Proposition E — Affordable Housing – Board of Supervisors

See our November 2022 SF Election Guide for a nonpartisan analysis of measures and contests on the ballot in San Francisco for the election occurring Nov. 8, 2022. Voters will consider the following proposition in that election.

The second of two bills meant to expedite the approval process for affordable housing, Proposition E — aka the Affordable Housing Production Act — was written by District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan and sent to the ballot by a 7-4 by the Board of Supervisors in late July. The proposition is supported by Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, along with Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Dean Preston, Hillary Ronen and Gordon Mar, as well as the San Francisco Democratic Party, the Council of Community Housing Organizations, the San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition, the San Francisco Tenants Union, the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco and several political clubs. It is also supported by labor groups including the San Francisco Building Trades, the San Francisco Labor Council, United Educators of San Francisco and United HERE Local 2.

This measure requires more than 50% affirmative votes to pass. In the event that both Proposition D and Proposition E pass, whichever measure gets more votes will go into effect, nullifying the other.

The two proposals will go before voters three months after the California Department of Housing and Community Development launched an investigation into San Francisco’s housing policies to understand why the permitting process takes so long in a city with a massive affordable housing shortage — the first investigation of its kind in the state. A November 2021 study found that the median approval timeframe for housing developments in San Francisco was 27 months. While the city is hitting its state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Assessment Goals, it is doing so by underproducing affordable housing and overproducing market-rate housing.

Certain new housing developments are subject to approval by various city boards and commissions, and are also required by state law to be reviewed under the California Environmental Quality Act, which has been cited by Supervisors in several controversial rejections of housing developments, including a proposed 495-unit mixed-income building at 469 Stevenson. Lengthy permitting processes can increase the cost of affordable housing construction.

Under Proposition E, projects that meet specific requirements would be exempt from review by the Planning Commission, Board of Appeals, Historic Preservation Commission, Arts Commission and the Board of Supervisors with one exception: Projects would still be subject to discretionary funding approval by the Board of Supervisors (and thus, potential CEQA review) in certain situations.

The types of developments that would be covered by the proposal include 100% affordable multifamily housing, educator housing projects with all units occupied by at least one employee of the San Francisco Unified School District or San Francisco Community College District, and mixed-income projects where 29.5% of units are affordable.

Dubbed by Chan as the only bill that would create “truly affordable housing,” this proposal sets the income cap for a unit in a 100% affordable project at 120% of the area median income, a lower cap than in Proposition D. The average income for an entire project would remain at the current state-set 80% of area median income, compared to Proposition D’s raised threshold of 120%.

Proponents of the measure also note that it will “bring greater transparency and accountability” by requiring the city to create a report tracking the city’s progress and spending on housing. Also, the bill requires that additional on-site units include at least 30% two-bedroom units and 20% three-bedrooms to create homes suitable for families. Another key difference from Proposition D is the required use of “skilled and trained” laborers who have completed specific apprenticeship programs.

Opponents of Proposition E criticized the continued CEQA oversight and discretionary review by the Board of Supervisors, and dubbed the measure a “poison pill.” They claimed that Proposition E would block the production of affordable housing because the number of required affordable units in some projects is so high that it make projects financially infeasible. They also criticized the measure’s requirement for “skilled and trained” laborers, saying that it will limit the work pool. Opponents include GrowSF, the Housing Action Coalition, Nor Cal Carpenters Union and SPUR, an urban planning think tank.

The Housing Action Coalition, a proponent of the competing Proposition D, sued to block Chan’s measure from appearing on the ballot using the same California law it criticized Proposition E for allowing — CEQA. However, a judge ruled in August that the measure could stay on the ballot.

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