San Francisco Considers Not One but Two Bills Legalizing ‘Missing Middle’ Housing Citywide. Both Have Flaws.

“In what might seem like a Christmas miracle come early, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering not one, but two, bills that would legalize lower density “missing middle” housing across the city.

Competing proposals introduced by Supervisors Gordon Mar and Rafael Mandelson would both allow the construction of four-unit homes (or fourplexes) on all residentially zoned land citywide. Combined with state-level reforms from earlier this year that make it easier to divide residential plots in half, both bills could theoretically allow up to eight primary residences where only one was permitted before.”

“Unfortunately, the two proposals also include micromanaging regulations that would lead to less missing middle housing being built than a more hands-off free-market approach would produce.

Mar’s bill would permit up to four units of housing on all current Residential House zones, which currently allow between one and three homes. That sounds like a pretty sweeping reform. But there’s a catch.

Mar’s bill would require the new units to be rented out or sold at rates that are affordable to someone making 100 percent of “area median income.” The San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported on the bill, notes that the current area median income in the city is $106,550 for a couple or $133,200 for a family of four.

Affordable monthly rent for a family making that amount of money would shake out to be $2,664, according to a press release from Mar’s office—$2,000 less than pre-pandemic market-rate rents for a typical two-bedroom apartment.”

“Consider what happened in Austin, Texas. In 2019, the city technically abolished single-family-only zoning when it created the Affordability Unlocked program, which allows developers to build larger projects with more units and fewer parking spaces in exchange for making the new homes affordable to lower-income people. Specifically, it allows the construction of up to eight units of housing in single-family-zoned areas. But to build those extra units, a developer would have to make as much as 75 percent of the new units affordable to people earning below area median income, include a certain number of two-bedroom units, and adopt a host of tenant protections.

As a result, few Affordability Unlocked projects have been built in single-family zones. Those that have required substantial subsidies from the city government.”

“Mandelman’s fourplex legalization bill looks like laissez faire in comparison. It allows the construction of fourplexes citywide, without any of the affordability requirements in Mar’s bill.

Nevertheless, it would require newly legal fourplexes to be built at densities no larger than what the city’s current zoning allows for three-unit homes. (Mar’s proposal has the same density restrictions.) According to Hamilton, that means Mandelman’s bill is more suited for permitting triplexes than the fourplexes it technically allows.”

Housing-Starved San Francisco Fines Developer $1.2 Million For Building Too Many Units

“Planning documents show that in 2013 the city granted permission for the construction of five buildings—containing 10 units of housing plus office space and ground-floor retail—on lots that were either vacant or featured a shuttered gas station.

The developers instead ended up building 29 total units without any of the offices or open space they had promised. In addition, the final project lacked some of the promised parking spots and had none of the fancy façade features depicted in the original plans. The new units also lack a second means of egress, which is required for fire safety purposes.

The project received its final certificate of occupancy in 2016. According to the Chronicle, problems with the neighbors began even before construction was finished, as it became clear that the façade going up in their neighborhood did not match the plans approved by the city.

“I saw it go up and I thought, ‘This turd is not what we were promised,'” one neighbor told the Chronicle.

The Planning Department’s website shows several complaints dating back to 2017 about the building’s illegal units, lack of below-market-rate rental units, and absence of promised street trees.”

“The question is what will now happen at the currently occupied apartment complex.

The developers’ attorneys have filed applications to legalize the additional, unapproved units and to add fire escapes on the rear of the building. That will require the city to grant variances for the properties, which are collectively zoned for only 14 units. That’s not guaranteed to happen, so some of the current units may end up getting dismantled and their occupants forced to move elsewhere.”

Teen Cigarette Smoking Went Up Following Flavored Tobacco Ban

“In newly published research, she looked at youth smoking rates in San Francisco, which banned flavored tobacco products—including flavored cigarettes and flavored vaping liquids—in June 2018. Previous research suggested the ban actually increased cigarette smoking in 18- to 24-year-olds while decreasing overall tobacco product use in 18- to 34-year-olds. Friedman wanted to measure the ban’s effect on high school students under 18.

Using data from the 2011-2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), Friedman was able to look at under-18 cigarette smoking rates in Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, and Florida’s Broward, Palm Beach, and Orange counties. This allowed her to compare youth smoking in San Francisco with districts that did not ban flavored cigarettes and vaping products.

“Comparing recent smoking rates by wave revealed similar trends in San Francisco vs other districts prior to 2018 but subsequent divergence,” writes Friedman of her findings. “San Francisco’s flavor ban was associated with more than doubled odds of recent smoking among underage high school students relative to concurrent changes in other districts.”

“While the policy applied to all tobacco products, its outcome was likely greater for youths who vaped than those who smoked due to higher rates of flavored tobacco use among those who vaped,” she adds. “This raises concerns that reducing access to flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems may motivate youths who would otherwise vape to substitute smoking. Indeed, analyses of how minimum legal sales ages for electronic nicotine delivery systems are associated with youth smoking also suggest such substitution.””

San Francisco School Board President Says Critics of School Renaming Are Undermining Anti-Racist Work

“the president of San Francisco’s school board thinks schools should be renamed even if the renaming committee erred in its thinking, and the vice president of the school board thinks merit is a racist concept and any attempt to measure merit represents the antithesis of justice. Are these schools in good hands? Would any parent willingly trust the members of this board to tutor their children, let alone plan the entire educational experience of thousands of kids?”