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Mayor Breed creates new job, department to speed up SF housing

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“We are in desperate need of new housing, but our current permitting process is too slow as projects are bounced back and forth”

New housing in Mission Bay.
Photo by Patricia Chang

Building new homes in San Francisco—which, along with Oakland, suffers the brunt of the Bay Area housing crisis—is a process so bad that the mayor created a new department dedicated to cutting permitting time in half. Now London Breed is looking for someone to lead the team that, fingers crossed, will help relieve the city’s dearth of housing stock.

Breed is looking for someone to fill the “director of housing delivery” position, who will be tasked with managing the newly formed Housing Delivery Department and moving projects forward.

“We are in desperate need of new housing, but our current permitting process is too slow as projects are bounced back and forth between city departments instead of moving forward,” said Breed in a statement released Wednesday. “Once the Planning Commission approves these projects, the city must move more quickly to get these housing units permitted so we can create more homes for people. My Director of Housing Delivery’s sole job will be to work with our city departments to streamline the permitting process and work with departments to get housing built quickly.”

Right now city departments review project plans on paper, one department at a time—an epic process that sometimes results in housing projects being quashed altogether. Combine said process with a Planning Department that seems to bend over backwards to hinder new housing, and you get where we are today.

“Too often, projects can get entangled in conflicts that delay housing that we need right now, and these changes will help projects like ours avoid problems and get directly into the hands of working families,” said Doug Shoemaker, president of Mercy Housing California and onetime director of the mayor’s office of housing under Gavin Newsom’s reign.

According to City Hall, here’s what the future director of housing delivery will do to help streamline the arduous process: “In addition to working to move individual projects through the process, the director of housing delivery will take immediate steps to streamline the entitlement process, including using common schedules to track large projects and a master schedule to provide a holistic view of development in the City. Furthermore, the director will be tasked with implementing electronic plan review to digitize applications so multiple departments can review them simultaneously.”

Mayor Breed has made it a point of speeding up new housing stock since taking office in July. She demanded more in-law apartments be made legal in August. Before that, she tried wooing a modular housing factory to build in SF.