SAN FRANCISCO — Mayor London N. Breed recently announced that in the six months since she issued an Executive Directive to accelerate the approvals of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), also known as in-law units, the city has cleared its application backlog.
As a result of this action, the city permitted more in-law units than it did in the previous three years when the city’s in-law program was first launched.
The Executive Directive Mayor Breed issued at the end of August called for the backlog of 919 units waiting for approval to be cleared and for all new applications to acted on within four months. It also called on city departments to set clear, objective code standards, and work to improve the application process for people looking to build in-law units. Since then, 439 of the backlogged in-law units have been permitted, over 90 percent of which are subject to rent-control, and the rest of the applications have been reviewed by the relevant departments and are awaiting responses from the applicants.
We have made good progress to get this housing approved faster, and we will continue to work to encourage applicants to come forward to build new in-law units,” said Mayor London Breed. “This is just a first step. I will not let our bureaucracy stand in the way of building more housing, especially new rent-controlled housing, because we need more places for people to live in San Francisco. Whether it’s streamlining the approval process or eliminating permitting fees, we can and will do more to get more housing built in our neighborhoods.”
Since 2014, the city departments involved in permitting housing did not have clear and consistent standards on what is needed to add new ADU units to existing single family homes and apartment buildings. Instead, departments preferred to handle these complex applications on a case-by-case basis, resulting in unnecessarily long review periods, inconsistencies in direction to project applicants, and a large backlog of permit applications.
Since the Executive Directive was issued, the city has received applications for 206 new units, all of which were reviewed within the four-month timeframe. Of those new applications, 18 units have so far been approved, while the remainder have been reviewed and are awaiting responses from the applicants. Mayor Breed made the announcement today at a Mission Housing Development Corp. property where new in-law units are planned to be created from former garages.
Mission Housing is excited to lead the charge for the Affordable Housing Community as we increase our affordable housing stock by what could be hundreds of new units converted from our existing garages,” said Sam Moss, executive director of mission housing. “During times such as these, in the midst of this housing shortage crisis, it’s important that every neighborhood prioritizes new housing, and thanks to Mayor Breed’s leadership we’re one step closer to solving the housing crisis. Mission Housing Development Corp. is in the business of housing San Francisco’s low income community, not its cars.”
As part of the mayor’s acceleration effort, several process improvements were made by the city departments involved in issuing permit approvals. A streamlined “roundtable” review process was introduced where multiple reviewing departments, including the Planning Department, Department of Building Inspection (DBI), Fire Department, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Public Works came together concurrently to review applications. This improvement allowed all agencies to issue comments or requests for plan revisions to ADU applicants at once, instead of the former linear process.
Efforts to clarify and expedite the application process have benefited from the addition of public services and documents now available to applicants, including:
- Optional meetings before filing with the Planning, Building, and Fire Departments, allowing for early multi-agency collaboration and identification of red flags;
- Public information sessions on ADUs for design professionals and homeowners;
- Dedicated department staff to provide informative and consistent advice to applicants;
- Both new and updated public information documents, including a first-ever multi-agency “ADU Checklist” (review and download below) to outline all requirements and submittal guidelines for each agency;
- An updated “ADU Handbook” to reflect legislative updates and requirements for permitting.
The mayor recently introduced legislation to eliminate DBI permitting fees for ADUs and 100 percent affordable housing projects. Permitting fees are a significant part of ADU project costs and fees on 100 percent affordable housing can range upwards of $100,000-$150,000 per project.
“We are happy to see Mayor Breed and Mission Housing continue to find ways to increase affordable housing opportunities,” said Dora Orante on behalf of the tenants at Abel Gonzales. “We’re also grateful for the creative ways housing can be designed to help others live in one of these units.”
Review and download the San Francisco ADU checklist:
Explore our previous coverage of ADUs: