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New SF City Hall employee has one goal: To approve housing

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Director of housing delivery tasked with delivering 5,000 new homes each year

San Francisco City Hall flanked by trees. Dllu

On Thursday, Mayor London Breed announced the appointment of the city’s first director of housing delivery, a new position created specifically to “ensure that new housing projects are not held up in San Francisco’s complicated approval and permitting system.”

Breed picked Judson True, previously the chief of staff for SF-based Assemblymember David Chiu, for the job. True also formerly served as an aide to Chiu when he was on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, as well as a Muni spokesperson.

“For housing production to truly be a top priority, we must [...] not accept the delays that keep homes unbuilt,” True said in a press release Thursday afternoon.

Breed proposed the new gig in October, declaring that the director’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.”

While inexperienced builders might assume that once the Planning Commission approves a building, they’re in the home stretch, that’s just the beginning of a Byzantine process engaging with many other city agencies, most of which do not work together or coordinate.

True’s job will be to help approved projects jump through the necessary hoops as quickly as possible.

“It is unacceptable that badly needed housing takes months or years to get final permits from city departments after being approved by the Planning Commission,” said Breed earlier this year.

Breed wants the city to build approximately 5,000 new homes every year. However, as the city’s 2017 Housing Inventory Report released in April revealed, project approval is not necessarily the bottleneck to new housing in the city.

Last year the city approved “over 6,700 units were authorized for construction,” according to the report. But that came out to a net gain of just 4,441 units.

Approved units sometimes fail to appear because developers have trouble getting construction started, or sometimes because the projects are simply too big to finish by year’s end. Breed hopes to streamline the process enough to get over the 5,000 net mark even with the bottleneck.

Earlier this week the mayor also announced that, alongside Supervisor Aaron Peskin, she has “introduced a resolution to authorize, issue, and appropriate up to $75 million in bond funding for the acquisition and rehabilitation of” buildings that are “at risk of entering the speculative market.”

Peskin and the mayor hope the funds will save some renters from eviction by keeping buildings from being sold out from under them.