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San Francisco Mayor Issues Order To Speed Up Housing Approvals

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee issued a directive Wednesday that would cut the housing application process in half. The mayor issued an executive directive with a goal of speeding up the approval and permit process and completing 5,000 new and renovated units annually, the San Francisco Business Times reports.

“Far too long, we failed to develop enough housing in our city, creating an environment where families left San Francisco for more affordable places to live,” Lee said in a statement. “More housing in San Francisco will make this city more affordable for our families.”

Under the order, housing that does not require environmental review should be considered for approval no later than six months after plans are filed. Complex projects would be sped up to 22 months with most projects having a nine- to 18-month approval deadline. All building and infrastructure permits would need to be issued within 12 months after final plans are submitted for approved developments.

The initiative calls for reduced entitlement times and that permits for building, subdivision maps and post-entitlement are issued in a swift manner. Developers have long said average entitlements take 18 months to go through the city and projects can take years to go through the full approval process.

“We cannot expect to create more housing when projects struggle through the permitting process,” San Francisco Supervisor Katy Tang said.


From 2007 to 2014, San Francisco met 64% of its Regional Housing Need Allocation goals, issuing 20,103 permits out of the 31,193 needed to meet demand. It far exceeded its RHNA requirement for above-moderate income housing with 109% of permits issued. It only met 18% of its moderate-income housing and 27% of its low-income housing goals. It met 59% of the very-low-income housing requirement. Its RHNA for 2023 is 28,869, and the city has issued 4,623 permits as of April.

The directive also calls for enhanced coordination with private housing developers to make sure project sponsors meet deadlines for submission of applications and materials. Expedited processes will be provided to projects with sponsors that keep up with these deadlines and are responsive and timely.

The Planning Department and Department of Building Inspection will provide reports for a streamlined approval process by December while other departments will provide reports by January. A consolidated plan will be available in April. Departments will issue quarterly reports on housing approval activity to the public.