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City Hall considers modular housing factory in SF

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Potential project would create new housing for the homeless

A model of stackable premade homes in developer Patrick Kennedy’s San Francisco office in 2016. Photo by Adam L Brinklow

On Tuesday, London Breed—in what turned out to be one of her final acts as the acting mayor—announced that the city will develop a plan to create a facility for the construction of prefabricated modular housing somewhere in San Francisco.

The proposal is tentative right now. A recent press release announced that “the city will create a business plan and fund a stakeholder engagement process” for the hypothetical future homes factory.

In the same announcement, Breed referenced both the housing crisis and the city’s chronic homelessness, saying, “It is clear that we need more housing and we need it now” and promising to “build homes in a timely, efficient manner.”

While this stops just short of saying the city plans to start investing more in modular homes as a means of creating new housing for the homeless, it’s still clear that’s the idea.

Larry Mazzola Jr., President of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, joined Breed in the announcement, despite the fact that Mazzola once called prefabricated housing “cheap crap that skirts all city values, codes and laws.”

But Mazzola also told the San Francisco Chronicle that he wanted to find a way to create modular homes using San Francisco labor instead of buying from other cities. Apparently Breed’s potential plan fits the bill; Mazzola said the Trades Council is “proud to partner with the city” on the idea.

A Stanford professor’s premade, steel-framed house, under construction in 2016.
Photo courtesy of BONE

Breed made the announcement while still serving as San Francisco’s acting mayor after the death of former mayor Ed Lee in December. On Tuesday night, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Breed out of the mayoral role in favor of Supervisor Mark Farrell, now the interim mayor.

Since the modular housing plan is in its earliest stages it’s hard to say how the outcome of the upcoming June vote for a new, full-time mayor may affect it, although Breed is among the candidates and will presumably stick by the project if she wins.