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Rage-Inspiring Density Program Goes Before City Supervisors

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Development plan stuck in web of competing laws and agendas

After four months of lingering, the Affordable Housing Bonus Program is finally ready for its last showdown, going before city’s Land Use Committee today before (presumably) moving on to the Board of Supervisors.

The mouthful of a law is either a modest and necessary tool to encourage affordable housing development or the worst thing to happen to the city since they drove bulldozers into the Fillmore, depending on who you ask.

A product of the Planning Department, AHPB would upzone certain parcels for additional units and floors if developers agree to increase the number of affordable units in the resulting buildings.

The city must have some sort of density bonus program in place to appease state law, although the state doesn’t care much about the particulars, leaving the wrangling to local lawmakers.

The Planning Commission endorsed the program (in piecemeal fashion) in February, but it’s been seemingly stuck in limbo since then. Possibly because an earlier planning meeting was preceded by a fiery press conference on the steps City Hall, in which Supervisor David Campos called it a weapon to drive San Franciscans from their homes.

Critics worry that the law would give landlords incentives to demolish existing buildings in favor of larger, more dense ones. (Although the proposal prohibits trashing rent controlled buildings.)

AHBP boosters argue that the law affects only a small percentage of city properties and that the projected increase in housing is a necessary response to the city’s swelling population.

Clouding the issue even more, a web of new housing laws have been proposed since February, including one put forth by Campos and District Three supervisor Aaron Peskin, which would grant bonuses only to 100 affordable housing developments.

Voters just approved a law that allowed city legislators to increase or decrease minimum affordable housing requirements on a majority vote. Governor Jerry Brown has proposed a state law that would do away with most of San Francisco’s entitlements process, although density rules would remain in place.