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Half of SF Density Program Passes, Half Remains In Limbo

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Some new buildings will soar as tall as three extra stories

The long and winding road between San Francisco and taller housing reached the halfway mark this week—or maybe this is the full finish line, nobody can quite tell yet.

After years of planning and months of political haymakers, part of the contentious Affordable Housing Bonus Program passed the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. It was a mellow affair, with quite a bit of make-nice talk between rivals.

The full AHBP, backed by Mayor Ed Lee and Planning Department but emphatically not by some of the city’s lawmakers, grants developers extra floors on buildings if they agree to include more affordable housing in the finished project. The bonuses would apply only to certain parcels along major transit corridors.

To say that some neighborhoods reacted poorly to the idea would be like saying the Arctic Ocean is a wee bit chilly this time of year. Lawmakers have been growling at each other over it for months, with the usual divide between the more liberal (against) and moderate (in favor) supervisors.

Part of the reason yesterday’s vote went so smoothly, with District Three’s Aaron Peskin and District Four’s Katy Tang complimenting each other for the cameras, is because only half of the plan went forward.

Developers of 100 percent affordable buildings may qualify for up to three extra floors under the new law. The part of the package benefiting market rate development is still in committee.

Still, this was a hot-button issue as recently as May, when Peskin and District One's Eric Mar floatd a competing measure. But after a few weeks, compromises over the bill’s inner workings cooled things down a bit. (Maybe they all had a Fourth of July party and worked out their differences over IPA?)

The rest of the bill is still consigned to City Hall’s legislative waiting room, though; what will become of it isn’t yet clear. Tang told Curbed SF in June that she was waiting for a few additional studies before moving it forward.

Possibly, she and the mayor are also waiting for November, when six of the 11 supervisor spots are up for reelection, and one other will leave for a senatorial gig in Sacramento.