directing revenues generated from surplus land sales into the City's Affordable Housing Fund.

  • The City will continue to evaluate surplus federal or state lands as an affordable housing resource.

  • The Redevelopment Agency will continue to prioritize affordable housing on lands it controls.

  • The City will promote joint development projects on surplus public lands with non-profit and for-profit developers, as well as encourage construction over air rights of existing public facilities.

  • A separate list of State and Federally owned land should continue to be maintained for affordable housing development purposes.

  • Construction over air rights and existing public facilities will be considered for affordable housing production on a case-by-case basis.

  • The Planning Department will continue to work with other agencies, especially the San Francisco Unified School District and the Public Utilities Commission, to encourage the use of surplus land for the development of mixed-use affordable housing with a higher percentage of units affordable to people earning less than the Area Median Income.

Create incentives for the inclusion of housing, particularly permanently affordable housing, in new commercial development projects.

Mixed commercial/residential building development in downtown areas provides needed housing and adds 24-hour vitality. Existing incentives should be maintained and new ones created to encourage housing and mixed-use projects in and near the downtown area. Housing in excess of the base floor-to-area ratio should continue to be encouraged in the Downtown General (C-3-G) and Downtown Support (C-3-S) Districts. Removing maximum dwelling unit density within a building envelope also offers the possibility of a variety of residential unit types and densities.


  • The Planning Department will review the following incentives for commercial project developments in the Downtown C-3 District: floor-to-area ratio (FAR) exemption for housing; no residential parking requirement; and no density requirements for residential projects. Housing in excess of the base FAR in the Downtown General (C-3-G) and Downtown Support (C-3-S) Districts has also been proposed by the Board of Supervisors.

  • The Planning Department and the Redevelopment Agency will propose increasing height limits, eliminating density requirements and modifying off-street parking requirements in the Transbay/Rincon Hill redevelopment survey areas. The Mid-Market redevelopment survey area will be re-zoned to include mixed-use residential areas and reduced residential parking requirements.

  • The Planning Department will continue to implement the Van Ness Avenue Plan which requires residential units over commercial uses.

  • The Planning Department will update the Land Use Element to define areas for mixed-use development focused along transit corridors that are determined to be served by sufficient and reliable transit.

Encourage and support the construction of quality, new family housing.

Children and families are very much part of the City's vitality and diversity. They bring life and transform even the City's least child-friendly downtown neighborhoods. But San Francisco's families with children are leaving as family-sized housing become scarce or prohibitive, outbid by more affluent and flexible non-family households that form as a response to the City's high rents and housing costs. The changing demographics of the City also hint at larger, extended families. Families with children and elderly members have few options as only 25% of the City's housing stock has three or more bedrooms. Much of the housing constructed in the last decade were of studios, and one- or two-bedroom units — too small to accommodate larger families. Single-family residential builders and contractors should be encouraged to develop the almost one thousand vacant lots in residential neighborhoods that can accommodate new single-family housing or duplexes.

New family housing, particularly affordable housing, need not be confined to the suburban residential neighborhoods. Children thrive in and can benefit from urban living. The compact nature of urban living can offer children proximity and access to various activities, especially those that appeal to their recreational and cultural interests. New residential development opportunities, including affordable family housing, have been identified in neighborhoods near downtown. Developments that include various unit sizes that can accommodate families with children should be supported and encouraged.


  • In response to the increasing number of families in San Francisco, the Planning Department will develop zoning amendments to require a minimum percentage of larger family units, ranging from two to four bedrooms, in new major residential projects. The Planning Department will also propose eliminating density requirements within permitted building envelopes in downtown areas and areas subject to a Better Neighborhoods type planning process to maximize family units constructed.

  • The Mayor's Office of Housing and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency will continue to administer programs for development of affordable family rental housing. Priority will continue to be given to projects that include affordable family units for the homeless and those at-risk of homelessness, and include supportive services for residents.

  • The Planning Department will study the feasibility of "flexible" development projects to accommodate family growth, shrinkage, expansion, and extension. Loft sleeping areas, family rooms and master bedrooms could be designed to ease future conversion to efficiency apartments for family members, or as an income unit.

Allow new secondary units in areas where their effects can be dealt with and there is neighborhood support, especially if that housing is made permanently affordable to lower-income households.

Secondary units (in-law" or "granny units") are smaller dwelling units within a structure containing another much larger unit, frequently in basements, using space that is surplus to the primary dwelling. Secondary units represent a simple and cost-effective method of expanding the housing supply. Such units could be developed to meet the needs of seniors and others who, because of modest incomes or lifestyles, prefer or need small units at relatively low rents. Neighborhood acceptance of secondary units should be encouraged in areas where off-street parking can be provided (it could be tandem parking) and where the secondary unit can be installed without adversely affecting the exterior appearance of the building, or in the case of new construction, can be accommodated within the permitted building envelope. Secondary units should be limited in size to control their impact.


  • The Board of Supervisors has introduced Planning Code amendments to allow secondary units in new buildings that are in close proximity to neighborhood commercial districts and public transit.

  • The Planning Department will support efforts and promote educational programs that will help residents in existing neighborhoods understand the advantages of incorporating some secondary units in their communities.

  • The Planning Department will study the impacts of relaxing parking requirements for secondary units located in all neighborhoods.

  • On-going planning will propose Planning Code amendments to encourage secondary units where appropriate.

Require new commercial developments and higher educational institutions to meet the housing demand they generate, particularly the need for affordable housing for lower income workers and students.

New and expanding commercial activities increase the City's employment base. These new jobs are important to the residents of the City and the Bay Area and contribute to the continued economic vitality of the region. The workers filling these jobs also increase the City's need for housing. The City's Jobs-Housing Linkage Program, which exacts fees for affordable housing production from commercial developments, should be enforced and monitored. The fee structure should also be reviewed regularly to ensure fair burden on developers.

Similarly, institutions of higher education provide needed services and contribute to the intellectual and cultural life of the City. At the same time, their non-resident student body presents a housing need. Higher educational institutions should assist in meaningful ways in the provision of additional housing to meet this demand.


  • The Planning Department will continue to support the Jobs Housing Linkage Program, which requires that commercial development provide housing or pay an in-lieu fee.

  • Institutions are required to have an Institutional Master Plan that conforms to the General Plan. The Planning Department will evaluate higher educational institutions' student housing programs through the required Institutional Master Plan.



The existing housing stock is the City's major source of relatively affordable housing. It is very difficult to replace given the cost of new construction and the size of public budgets to support housing construction. Priority should be given to the retention of existing units as a primary means to provide affordable housing.

Discourage the demolition of sound existing housing.

Demolition of existing housing often results in the loss of lower-cost rental housing units. Even if the existing housing is replaced, the new units are generally more costly. Demolition often results in displacement of residents, causing personal hardship and relocation problems.

In 1994, the Planning Commission adopted guidelines regarding housing demolition, for situations when such projects require conditional use approval. In addition to the criteria for demolition approval, the guidelines require replacement housing or in-lieu fees to the City's affordable housing fund as full or partial mitigation for each unit lost. The City should continue to discourage the demolition of existing housing that is sound or can be rehabilitated, particularly where those units provide an affordable housing resource.


  • The City will continue to implement the Proposition M policy that requires that existing housing and neighborhood character be conserved and protected in order to preserve the cultural and economic diversity of neighborhoods.

  • The Planning Commission will continue to apply Section 311 of the Planning Code to deny residential demolition permits until approval of a new construction permit is obtained.

  • The Department of Building Inspection in consultation with the Planning Department will develop and periodically update criteria and continue to evaluate the soundness of housing before granting demolition approval.

  • The Planning Department will continue to require replacement housing or in-lieu fees paid to the City's affordable housing fund as mitigation for the demolition of sound housing units.

  • The feasibility of expanding the demolition definition will continue to be evaluated in order to prevent the loss of housing classified as "alterations."

Control the merger of residential units to retain existing housing.

The Planning Commission has adopted policies that require Discretionary Review for all dwelling unit merger applications. The Housing Element, General Plan Priority Policies (Planning Code Section 101.1), and other Planning Commission directives are used to consider merger proposals on a case-by-case basis. Specifically, these criteria state that when reviewing applications for the removal of a legal dwelling unit, the Planning Commission must consider the detrimental effects to the housing supply, landmark designations, and planned owner occupancy. The Planning Commission must also work to minimize displacement, and ensure code compliance and structural safety.


  • The Planning Department will continue to require Discretionary Review for all dwelling unit merger applications. Merger proposals will be considered on a case-by-case basis and approved or rejected on their individual merits as they pertain to policies of this Housing Element, the General Plan Priority Policies (Planning Code Section 101.1), and other Planning Commission directives. Detrimental effects to the housing supply, the minimization of displacement hardships, code compliance, structural safety, landmark designations, and planned owner occupancy will continue to be considered during Discretionary Review.

Restrict the conversion of rental housing to other forms of tenure or occupancy.

Conversion of existing rental apartment buildings to condominiums, stock cooperatives or tenants-in-common ownership, depletes the supply of the City's more affordable housing stock. It also brings into conflict two desirable goals — expansion of homeownership opportunities and preservation of the existing rental housing stock. While conversions to condos, co-ops, and tenancy-in-common expand the number of units available for purchase, they do so by reducing the number of units available for rent. As a result, existing and future tenants who cannot buy at that time can be displaced. Similarly, the use of large, older apartment buildings for time-sharing or corporate suites can cause displacement of existing residents.

In general, conversions should not shift the balance between ownership and rental housing, and should protect potentially displaced tenants to the maximum extent possible. Closely evaluating proposed conversions and limiting the number of conversions annually, should achieve a reasonable balance between ownership and rental housing. Conversion of rental housing to time share or corporate suite use should be prohibited.


  • The City will continue to limit the conversion of rental housing with the Condominium Conversion Ordinance. This ordinance limits the annual number of units converted and allows only small projects with owner occupants to be considered for conversion. Conversion approval will continue to require a high degree of tenant intent to purchase their rental unit as a condition of approval. The conversion criteria include Tenant Rights Rules. Renters are given the right to purchase their unit at a price established by the owner or they can choose to rent the unit at their current rent for one year after the conversion is complete. Tenants who are 62 or older are entitled to a lifetime lease.

  • The City will evaluate requiring sales price limitations on existing low and moderate-income housing units that are proposed for conversion.

  • The City will study requiring a portion of any condominium conversion subdivision to remain permanently affordable and requiring developers to construct an equivalent number of similar units elsewhere or pay an equivalent in lieu fee to the City's Affordable Housing Development Fund.

  • Conversions to uses other than housing should not be permitted unless a specific evaluation by the Planning Commission concludes that there is clear and convincing evidence that such conversion is the only recourse in the interest of the common weal.

Retain sound existing housing in commercial and industrial areas.

Many parts of San Francisco were developed before there were zoning regulations that separated various types of land uses. As a result, thousands of housing units were built in areas that also contain industrial and commercial uses and have since been zoned industrial or commercial. Many of these housing units are sound or could be rehabilitated. They represent a significant portion of the City's affordable housing supply and would be very difficult to replace. Yet, in many of the areas that such housing is located, it could be profitable to convert to a non-residential use.

In many neighborhood shopping areas, conversions of upper floor housing units to non-residential use are subject to conditional use review. Under such review, the desirability of retaining the housing can be weighed against the public benefits to be gained by the alternative use. As a general rule, conversion should be considered only for needed neighborhood serving commercial activities that cannot reasonably locate elsewhere in the commercial district. Similarly, in downtown commercial districts, conversion to non-residential use should be subject to conditional use review.

Housing enclaves in industrial areas should be protected by residential or special use district zoning, so that conversion to non-residential uses cannot take place. However, the continuation of residential uses on scattered and isolated lots within developed industrial areas can cause conflict with legitimate industrial needs. Here, conversion should be a conditional use so that the specific industrial need can be weighed against the need to conserve housing.


The Planning Department will continue to support existing housing in commercial and industrial areas by regulating conversions as provided in the Planning Code.

As part of the Planning Department's current citywide action plan, planning efforts in the eastern neighborhoods of the City, where housing exists in commercial and industrially zoned districts, should address housing retention as new policies and zoning are established. Mixed use should be encouraged where appropriate.

Preserve the existing stock of residential hotels.

Residential or single-room occupancy hotels (SROs) represent a unique and often irreplaceable resource for thousands of lower income elderly, disabled, and single-person households. Most of these hotels are close to downtown and have been subject to strong economic pressures that led to conversion or demolition. As San Francisco grew as a tourist center, many of these hotels have been converted to permanent or seasonal tourist uses. Others have been demolished and replaced with other uses. Some of these SROs are being used as family housing. In the City's tight housing market, some downtown SROs have also become dormitories and efficiency apartments for nearby educational institutions. In the last five years, fires and other safety code violations have displaced hundreds of low-income residents.

The retention of remaining units housing permanent residents should be supported. Residential hotels located in predominantly residential areas should be protected by zoning that does not permit commercial or tourist use. In non-residential areas, conversion of units to other uses should not be permitted or be permitted only where a residential unit will be, or has been, replaced with a comparable unit elsewhere. For those hotels that are operated as mixed tourist/permanent resident hotels, strict enforcement is needed to ensure that the availability of the hotel for permanent residential occupancy is not diminished. The Residential Hotel Ordinance currently regulates and protects the existing stock of residential hotels. This ordinance requires permits for conversion of residential hotel rooms, has a strong replacement provision, and requires 80% of cost of replacement to be provided to the City in the case of conversion or demolition. The City should facilitate the purchase and master lease of residential hotels by non-profit entities for the purpose of improving the quality of the housing and achieving long-term affordability.


  • The Department of Building Inspection and the San Francisco Fire Department will continue to regulate the safety of these buildings through annual inspections.

  • The City will continue to facilitate the transfer of residential hotels to effective non-profit housing organizations to ensure permanent affordability, livability, and maintenance.

  • The City will work to reauthorize the Single Room Occupancy Hotel Safety and Stabilization Task Force set to expire in 2003. This task force will continue to monitor, develop and present recommendations to San Francisco Mayor and Board of Supervisors regarding policies and procedures around fire prevention, investigations and prosecution of SRO violators, and stabilization of hotel tenants and residents.

Consider legalization of existing illegal secondary units where there is neighborhood support and the units can conform to minimum Code standards of safety and livability and the permanent affordability of the units is assured.

It is estimated that over 20,000 housing units in the City were built without a building permit. These units may exceed allowable densities, may not provide for current parking requirements, or may not meet minimum standards set forth in the San Francisco Building Code. However, these units constitute a major source of affordable housing in the City and their loss would dramatically increase pressure on the housing market.

Proposals to allow legalization of secondary units under certain conditions have been made over the years but have not been adopted because of neighborhood opposition. Some units have been eliminated through abatement proceedings, largely originated by complaints, while additional units continue to be created without permits. The City should develop procedures to legalize existing illegal secondary units and bring them into code compliance.


  • Consistent with Policy 2.6, study the legalization of existing secondary units. This study will examine: the reduction of permitting fees and elimination of additional penalties to make legalization an attractive option for owners; ways to address neighborhood concerns as to the legalization of secondary units; regulation which might be required to mitigate neighbors' concerns about off-street parking; and implementation mechanisms for keeping secondary units affordable.



Over one-half of San Francisco housing is more than 60 years old. As the City's housing stock ages, maintenance becomes increasingly important. Considerable private investment into the renovation of some of the City's older housing units has lessened the need for some types of direct public intervention used in the past. There is, however, a continuing housing rehabilitation need. The City should monitor those areas of the city particularly susceptible to a decline in housing quality, and take appropriate remedial steps where necessary.

Ensure that existing housing is maintained in a decent, safe, and sanitary condition, without increasing rents or displacing low-income households.

The City should ensure that residential units meet building code standards by periodic inspection of apartments and hotels and prompt response to complaints. Code compliance activities should be designed to minimize any financial hardship for lower income households brought on by required rehabilitation. Low interest and deferred payment loan programs should be targeted to low and moderate-income tenants.


  • The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection will continue to ensure that residential units meet building code standards by responding to complaints and through periodic inspection of apartments and hotels.

  • The Department of Building Inspection will continue to issue code violations for residential properties that are not decent, sanitary, or safe. If violations are repeatedly ignored and not corrected, the City Attorney's Office will continue to assist in abatement.

  • The Mayor's Office of Housing will continue to offer low interest and deferred payment loan programs designed to target and benefit low-income homeowners including the Code Enforcement Rehabilitation Fund (CERF) and Community Housing Rehabilitation Program (CHRP).

  • The Mayor's Office of Housing will continue to provide funds for rehabilitating existing housing with affordability restrictions in order to improve living conditions for tenants and extend the properties' useful life as affordable housing.

Preserve at risk, privately owned assisted housing.

Privately owned and operated assisted housing is under continuing pressure to convert to market rate housing. Existing funding levels for some developments have either failed to keep pace with actual costs or have less than favorable returns, causing owners to convert units to market rate or sell their properties outright, and thereby removing units from the stock of assisted housing. Policies are needed to encourage the retention of the existing assisted housing stock wherever possible.


  • The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency will continue to support the acquisition and rehabilitation of multi-family and senior housing that is at risk of being converted to market rate due to the expiration of existing rental subsidy contracts or the prepayment of HUD-insured mortgages.

Maintain and improve the condition of the existing supply of public housing.

The San Francisco Housing Authority is the largest landlord in San Francisco with over 6,200 units, and is one of the most important sources of permanently affordable housing for low-income households. Operating subsidies and modernization funds provided by the Federal government have not been adequate to keep this conventional public housing in sound condition. Increased Federal support, innovative local financing techniques, energy efficiency measures, and creative property management and customer service are all required to maintain and improve this valuable supply of affordable housing. Additionally, inter-agency collaboration and long-range plans for public housing are being developed, including identifying opportunities for potential mixed income in-fill development in underused lands and where consistent with overall social goals.


  • The San Francisco Housing Authority will continue to administer the HOPE VI grants. Recent grants will help revitalize five housing sites and provide 1,228 affordable housing units. Additional funds will add 137 accessible and 207 adaptable apartments to the SFHA stock.

  • The San Francisco Housing Authority will continue to manage other publicly assisted projects. Capital Fund Program (CFP) and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) will assist in sustaining comprehensive modernization and capital improvements at SFHA sites. The average annual operating funding is $15 million, and its focus is to stabilize living conditions in the current housing stock.

  • The San Francisco Housing Authority will continue to maintain communication between housing organizations in the city through the CHAS Public Housing Subcommittee. The San Francisco Housing Authority has created the San Francisco Housing Corporation, a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation which leverages and maximizes resources and assists in the sustainability of programs for low-income households.

Monitor the correction of serious continuing code violations to prevent the loss of housing.

Code enforcement on hardship cases can present particular housing challenges. In some cases, compliance with full requirements should be deferred to the extent legally permissible if all life safety hazards are abated. In particular, the City should extend the period allowed for code compliance to avoid displacement of low- or moderate-income households until replacement housing can be found.

Where there is a refusal to correct serious but remediable violations, the City should exercise its ability to make the repairs and recover the costs by putting a lien on the property. In aggravated cases, the buildings can be placed in City receivership. Public assistance should then be provided to maintain affordability levels.


  • The Mayor's Office of Housing will continue to administer and promote the Code Enforcement Rehabilitation Fund (CERF) program to correct building code violations in housing for low-income residents.

  • The City will continue to abate serious, repeated, building code violators.

  • The City Attorney's Code Enforcement Task Force will continue its activities.

Improve the seismic stability of existing housing without reducing the supply of affordable housing.

Despite substantial retrofitting efforts in the last decade following the Loma Prieta earthquake, there are about 8,590 residential units in unreinforced masonry buildings in San Francisco that require structural strengthening. Because these buildings are not sufficiently reinforced and the floors are not adequately tied to the walls, they are vulnerable to damage or collapse in an earthquake. Residential hotels, which are predominantly occupied by persons of relatively low incomes, make up much of these buildings at risk. These remaining buildings are located in the South of Market, the Tenderloin, Chinatown, and along the Bush Street and Van Ness Avenue corridors. Retrofitting programs should safeguard affordability and minimize displacement of low-income residents.

In addition to unreinforced masonry buildings, there are other residential buildings that are also vulnerable to damage in an earthquake. In many cases, property owners can undertake relatively inexpensive measures such as bolting frames to foundations and installing shear walls where needed. The Office of Emergency Services has updated and improved the City's Emergency Preparedness Plans. The City should continue its building seismic safety informational programs and also pursue technical assistance programs targeting earthquake safety precautions. These issues are also addressed in the Community Safety Element of the General Plan.


The Seismic Safety Bond Program will continue to fund the seismic rehabilitation of unreinforced masonry buildings to the extent that demand for funds continues to exist.

  • The City Department of Building Inspection (DBI) will continue to mandate the seismic retrofit of unreinforced masonry buildings.

  • The DBI is also developing a Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS) which is investigating the impacts of potential earthquakes and developing policies and programs to reduce these impacts.

Preserve landmark and historic residential buildings.

The preservation of landmarks and historic buildings is a priority policy of the City's General Plan. Landmarks and historic buildings are important to the character and quality of the City's neighborhoods and are also important housing resources. A number of these structures contain housing units particularly suitable for larger households and families with children. More specific policies for these buildings will be contained in the Preservation Element, currently being prepared.


  • The Planning Commission will review and adopt the Preservation Element of the General Plan.

  • The Planning Department and the Department of Building Inspection will continue to regulate the preservation and protection of landmark and historic buildings by monitoring use, alterations, and demolition.

  • The City will continue to implement the Proposition M priority policy that landmarks and historic buildings be preserved.

  • The Planning Department's Citywide Cultural Resource Survey program is a multi-year effort that will document resources in neighborhoods and commercial areas throughout San Francisco.

  • The Mayor's Office of Housing and the Redevelopment Agency will continue to fund the acquisition and rehabilitation of landmark and historic buildings for use as affordable housing.

  • The Planning Department will encourage property owners to use preservation incentives to repair, restore, or rehabilitate historic resources in lieu of demolition. These include federal tax credits for rehabilitation of qualified historical resources, Mills Act property tax abatement programs, the State Historic Building Code, and tax deductions for preservation easements.

  • The Planning Department will continue to assist in federal environmental review and review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act for historically significant local buildings receiving federal assistance.



Actively identify and pursue opportunity sites for permanently affordable housing.

Publicly owned land represents one potential source of sites for affordable housing. Government agencies should actively maintain an inventory of land within their jurisdiction and, with the Planning Department, identify sites with the potential to support housing development. This evaluation could include options for joint development or relocation of current facilities to other sites. Such appropriate and available public land, along with other financial subsidies, should then be considered for the development of housing. Priority should be given to immediate development of those public sites where 100% permanently affordable housing is achievable.

Large and privately held land parcels should also be identified and actively promoted for affordable housing. New programs should be established to acquire land and appropriate buildings for land and building "banking" in advance of specific project proposals.

While housing development can be incompatible with certain industrial uses and threaten viable activities, housing opportunity areas may exist in the primarily non-residential areas on the eastern side of the City. Land use analyses should continue and identify housing opportunity areas in the five Eastern Neighborhoods of South of Market, the Mission, Potrero/Showplace Square, South Bayshore, and Visitacion Valley. Any rezoning of industrial land to residential use should include requirements, incentives and bonuses to encourage the development of attractive and affordable housing. Program Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) should be developed for those areas with sufficient detail to eliminate need for subsequent project EIRs on residential projects.


  • The City's Affordable Housing Fund provides funds to the Mayor's Office of Housing (MOH) to respond to housing opportunities in areas of the City that are not in Redevelopment Agency Project or Survey Areas and outside Mission Bay. This fund, derived from payment of fees to the City by office, entertainment, hotel, retail, and research and development developers, will continue to be used to construct new affordable housing.

  • The City's Housing Participation Policy provides for affordable housing to be developed as part of market-rate housing developments in all redevelopment project areas on-site or an in-lieu fee is imposed.

  • The City will explore land banking in advance of specific project development proposals when possible.

  • The City will work to identify underutilized, vacant, and brownfield sites that are publicly or privately owned and suitable for affordable housing development. The City will work with for profit and non-profit housing developers to acquire these sites for permanently affordable housing.

  • Program EIRs will be developed for new planning areas included in the Citywide Action Plan with sufficient detail to eliminate the need for subsequent project EIRs on future permanently affordable housing. Wherever the capacity for development is increased through rezoning or other regulation changes, commensurate requirements for public benefits, including increased housing affordability and community amenities for livability should be required.

  • Permanently affordable housing sites will be especially sought out in places where transportation and existing amenities are in place.

  • The revised Land Use Element will identify appropriate sites for permanently affordable housing.

Include affordable units in larger housing projects.

Inclusion of affordable housing is currently required of new housing projects containing 10 or more units. Although preference is given to on-site inclusionary housing to ensure economic integration in housing development, off-site construction should be considered if this results in significant numbers of new affordable housing. The City's inclusionary affordable housing program should be monitored and reviewed regularly to ensure fair burden and not constrain new housing production.


  • The Planning Department will implement its recently updated Inclusionary Affordable Housing requirement, which requires 10% to 17% of units in all projects with 10 units or more be made affordable.

  • The Mayor's Office of Housing will continue to administer the sales and leasing of units created through the Inclusionary Affordable Housing program. MOH will develop proposals to ensure availability of adequate funding to administer the inclusionary program.

  • The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency will implement its Housing Participation Policy to require affordable housing through its owner participation and land disposition process.

  • If housing projects are built on city-owned property, the percentage of affordable housing units should be increased and the units should be affordable to less than 60% of the Area Median Income for renters and less than 100% of the Area Median Income for home owners.

Encourage the construction of affordable units for single households in residential hotels and "efficiency" units.

San Francisco has a relatively large stock of older residential hotels. The 1995 Single Room Occupancy Guidelines and accompanying Planning Code changes affecting densities, provision of kitchen facilities and parking now regulate the creation of these types of units. The Yerba Buena Commons, completed in 1995, demonstrated that it is possible to provide small but good quality units for single persons. Appropriate sites and sponsors for both market rate and affordable residential hotels should be developed.


  • Restrictive regulations in the Building and Planning Code will be studied by the Planning Department for possible modification.

  • Appropriate sites and sponsors for affordable residential hotels will be identified through a coordinated effort between the Planning Department, the Mayor's Office of Housing and the Redevelopment Agency.

  • Affordable housing advocacy groups will be encouraged by the City to hold project specific neighborhood acceptance community meetings when SRO housing developments are proposed in particular neighborhoods.

  • The City will require that qualified property management companies be responsible for operating newly constructed SROs so that the facilities and associated services will be properly maintained and suitable for occupancy in the future.

Consider granting density bonuses and parking requirement exemptions for the construction of affordable housing or senior housing.

Current state law calls for adoption of an ordinance permitting a 25% density bonus for projects which provide 20% of the units for lower-income households, 10% of the units for very-low-income households, or 50% of the units for senior citizens. The City should allow higher density bonuses where such housing will not disrupt neighborhood character or scale. The current code allows a density bonus for units designed for seniors and/or disabled occupants in R and NC districts. The current Planning Code provision of establishing special use district overlays for projects that are 100% affordable should be reconsidered; density bonus standards and other requirements uniformly applied citywide. Density bonuses should be conferred only when public benefits are provided.


  • The Panning Department will look at establishing uniform density bonus standards and equal requirements for affordable and senior housing development. Until then, affordable and senior housing projects will continue to be granted density bonuses and reduced parking requirements on a case-by-case basis.

  • The Planning Department will investigate appropriate parking requirements for all affordable or senior housing projects.

Allow greater flexibility in the number and size of units within established building envelopes, potentially increasing the number of affordable units in multi-family structures.

In San Francisco, housing density standards have traditionally been set in terms of numbers of dwelling units in proportion to the size of the building lot. For example, in an RM-1 district, one dwelling unit is permitted for each 800 square feet of lot area. This limitation generally applies regardless of the size of the unit and the number of people likely to occupy it. Thus a small studio and a large four-bedroom apartment both count as a single unit. Setting density standards encourages larger units and is particularly tailored for lower density neighborhoods consisting primarily of one- or two-family dwellings.

However, in some areas which consist mostly of taller apartments and which are well served by transit, the volume of the building rather than number of units might more appropriately control the density. Here the building envelope, as established by height, bulk, set back, parking and other Code requirements, would set the maximum residential square footage which could be sub-divided into a greater number of smaller units or a smaller number of larger units.


  • The Planning Department will explore ways to promote flexibility within a given building envelope to build a variety of unit types, ranging from a greater number of smaller units to fewer larger family units.

Support a greater range of housing types and building techniques to promote more economical housing construction and potentially achieve greater affordable housing production.

Prefabricated or manufactured homes can be a valuable source of low cost housing. At its best, manufactured housing uses high technology and mass production techniques to reduce costs without sacrificing quality of design. Industrialized wood construction techniques used in lower density housing and light-weight prefabricated, pre-stressed concrete construction in moderate and high density housing also have the potential of producing great savings in construction time and cost. The use of these and similar techniques should be encouraged. Their use as temporary, emergency or transitional shelter on otherwise unutilized sites should be explored.


  • A low cost housing construction task force will be formed between the Mayor's Office of Housing, Department of Building Inspection, the Planning Department and the housing design and construction industry.

  • In order to lower cost, the building industry will be encouraged to investigate the use of industrialized wood construction techniques in lower density housing, and the use of lightweight prefabricated, pre-stressed concrete construction, in moderate and high density housing.

  • Allow secondary units in conformance with Policy 1.8.

  • The City will work to encourage manufactured home production, per California law (Government Code 65852.3) that permits all manufactured homes built under HUD guidelines and on a foundation to be placed on lots zoned for conventional single-family residential dwellings.

  • The Planning Department will encourage industry representatives to develop a model site to showcase the manufactured home product. This site will be used to educate the public with good models and dispel negative attitudes and inaccurate perceptions of manufactured home production.

  • The Planning Department will write architectural compatibility guidelines to ensure that manufactured homes will blend into existing neighborhoods and alleviate public concern over design compatibility.

  • The Planning Department will continue to support developers constructing co-housing, shared housing and group housing.

  • The City will work with housing advocates to educate residents about the misconceptions of shared housing.

  • Design zoning controls that meet the specific needs of artists.


Prioritize affordable housing projects in the planning review and approval processes, and work with the development community to devise methods of streamlining housing projects.

The Planning Department's review and approval of affordable housing projects should be improved to reduce costly and significant delays. Without diminishing public participation, the administrative processing and approval of affordable housing should be expedited through administrative action, local and State legislation.


  • The City will advocate for the shortening of the time period for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for affordable housing projects.

  • City agencies will work to expedite affordable housing applications.

  • The Planning Department will establish a program for preparing Area Plan Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) for affordable housing project sites to eliminate the need for conditional use permits and subsequent EIRs.

  • The Planning Department will develop a streamlining process to consolidate the public hearing process and avoid duplicative discretionary hearings and appeals.

  • Affordable housing advocacy groups and project sponsors will be encouraged by the City to conduct project specific neighborhood workshops to foster neighborhood understanding and acceptance of affordable housing projects.

  • The City Attorney's office will work to establish neighborhood dispute resolution methods to minimize administrative appeals and judicial challenges of projects.

Support efforts of for-profit and non-profit organizations and other community-based groups and expand their capacity to produce and manage permanently affordable housing.

Non-profit housing development corporations have proven to be effective vehicles for the development of affordable housing. The City should continue to provide them with the technical and financial assistance to increase their production capacity and encourage and invite for-profit developers to build equivalent housing.


  • The Mayor's Office of Housing and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency will continue to fund and provide technical support to non-profit housing corporations and invite and encourage for-profit builders to avail of the same opportunities.

Create greater public awareness about the quality and character of affordable housing projects and generate community-wide support for new affordable housing.

Affordable housing projects are frequently delayed or withdrawn because of community opposition. Greater public awareness of affordable housing challenges and potential solutions is needed to gain broader, long-term support for housing strategies.


  • City agencies and housing advocacy groups will coordinate community outreach efforts that support neighborhood acceptance of permanently affordable housing developments.

  • The City will continue to support affordable housing by publicizing permanently affordable developments with good design and effective management.

  • Past affordable housing developments should be evaluated and their actual achievements documented and publicized.

  • Continuing problems associated with these developments should be examined and rectified, and appropriate corrections made in future developments.

Coordinate governmental activities related to affordable housing.

The City is required by federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to prepare a five year Consolidated Plan to guide community development and housing assistance programs. The Consolidated Plan is the compilation of a coordinated effort between federal, state and local agencies that contribute to the production of housing and related services in San Francisco. This Plan was recently submitted to HUD in 2000.


  • The Mayor's Office of Community Development and the Mayor's Office of Housing will continue to draft and distribute the Consolidated Plan.

  • The Planning Department will continue to work with the Redevelopment Agency and Mayor's Office of Housing to devise clear and consistent application procedures for homeownership programs.


Protect the affordability of units in existing buildings at risk of losing their subsidies or being converted to market rate housing.

A number of subsidized housing developments were created with federally supported mortgages and project-based rental assistance. Many of these projects have reached the 20-year mark and the owners of the developments have an option to prepay existing mortgages and terminate the project-based rental assistance contracts.


  • The City will continue to advocate at both the state and federal levels, for the preservation of housing subsidies. MOH and SFRA will continue to work with state and federal agencies to develop programs to assist HUD sponsored housing with expiring subsidies.

  • The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency will continue to administer the Preservation of At-Risk Existing Affordable Housing program.

  • In order to prevent the loss of affordable housing resulting from early termination of HUD mortgages, the City will explore the creation of a residents and/or non-profit ownership and management program to acquire existing "at risk" buildings.

  • The City will work to prioritize relocation of tenants who lose Section 8 subsides.

  • SFRA will continue to advocate for local, state, and federal legislation that supports local efforts to preserve at-risk developments.

  • SFRA will continue to assist developers interested in preserving the affordability of at-risk housing.

  • The City will continue to enforce the City's preservation ordinance that requires proper notification prior to transfer of an at-risk development.

Ensure that housing developed to be affordable is kept affordable.

Affordable housing units that are created by various City actions should be required to remain affordable for as long a period as is legally permissible and financially practicable. The necessity of such requirement is underscored by the magnitude of the potential loss of existing HUD-financed affordable rental units that had a 20-year period for continuance of below market rents. In the past, locally assisted units have been required to remain at affordable rental rates or sales prices for periods as short as ten years. As the experience with expiring HUD contracts indicates, expiration dates arrive all too soon and a problem thought to be solved becomes a problem again. Most recently, the City has imposed 50- to 75-year terms. If legally permissible and financially practicable, an even longer term should be required. Sufficient evidence should be required from applicants to prevent affordable housing units from being occupied by unqualified parties.


  • Affordable housing funded by MOH and SFRA will be required to maintain affordability as long as legally permissible and financially practicable. This requirement will continue to be enforced by Regulatory Agreements and other legally binding instruments.

  • The City will ensure all publicly supported affordable rental housing projects remain permanently affordable through the use of grant or financing restrictions that regulate rents and tenant incomes.

Safeguard tenants from excessive rent increases.

In recent years the demand for the limited housing supply has resulted in substantial rent increases. Sometimes this has caused displacement or economic hardship. The regulatory process that stabilizes rent levels protects tenants from excessive rent increases and arbitrary eviction while at the same time allowing the landlord a fair rent and sufficient incentives to maintain housing quality should be maintained.


  • The Rent Control Board safeguards tenants from excessive rent increases under the Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance.

Achieve permanent affordability through community land trusts and limited equity housing ownership and management.

The American dream of homeownership is beyond the reach of many San Francisco households. First-time homebuyer programs sponsored by the City and private lending institutions should be encouraged and broadened to include second mortgage loan pools or other appropriate mechanisms to help buyers meet down-payment requirements. To stem speculation, such housing programs should include affordability restrictions. Conversion of buildings by their tenants to limited equity cooperatives and condominiums can stabilize prices and, as general home sales prices increase over time, can lower housing costs. The City should encourage these forms of ownership.


  • The Mayor's Office of Housing will continue to administer first time homebuyer programs, which includes the City Second Loans, the Condominium Conversion Program, and the Inclusionary Affordable Housing Program.

  • The City will investigate the feasibility of community land trusts and other alternative ownership models.

  • The City will continue to work to ensure that publicly funded homeownership projects remain affordable through deed and lease restrictions, and where practical, limit equity return so that homeownership remains affordable.

Monitor and enforce the affordability of units provided as a condition of approval of housing projects.

Over the years, the city has in certain instances required the provision of affordable housing units as a condition of approval of a project. Monitoring and enforcement are needed to ensure the continued availability of these units. Stiff penalties for non-compliance should be created to provide strong economic disincentives against loss of required affordable housing units. Sufficient evidence should be required from applicants to prevent affordable housing units from being occupied by unqualified parties.


  • The Mayor's Office of Housing and the City Attorney's Office will continue to monitor compliance with affordability and occupancy restrictions.

  • The Mayor's Office of Housing and the Planning Department will work to establish an adequate fee system to financially support the costs of a comprehensive affordable housing monitoring program.


Enhance existing revenue sources for permanently affordable housing.

Existing financial programs, including Federal and State low-income tax credits and various HUD programs, should be maintained at maximum levels. Extensive lobbying efforts at State and Federal levels need to be carried out to protect the existing programs and create new ones. Joint metropolitan and statewide efforts to develop more creative revenue resources should be supported.

Incremental tax revenues in Redevelopment project areas can be used for affordable housing. The Redevelopment Agency has a policy of allocating at least 50% of its increment funds for low and moderate income housing construction or renovation.


  • The City supports efforts and advocate for the expansion of federal and state financing for affordable housing.

  • The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency will continue to promote permanent affordable housing by approving the construction of housing in designated redevelopment areas and by providing financing for the development of affordable housing throughout the city.

  • The Mayor's Office of Housing will continue to provide funding to increase and preserve the stock of affordable rental and ownership housing units for the City's very low to moderate income population. The Mayor's Office of Housing will continue to monitor projects on an annual basis that receive affordable housing funds to ensure on-going compliance.

  • The Planning Department and the Mayor's Office of Housing will periodically reassess the fee levels of the Jobs-Housing Linkage Program, whereby new office developments are obligated to assist in the production of housing, to determine their adequacy and appropriate adjustments should be made.

  • The Department of Human Services and the Department of Public Health will continue to offer operating subsidies for special needs housing through their supportive housing programs.

  • The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency will continue to administer the Tax Increment Housing Program and the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS Program (HOPWA).

Create new sources of revenue for permanently affordable housing, including dedicated long-term financing for housing programs.

New revenue sources are needed if the City is to make a significant dent in the need for affordable housing. A major source of new revenue to the City that could be allocated to affordable housing is the real estate transfer tax. Increasing the current tax rate and devoting much of the increased revenue to preservation of affordable housing (see Objective 5) and to new affordable housing development should be given high priority.


  • The City will investigate an increase in the real estate transfer tax.

  • To the extent feasible, the City will continue to periodically issue affordable housing development bonds.

  • The Mayor's Office of Community Development programs will continue to address emergency shelter needs and the Mayor's Office of Housing will continue to administer programs relating to transitional and permanent housing needs.

Develop greater investments in and support for affordable housing programs by corporations, churches, unions, foundations, and financial institutions.

Greater corporate investment in and support for affordable housing should be encouraged. Churches are an untapped source of funding and land, as are dozens of local foundations and trade unions. The City should seek to better coordinate these efforts.


  • The City will continue to work with local financial institutions and non-profits to provide credit opportunities to low- and moderate-income individuals and households.

  • The City will continue to work with local financial institutions to meet their community reinvestment obligation under the Community Reinvestment Act.

  • The Mayor's Office of Housing will continue to work to better coordinate local affordable housing efforts through the Consolidated Plan process.



Population diversity is one of San Francisco's most important assets. To retain this diversity, a variety of housing opportunities should be available. Households should be able to choose the form of tenure most suitable to their needs, from either a rental or an ownership housing stock. A variety of unit sizes is also important, so that both larger and smaller households can be accommodated in adequate numbers. Units of varied costs are necessary to provide opportunities for households of different income levels. Finally, there should be units with special features and services suitable for households with special needs.

Social and economic factors can discriminate against certain population groups and limit their housing opportunities, leading to patterns of economic and racial segregation. Families with children are constrained by the types, sizes, and cost of units available to them. Access to units suitable for larger households tends to be limited by erosion of the older housing stock and discriminatory rental practices. Standard housing units with special features for elderly and handicapped persons are also in short supply. Housing that meets the needs and is affordable for artists is also lacking. If San Francisco is to retain its economic, racial, and cultural diversity, opportunities should be expanded for population groups for whom affordability and accessibility are crucial.

Encourage sufficient and suitable rental housing opportunities and emphasize permanently affordable rental units wherever possible.

Since approximately two-thirds of San Francisco's residents are renters, the availability of sound and affordable rental housing is of major importance, especially for the young and elderly populations and low and moderate income families who tend to rent their residence. Low vacancy rates and high rents are indicators of a continuing demand for rental housing. The City should make a concerted effort to do what is within its control to encourage the development of permanently affordable rental housing.


The Mayor's Office of Housing will continue to implement affordable rental housing programs for families, seniors, and households with special needs.

  • City Agencies and non-profits will continue to implement subsidy, development and land use programs that preserve existing rental housing and encourage the development of new rental housing, particularly permanently affordable rental housing. The City will ensure that all newly constructed, publicly supported affordable rental housing projects remain permanently affordable through the use of grant or financing restrictions that regulate rents and tenant incomes

  • Ensure that the First Source Hiring Program is fully implemented, thus aiding people's ability to afford housing.

Employ uniform definitions of affordability that accurately reflect the demographics and housing needs of San Franciscans.

Median income figures are reported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the three county area comprised of San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties, referred to as the Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA). Because average incomes are higher in Marin and San Mateo than they are in San Francisco, there is an upward bias to the numbers. For example, in 2000, the PMSA median family income was $74,900. The 2000 Census, however showed that the median family income for the City and County of San Francisco was $63,545 — about 85% of the area median income for the three county area covered by the PMSA.

Maximum HUD Income
Goal for Average SF Incomes
Rental Programs
Low Income
80% of AMI
60% of AMI
Very Low Income
50% of AMI
Ownership Programs
Moderate Income
120% of AMI
100% of AMI

In order to ensure that households at lower income levels are adequately served, the city's programming for affordable housing should target households at incomes lower than 85% of median. This has been done, for example, in rental projects in which the city is providing subsidy (land or financing or both) where the affordable rental units are required to be equal to or less than 60% of the PSMA median.


  • The Mayor's Office of Housing administers the annual affordability standards established by HUD to the various city agencies. The Planning Department will work with the Mayor's Office of Housing and the various City agencies to periodically review these standards for adequacy.

  • The City will work to adopt income limits for affordable housing programs that target assistance to households who are low income by San Francisco standards, as well as meet the HUD area median requirements.

  • The Mayor's Office of Housing and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency will continue to establish goals for programs and individual projects to ensure that, to the maximum extent feasible, they serve households at a variety of income levels, rather than just households at the top of eligible income ranges.

Ensure affirmative marketing of affordable housing.

Periodic reporting on the composition of resident populations in various publicly supported housing projects and affordable units required as a condition of permit approval should be required to facilitate compliance monitoring. Counseling and education to maintain housing rights should be promoted.

The State and Federal Housing requirements regarding displacement prohibitions, and other restrictions where affordable housing rehabilitation or construction might impact the community, should be adopted as City policy. Available affordable housing should be advertised in multi-lingual media to ensure fair marketing practice. The City should monitor and strictly enforce these requirements. The City's Human Rights Commission protects persons from housing discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, ancestry, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, place of birth, HIV/AIDS status, weight or height, families with minor children, source of income, and economic discrimination. Community forums including the Human Rights Commission should be provided in order to diffuse unwarranted opposition to affordable housing.


  • The City's Human Rights Commission (HRC) will continue to support and monitor the Fair Housing Access laws and advise the Mayor's Office of Housing and the Mayor's Office on Disability on issues of accessibility and impediments to Fair Housing. The HRC will investigate and mediate discrimination complaints. When appropriate, the HRC will provide referrals to other government agencies.

  • The HRC will continue to assist in resolving landlord-tenant problems in rental housing, including single room occupancy hotels.

  • The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and the Mayor's Office of Housing will continue to monitor leasing and sales of assisted housing developments to ensure compliance with affirmative marketing goals and income and rent restrictions.§ The City will continue to require periodic reporting on the composition of resident populations in publicly supported housing projects and affordable units.

  • The City will continue to support counseling and educational programs on housing rights for renters.

  • The City's affirmative marketing programs for affordable housing shall continue to require outreach to minority communities, including advertising in multi-lingual media.

Encourage greater economic integration within housing projects and throughout San Francisco.

Patterns of economic segregation are evident in San Francisco. Although housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income households are available in many areas of the city, these tend to be concentrated in a few areas. Special efforts should be made to expand housing opportunities for households of lower-income levels in other areas of the city.

The affordability of housing is a citywide problem. All neighborhoods of the city should be expected to accept their fair share of affordable housing. This can be effected through inclusionary affordable housing policies and consideration of secondary units in conformance with Policy 1.8.

Private reinvestment in many areas of the city, in a process of economic gentrification, can result in the displacement of low- and moderate-income households by higher income groups. Special efforts should be made to maintain the economic diversity of these areas.


  • The Planning Code's Inclusionary Affordable Housing Ordinance will require all residential and live/work developments of 10 units or more to provide inclusionary housing units, or to pay the required in-lieu fee.

  • The City will encourage economic integration by locating new assisted housing opportunities outside existing areas of concentration of low-income households.

Prevent housing discrimination.

To ensure housing opportunities for all people, the City should assist in the implementation of fair housing and anti-discrimination laws. The Human Rights Commission enforces the City's Fair Housing Law and handles complaints of housing discrimination. Residential apartment owners should also be prohibited from using arbitrary income and restrictive occupancy requirements that unnecessarily exclude lower income families.


  • The Human Rights Commission (HRC) will continue to support and monitor the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Fair Housing Access Laws. HRC will also continue to report to the Mayor's Office of Housing and the Mayor's Office on Disability and the Board of Supervisors with findings and policy recommendations on issues of accessibility and discriminatory barriers.

  • The HRC will continue to monitor fair housing practices at housing projects including homeless shelters and transitional housing that receive public assistance.

  • SFRA and MOH will continue to monitor all projects for ongoing continued compliance with income and rent restrictions.

  • The City will continue to provide funding to encourage equal access to housing for people with HIV/AIDS

  • The Planning Department will advocate a mix of unit sizes and types to accommodate special users including senior citizens and physically disabled persons pursuant to Planning Code Section 209.1 during the design review phase of proposed housing projects.

  • City and County of San Francisco Ordinances will continue to provide fair housing protection.

  • The San Francisco City and County Department of Human Services' housing unit and the Human Rights Commission will continue to investigate and mediate complaints of housing discrimination.

Increase the availability of units suitable for users with supportive housing needs.

The City should support efforts by potential sponsors to identify and develop sites for special users and work cooperatively with social service agencies and housing providers. The City should also seek to reduce institutional barriers to development of innovative forms of housing.

In addition to the disabled, other households with special needs have difficulty finding suitable housing in San Francisco. Many large families, especially those newly immigrated to the United States, are crowded into units designed for much smaller households. New housing construction, especially those including units to accommodate large families, should be encouraged. Many of the City's elderly citizens occupy housing that is not designed to meet their special needs. Shelters and transitional housing facilities are not available in sufficient numbers to meet the needs of the city's homeless population. The mentally disabled also need housing with additional support services.

The City should take an active role to encourage the expansion of the availability of housing units suited to needs of these groups including physical design features and ancillary social and medical service facilities. When units are constructed or rehabilitated to meet the needs of special user groups and have received City support or waivers, there should be monitoring to ensure that such units continue to be occupied by the intended group.


  • The City will continue to encourage and support the development of specialized housing types that meet the particular needs of various user groups. This housing will be especially encouraged in transit rich areas of the City, maximizing mobility and accessibility to services.

  • To reduce institutional barriers to the development of innovative forms of housing, the City will continue to support efforts of potential sponsors to identify and develop sites for special users.

  • The City will continue to promote cooperative efforts between social service agencies and housing providers to develop special user housing.

  • Units that are constructed or rehabilitated to meet the needs of special user groups and receive City support or waivers will be monitored to ensure that such units continue to be occupied by the intended group.

Eliminate discrimination against households with children.

Households with children often have difficulty finding suitable housing because many landlords do not want children as tenants. The City should prohibit discrimination against children and encourage the construction of units suitable for families with children. In assisted housing, households with dependent children should have preference in rental or resale of multiple bedroom units. The City should continue enforcement of the 1987 ordinance prohibiting residential apartment owners from discriminating against families based on household size unless the Building Code does not permit occupancy of the dwelling by a family of that size.


  • San Francisco's Municipal Police Code under Article 1.2 prohibits housing discrimination against families with minor children. This law prohibits the most common forms of discrimination, such as restrictive occupancy standards, rent surcharges and restrictive rules.

  • The City will continue to promote access to housing by families by enforcing Section 503(d) of the City's Housing Code.

Promote the adaptability and maximum accessibility of residential dwellings for disabled and elderly occupants.

Disabled and elderly San Franciscans are less able to compete for scarce housing units, in part because they often have lower than average incomes. Most housing units are also not physically accessible. The City should take an active role in expanding the availability of units suited to households with special needs. Congregate housing with central eating facilities is an appropriate form of housing for some elderly households. In accordance with local policy and applicable law, new housing should be made accessible or adaptable to the disabled or elderly. "Accessible" means that the housing presents no physical barriers to handicapped or elderly people. "Adaptable" means housing whose entry and circulation are designed and constructed so that making relatively minor adjustments and additions rather than structural changes can make the unit fully accessible. Federally assisted housing currently requires that at least 5% of all new units are made fully accessible.


  • The City will continue to provide protective services to help keep seniors and disabled adults of all circumstances and income levels safe in their own homes rather than in nursing homes through the new Department of Aging and Adult Services.

  • The Planning Department will continue to implement Planning Code Section 209, which allows a density bonus of twice the number of dwelling units otherwise permitted as a principal use in the district, when the housing is specifically designed for and occupied by senior citizens, physically or mentally disabled persons.

  • The Department of Building Inspection will continue to enforce the standards of accessibility and adaptability for commercial facilities and new residential construction including motels, apartment buildings containing three or more dwelling units, homeless shelter and other specified building types. (Chapter 11A and 11B of the California Building Code).

  • The Mayor's Office on Disability (MOD) will continue to ensure access for people with disabilities to City programs and facilities.

  • The Mayor's Office of Housing will continue to review affordable housing development programs and projects to ensure that these projects provide not only the accessibility required by federal, state and local law, but also the greatest accessibility feasible.

Encourage the provision of new home ownership opportunities through new construction so that increased owner occupancy does not diminish the supply of rental housing.

Since the demand for rental housing continues to significantly exceed supply and less than 8% of San Francisco residents can afford the median home cost, the development of new home ownership opportunities should rely primarily on new construction and not the conversion of rental housing to home ownership.


  • The City, through the Section 1302(c)2 of the San Francisco Subdivision Code, will continue to promote homeownership opportunities for existing tenants and prevent displacements by requiring a high degree of tenant intent to purchase their rental units as a condition of approval of applications for residential conversion.

Ensure an equitable distribution of quality board and care centers, and adult day care facilities throughout the City.

Older, larger buildings, and vacant commercial spaces, may be suitable for conversion to group housing. Because of the availability of certain types of residential buildings and services in certain parts of the City, board and care and adult day care facilities have tended to become concentrated in those areas. Applications for new facilities may continue to reinforce these concentrations unless they are carefully reviewed. It is desirable that group housing and board and care homes be distributed throughout the City so that people are offered a choice of locations and over-concentration of facilities in particular neighborhoods is avoided. However, the Federal fair housing laws prohibit limitations on board and care facilities and group homes to the extent that these limitations diminish housing opportunities for disabled persons and families with children. Adult day care facilities that allow disabled or elderly persons to live at home but receive daily support should be located close to their clients. In reviewing applications for board and care homes and adult day care facilities, the following factors should be among those evaluated:

  • In the case of day care facilities, proximity to clients' residences
  • Accessibility to recreational facilities and open space.
  • Proximity to commercial areas and shopping.
  • Proximity to community services.


  • The Planning Department will continue monitoring group housing to ensure a distribution of quality board and care and adult day care facilities

  • The Planning Department will explore the potential for expanding as-of-right group housing and group housing definitions in Sections 209.2 and 216 "Other Housing" in the neighborhood commercial district controls. The Mayor's Office of Housing will continue to investigate creation of a loan program to expand housing provided by board and care operators.


Minimize the hardships of displacement by providing essential relocation services.

Because of the economic and social hardships involved when a household is forced to move, and the difficulty of funding replacement housing at comparable rents, every effort should be made to minimize displacement.

Private demolition of housing can cause particular hardships because of the absence of relocation assistance programs for displaced households. Property owners should provide assistance in finding suitable relocation housing if any lower-income households are to be displaced. Property owners should inform tenants at the earliest possible date of any proposed demolition plans and should arrange for counseling assistance for the displaced households. Owners should not be permitted to demolish existing housing units until efforts have been made to assist tenants in obtaining relocation housing.

When displacement does occur as a result of public actions, uniform relocation services including counseling, locating replacement housing, and moving expenses, should be provided regardless of whether the displacement is caused by federal, state, or locally funded activities. In the case of privately funded developments where displacement occurs, the developer should be requested to provide such services.


  • When providing financial assistance for affordable housing development or rehabilitation, MOH and SFRA will continue to provide assistance required by the provisions of the federal Uniform Relocation Act (URA) or the California state relocation law.

  • The City will continue to work for a minimum of one to one replacement of all housing lost, regardless of cause.

Offer displaced households the right of first refusal to occupy replacement housing units that are comparable in size, location, cost, and rent control protection.

Persons in private or publicly owned housing displaced by fire and other acts should be restored to their previous residential position to the maximum extent feasible. Where existing units are converted to condominium or cooperative ownership, existing tenants should be given opportunities to purchase converted units.


  • The Mayor's Office of Housing (MOH) and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency will continue to provide tenants displaced during rehabilitation financed by each agency with the right to return to the unit or a comparable unit after the work is completed if they meet applicable eligibility criteria.

  • MOH will administer affordability restrictions on the stock of units made affordable under the Condominium Conversion Program.



Homelessness has grown to a scale unprecedented in the United States since the 1930s. The legacy of the 1980s that has regarded temporary shelter as an adequate response to homelessness should be overcome. Shelters are not an acceptable alternative to decent, affordable housing. While the City should not relax its commitment to offering shelter to anyone who would otherwise be forced to live in streets, parks and doorways, the vision and the overall direction should remain fixed on the goal of creating and preserving low-cost housing, jobs and job training programs, and the necessary health and social support services that enable people to live with the greatest degree of independence possible. Such services for the homeless should be provided in a multi-lingual and multicultural context where needed. It is critical that San Francisco and other cities begin to develop a regional approach to homelessness in the Bay Area. Increased state and federal support is needed for regional efforts to succeed.

Focus efforts on the provision of permanent affordable and service-enriched housing to reduce the need for temporary homeless shelters.

For a permanent solution to homelessness, permanent affordable housing must be developed. Although shelters can provide an alternative to sleeping on the streets, these do little to address the underlying problem. The development of new housing connected to services will best address this need.


  • City agencies including the Mayor's Office of Housing, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Public Health, the San Francisco Housing Authority, and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency will prioritize the development of permanent supportive housing.

  • The Department of Human Services and the Department of Public Health will continue to partner with capital funding agencies to develop supportive housing.

  • Existing low cost housing will be preserved wherever possible.

  • The Residential Hotel Unit Conversion and Demolition Ordinance will continue to benefit the public by minimizing the loss of residential hotel units through conversion and demolition.

  • The Department of Human Services (DHS) will continue to administer the Shelter Plus Care program, which provides rental subsidies to homeless individuals and families with disabilities so that they may access and maintain permanent supportive housing. The City should collaborate in efforts at the federal level to expand resources for this program.

  • DHS will continue to fund non-profit agencies to provide on-site supportive services for formerly homeless individuals and families living in supportive housing. DHS will coordinate development of these programs with the Mayor's Office of Housing and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, which provide funding for construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing, including supportive housing. Additional programs will be developed as funding availability allows.

  • DHS will continue to operate its Master Lease Program in order to provide low-cost, safe, permanent housing to homeless individuals leaving emergency shelters. The capacity of this program should be expanded.

  • DHS will continue the collaboration started with the San Francisco Housing Authority in the formation of the Joint SFHA/DHS Workgroup to resolve priorities issues for clients of both agencies.

Aggressively pursue other strategies to prevent homelessness and the risk of homelessness by addressing its contributory factors.

Measures that go beyond shelter are needed to address the root causes of homelessness. These include stable sources of income and health and social support services for short or long periods of time to assist people with special needs to live with the greatest degree of independence possible.


  • The Mayor's Office of Housing, the San Francisco Housing Authority and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency will continue to integrate job training and other programs that support low- and moderate-income families into its affordable housing development.

  • The Department of Human Services' Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance program will continue to work cooperatively with non-profits to help low- and very low-income individuals and families at risk of homelessness to maintain their housing by paying past due rent to avoid eviction, and offering legal services, counseling, and other supportive services. The Rental Assistance Fund helps very low-income San Franciscans in a housing crisis. Eligible individuals and families can apply for grants to pay overdue rent to prevent eviction, or apply for a security deposit to move into permanent housing.

  • DHS will continue to fund non-profit contractors to provide after-care services for homeless families once they are housed to help them maintain housing, become stable and prevent recurring episodes of homelessness.

Improve coordination among emergency assistance efforts, existing shelter programs, and health care outreach services.

While the emphasis should be on provision of permanent housing, the City should provide an emergency shelter program that provides temporary shelter and links homeless people to more comprehensive services. The City should also continue to support the Department of Public Health's Direct Access to Housing Program, which has helped households transition from shelters into permanent homes.

Homeless people often have difficulty gaining access to the health care system, whether it is because the multiplicity of problems they experience overwhelms health care providers, their behavior or appearance makes them unwelcome, or they themselves regard health care as low on the survival priority list. There is need for outreach services and multi-service centers that provide health care and other services to the homeless, in a manner that gains their trust and with a goal of integrating them into the larger health care and services systems.


  • The City will continue to develop resource centers to provide information and survival needs for the homeless.

  • The City will continue to operate its Homeless Services Team, which conducts outreach to homeless persons living on the street with the goal of assisting the most difficult-to-reach homeless persons to access available appropriate services, benefits, health care and housing. The Department of Human Services (DHS) will work to coordinate its street outreach efforts with other such outreach programs operated by the Department of Public Health.

  • The City will develop and implement a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) leading to improved coordination of services.

  • The DHS's Division of Housing and Homeless Programs will continue to fund a wide range of services that are part of a comprehensive, inter-agency, citywide approach to help homeless individuals and families achieve the highest level of self-sufficiency of which they are capable.

  • DHS will continue to operate their program Connecting Point as a centralized intake and service referral system for families.

Facilitate childcare and educational opportunities for homeless families and children.

Homeless families, just like other families, require a broad variety of childcare programs to meet their particular needs. For some, the need is for developmentally appropriate, well-equipped spaces that offer privacy, enabling families an opportunity to interact and play with their children. For other parents, who may need time to participate in job training, or to look for work or run errands, the need is for convenient drop-in childcare program. In other instances, the need may be for licensed childcare programs that serve the special needs of these children.


  • The Department of Human Services will continue to implement the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program to serve adults with dependent children where participants receive financial support and a full array of services for 18-24 months as they work with an Employment Specialist to follow an individualized Employment Plan.



Housing quality involves not only the physical condition of the housing structure itself but also the condition of the surrounding neighborhood and the adequacy of its amenities, facilities, and services. Quality urban housing can exist only in full service neighborhoods. New housing development must address these issues.

Use new housing development as a means to enhance neighborhood vitality and diversity.

New in-fill housing development should be compact, mixed-use, mixed income, and have a mix of unit sizes. Major multi-family housing projects that accommodate non-residential uses such as neighborhood serving retail, childcare or after school facilities, or even institutional uses such as a public library, should be encouraged and supported. Minimum density requirements and maximum parking standards should be used to encourage a mix of unit sizes in areas well served by transit and neighborhood retail.


  • The new Land Use Element will identify in-fill sites appropriate for mixed-use residential projects. Appropriate neighborhood serving retail, public facilities and supportive amenities should be encouraged.

  • The City will continue to implement its policy that the design of all housing sites and related amenities make a positive contribution to surrounding public space and to overall neighborhood vitality.

  • The Planning Department will encourage historic preservation and adaptive reuse of older buildings to enhance neighborhood vibrancy.

Ensure housing is provided with adequate public improvements, services, and amenities.

Many factors add to neighborhood livability, including the quality of schools, the availability of quality childcare at affordable prices, the effectiveness of police and fire services, access to open space and recreational opportunities, and access to transit. The large number of single parent and two working parent households makes the provision of childcare facilities an important component of family housing developments. Regular maintenance of streets and sidewalks, provision of street trees, and protection of residential areas from excessive traffic, are also important to neighborhood life. To provide its residents with a quality living environment, the City should address all of these factors.


  • All City of San Francisco departments and agencies will continue to contribute to the strengthening of neighborhood livability by providing and improving public amenities and services.

  • Each City department will continue to seek funding from Federal, State, local and private sources in order to improve services.

Encourage appropriate neighborhood-serving commercial activities in residential areas, without causing affordable housing displacement.

Certain non-residential uses are desirable and appropriate in residential areas. For example, small pedestrian-oriented grocery stores and other convenience shops can meet frequent and recurring needs of residents without disrupting the residential character of the area. On the other hand, other non-residential uses are noisy, unattractive, or generate excessive traffic and therefore would be undesirable in residential areas.

Commercial uses should be allowed in residential areas only if they meet the following criteria:

  • The use is primarily pedestrian-oriented.

  • The use serves the needs of the immediate residential neighborhood and does not draw significant trade from outside the neighborhood.

  • The use does not displace a unit suitable for residential occupancy.

  • The use does not disrupt or detract from the livability of the surrounding neighborhood.

  • Suitable locations in immediately adjacent neighborhood commercial areas do not exist.

  • The design of the building is in keeping with the established residential character of the area, and all signs are carefully regulated.

  • Truck traffic servicing the use is minimized, and truck delivery hours are restricted.

Community services such as childcare centers are also particularly appropriate in residential areas, even though they may draw from a larger area and may not be primarily pedestrian-oriented. Non-residential uses, if essential to the preservation of a landmark building, could also be permitted if the specific use is compatible with the surrounding environment.


  • The Planning Department is studying the construction methods and design components of well-designed neighborhood serving commercial areas. This will result in revised Design Guidelines to further enhance these areas. Areas of particular interest will be: appropriateness of business type; building materials and design; public amenities; open space and public art; street, sidewalk and public transportation connections and circulation patterns; neighborhood safety; environmental considerations; and site design.

  • Each project will be considered on its own merit and on its ability to make a positive contribution to the neighborhood and the City.

Avoid or minimize disruption caused by expansion of institutions, large-scale uses and auto-oriented development into residential areas.

The expansion needs of institutions often conflict with efforts to preserve and protect the scale and character of residential neighborhoods. Large educational, religious, and medical institutions attract people from outside a neighborhood, aggravating traffic and parking problems. Institutional buildings also tend to be larger in scale and more intensely used than surrounding residential buildings. In addition, institutional expansion often requires removal of housing and displacement of residents.

To minimize the disruption caused by expansion of large institutions, the City should carefully review expansion plans. The needs of adjacent residential areas for housing, on-street parking and safe, quiet streets should be considered, in addition to the needs of the institution. Educational and medical institutions should be required to develop and submit master plans to the City, before the City reviews any specific expansion requests. Such a master plan should define long-term and short-range development plans of the institution. Early review of institutional development plans will permit exploration of alternate ways to address the needs of the institution in order to minimize potential conflicts with the residential area.


  • The City will continue to require large educational and medical institutions to develop and submit Institutional Master Plans as required by Section 304.5 of the Planning Code.

  • The City will work to require institutions to provide housing for workers and students.

  • Neighborhood impact will be reduced by building at the appropriate scale, addressing traffic and transportation impacts, and by carefully considering neighborhood design patterns.

Promote the construction of well-designed housing that enhances existing neighborhood character.

Residents of San Francisco should be able to live in well-designed housing suited to their specific needs. To ensure that housing provides quality living environments and complements the character of the surrounding neighborhood, the following general design and amenity guidelines should be applied in evaluating new residential developments and alteration of existing buildings:

Exterior Appearance

  • Design new and substantially altered buildings in a manner that conserves and protects neighborhood character (See Residential Design Guidelines, Department of City Planning, 2003 for more specific guidelines and illustrations.)

Recreation/Open Space

  • Provide adequate on-site usable open space and relate the type, amount and location of open space to the types of households expected to occupy the building. (See Figure 9, "Residential Open Space Guidelines" in the Recreation and Open Space Element, for more specific guidelines.)


  • In larger projects include needed amenities such as storage, laundry, community rooms, and recycling, and adopt green building practices to the maximum extent possible.

  • Provide sites for childcare facilities to serve residents of the immediate vicinity if such facilities do not exist nearby, or if nearby facilities are at or near capacity.

  • Provide sites for convenience shopping facilities to serve the immediate vicinity if such facilities do not exist nearby.


  • Incorporate concepts of security in the design of the building, especially in the number of units per entrance, sense of personal space and ability of the residents to effect self-policing of the grounds and immediate surroundings. Also, provide adequately lit unit address numbers that are easily read from the street or walkways.

Art Work

  • Incorporate artwork in larger buildings.

Subdivisions and Planned Unit Developments

  • For larger subdivisions and planned unit developments, provide a lot layout and pattern that integrates well with the surrounding urban fabric and create a street pattern that ties into the surrounding streets.

  • Create a street pattern which ties into surrounding streets.

  • Avoid creating dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs where it is possible to create through streets.

  • On wide blocks, create mid-block lanes that function as public streets.

  • Create pedestrian passageways to provide convenient circulation within the project and convenient connections to areas outside the project.

  • Create lot or building patterns that orient the fronts of buildings to, and create multiple building entries from the street.

  • Avoid creating overly wide streets. Provide sidewalks wide enough to accommodate street trees.

  • Underground utilities.


  • The Planning Department will continue to study the construction methods and design components of well-designed housing that enhances the existing urban fabric of San Francisco.

  • The Planning Department will continue to use the Residential Design Guidelines when reviewing projects.

  • Each project will be considered on its own merit and on its ability to make a positive contribution to the immediate neighborhood and the City.

Employ flexible land use controls in residential areas that can regulate inappropriately sized development in new neighborhoods, in downtown areas and in other areas through a Better Neighborhoods type planning process while maximizing the opportunity for housing near transit.

Increased allowable densities should not detract from established neighborhood characteristics. In many cases, design and efficient site uses can make use of maximum housing densities while keeping resulting units affordable and compatible with neighboring structures.


  • The City will continue to promote increased residential densities in areas well served by transit and neighborhood compatible development with the support and input from local neighborhoods.

Where there is neighborhood support, reduce or remove minimum parking requirements for housing, increasing the amount of lot area available for housing units.

San Francisco first imposed residential parking requirements in the 1950s, when prevailing notions assumed that cars were becoming the primary way of getting around and automobile parking should be provided accordingly. This 1:1 parking requirement generated traffic and took up valuable space, but created a distinct neighborhood character in the western part of the City. One parking space reduces the amount of housing a parcel can accommodate by as much as 25%. Building parking space also adds $20,000 to $50,000 per parking space to the cost of housing construction.

Enforcing one off-street parking space for each new dwelling unit is essentially a suburban practice and diverges from the City's tradition of compact, urban, walkable places in the older neighborhoods. Much of San Francisco was built before the advent of the automobile and most places are easily accessible by foot or public transit.


  • The Planning Department will work to reduce parking in older neighborhoods and in other areas through a Better Neighborhoods type planning process with the support and input from local neighborhoods.

Strongly encourage housing project sponsors to take full advantage of allowable building densities in their housing developments while remaining consistent with neighborhood character.

The Planning Department, with housing project sponsors, should explore and encourage project configurations that take full advantage of allowable building densities. Department support should go beyond technical assistance and include coordinated and timely neighborhood outreach and accelerated processing. The Department should strongly support projects that creatively address residential parking and open space requirements, resulting in higher densities with a full range of unit sizes.


  • The Planning Department, with the support and input from local neighborhoods, study the impacts of reduced parking and private open space provisions and will consider revising the Planning Code accordingly.

  • The Planning Department will work with housing advocates to educate residents on the benefits of traditional urban neighborhood supporting housing densities.

Set allowable densities and parking standards in residential areas at levels that promote the City's overall housing objectives while respecting neighborhood scale and character.

In setting allowable residential densities in established neighborhoods, consideration should be given to the prevailing building type in the surrounding area so that new development does not detract from existing character. Established architectural characteristics should be respected. Design and efficient site uses can make use of maximum allowable densities while keeping resulting units affordable and compatible with neighboring structures. In areas where an urban scale and character is yet not established, densities should be set at levels that support transit and neighborhood amenities that are enjoyed by the City's more established neighborhoods.


  • The City, through a Better Neighborhoods type planning process, will continue to work to improve and enhance housing with the goal of more housing and vital, attractive transit served neighborhoods.

  • The Planning Department will continue to employ Residential Design Guidelines and implement the General Plan to ensure new projects are compatible with established neighborhoods.

  • The new Land Use Element will, within the framework of a comprehensive citywide action plan (CAP), identify areas where higher densities are appropriate.

  • The updated Urban Design Element will reconcile the City's established and well formulated urban design principles with the City's housing objectives.

POLICY 11.10
Include energy efficient features in new residential development and encourage weatherization in existing housing to reduce overall housing costs and the long-range cost of maintenance.

Simple energy saving features such as site orientation and window placement can optimize passive solar heating and natural daylight at little or no additional cost. Often, features that add to the initial cost of a structure are highly cost-effective in terms of the life cycle or operating costs. For example, weatherization of existing housing can usually pay for itself in a short time, resulting in lower utility bills and housing costs. These approaches should be pursued.


  • The Department of Building Inspection, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), and the Building Science industry will continue environmental education programs for the general public, project sponsors, and builders.

  • The Mayor's Office of Housing will continue to provide funding for the physical and financial preservation of non-profit owned affordable rental housing that requires energy efficiency improvements in order to protect its affordability.

  • The Department of Building Inspection will continue to enforce Title 24 energy code requirements. In addition to Title 24, residential buildings will be also required to comply with the Residential Energy Conservation Ordinance (RECO). RECO affects all residences at time of sale or at time of meter conversion, major improvement or condominium conversion.



Housing is a regional and state concern. Problems such as the inability of large numbers of people to afford decent housing, inequities and discrimination in the housing market, and the inadequacy of public resources cross the boundaries of local jurisdictions and cannot be addressed solely on a local level. Region-wide strategies are needed. Investment decisions made by the private sector are rarely confined to the limits of single governmental jurisdictions — broader housing market areas are considered. A strategy dealing with housing problems in the Bay Area must therefore involve a regional approach. Effective solutions to housing problems in the Bay Area can be developed only if all local jurisdictions' agencies and organizations dealing with housing in the Bay Area coordinate their activities.

Although San Francisco will always maintain an overall jobs/housing imbalance because it has historically developed as an employment center, the City must undertake efforts to balance future employment growth and the supply of housing. In particular, City agencies should coordinate strategies to meet the housing goals set forth by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and adopted as part of this Element, as well as to address housing needs already present even without job growth. To meet these goals, San Francisco will have to absorb a greater percentage of new workers and increase the housing opportunities for workers currently commuting to the City.

Work with localities across the region to establish a better relationship between economic growth and increased housing needs.

San Francisco is part of the larger regional economy of the Bay Area and economic decisions made by one community often affect other communities in the region. Thus decisions made by some cities to limit commercial or residential growth impact other cities in the region. Efforts should be made to balance employment and housing growth within the region. Aggregated together, current local government development policies will not house the labor supply needed for jobs currently projected for the region. If these policies remain unchanged, housing must be provided outside the region. This would extend commutes, or regional job growth will be curtailed, or both.

The Association of Bay Area Governments has established a regional goal to house within the region up to 50% of the difference between the projected growth in Bay Area jobs and the growth in the region's labor supply. To reduce the jobs-housing imbalance in the region by that amount by 2006, almost 231,000 additional housing units are needed within the region.


  • The City will continue to work with the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to shape an implementation plan that meets regional housing, transportation, and job needs.

  • The City will continue to support new state and federal funding for projects that coordinate the region's need for jobs and housing well served by the transportation system.

  • The State should offer incentives in the form of a larger allocation of a regional property tax sharing pool in exchange for building mixed use affordable residential near transit hubs.

Support the production of well-planned housing regionwide that address regional housing needs and improve the overall quality of life in the Bay Area.

New residential development and rehabilitation of existing housing should be planned to conserve open space and to take advantage of the availability of employment opportunities, efficient transportation systems, and community services. San Francisco should take an active role in promoting quality new housing development in the Bay Area in areas where adverse impacts on the environment will not be generated and the use of public transit will be enhanced. The City should also play a greater role in ensuring local and regional growth management strategies are coordinated and complementary.


  • The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) will continue to serve as the lead agency and administrator of the HOPWA Program on behalf of the San Francisco Eligible Metropolitan Statistical Area (EMSA), which includes San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties.

  • The City will continue to support the production of well planned affordable and market rate housing, improve the jobs/housing balance, and improve public transportation options.

  • The City will continue to support efforts to make the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) more supportive of transit oriented and mixed use residential development.

  • The City will continue to work with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to coordinate transportation information regionwide.

  • The City will continue to support efforts for rail line extension funding based on zoning that requires regional mixed-use development and jobs/housing balance criterion.

  • The City will continue to support Jobs-Housing Balance Incentive Grants awarded to cities that produce housing in areas with fast growing employment and support additional bonuses awarded for multi-family housing, affordable housing, and in-fill development.

  • The City will continue to support congestion pricing bridge tolls during peak commute periods with additional fund generation allocated for public transportation improvements.

  • The City will continue to support efforts to develop and improve transit to large surplus public land and redevelopment areas such as Treasure Island, Alameda Naval Air Station or Mare Island in Vallejo, where high-density housing and new jobs and services could be built.

  • The City will continue to support efforts to use state or regional funds to give housing subsidies or income tax credits to employees who live close to their workplaces similar to subsidies for police and firefighters in some cities.

  • The City will continue to support the use of State or regional funds for transit passes or to increase transit-related income tax credits to encourage employees to commute to work via transit.

  • The City will continue to support efforts to charge consumers the full cost of parking to promote transit use. Additional funds, generated by employee parking fees, could be used to improve public transportation and fund incentive programs for non-driving employees.

  • The City will continue to support the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's (MTC) Transportation for Livable Communities (TLC) program, which provides funding for planning and construction of projects that help create walkable, transit-oriented and livable communities.

Encourage jurisdictions throughout the Bay Area to recognize their share in the responsibility to confront the regional affordable housing crisis.

Local communities throughout the Bay Area should accept responsibility for housing families of all income levels. At the present time, most of the region's subsidized housing for low- and moderate-income households is concentrated in the central cities, including San Francisco. Housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income households should be available throughout the region, and all localities in the Bay Area should provide their fair share of such housing. The public and the private sector should share responsibility.

State law allows joint exercise of powers between jurisdictions that enable entrepreneurial action at a larger-than-local scale. Cooperative efforts among localities, as well as joint efforts with state agencies, extend resources available for affordable housing.


  • The City will continue to support the following efforts: State and Federal funding allocations tied to individual communities' commitment to provide their fair share of affordable housing production, particularly in transit rich areas; linking State funds to a community's fulfillment of their fair share of regional affordable housing needs; and reducing fiscal incentives to produce uses other than housing by regional sales and property tax sharing.

  • To take advantage of a city's ability to use Joint Power and other collective and cooperative arrangements to make more effective use of financial resources for housing production, the City will encourage joint powers approaches to housing finance where joint powers agreements will enhance the production of affordable housing.

Foster educational programs across the region that increase public understanding of the need for affordable housing and generate support for quality housing projects.

The City should help develop and conduct region wide public awareness programs to generate greater public support for affordable housing production. Workshop modules could also be crafted to explain regional land use patterns and its impacts on livability and help demystify urban densities.


  • The City will continue to support the efforts of non-profits like Non-Profit Housing Association, Urban Ecology, Greenbelt Alliance, and Architects, Designers, and Planners for Social Responsibility, as well as regional government organization such as the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to conduct community workshops, and research and publish information that promotes understanding of relationships between economic growth and increased housing needs.

  • The City will continue to support public awareness programs of professional associations such as the Urban Land Institute, American Planning Association, the American Institute of Architects, and the American Society of Landscape Architects, in their efforts to underscore the importance of linking jobs, housing and other uses by efficient transportation throughout the region.

Support the State of California in developing and implementing state affordable housing plans and programs.

With the decreasing level of Federal support for housing programs, the administrative and financial powers of the State become especially critical. The state legislature has placed an affordable housing bond proposal on the statewide ballot in 2002, but there also needs to be a long-range plan for affordable housing and a clearer articulation of the State's role in funding and facilitation of affordable housing programs.


  • The City will continue to support State and regional efforts to establish additional grant programs to aid in the preparation of plans and environmental documents for mixed-use residential and transit oriented projects responding to regional needs.

  • The City will advocate for increased and equitable State and Federal fund allocations for affordable housing production.


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