San Francisco Moves To Make Fourplex Development on the Westside Easier

Supervisor Myrna Melgar's legislation to ease multi-family housing development on the Westside was adopted in July.

Westside residents will be able develop their properties into fourplexes.| File Photo/Ingleside Light

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed last month new legislation to make it easier for homeowners to build up to four units on their lots.

District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar, who represents part of the greater Ingleside neighborhood, put forward the bill to simplify the process for people to expand their homes. It allows for the creation of a special use district, mostly on the city's Westside, and would allow families to support multi-generational living, downsizing or the ability to rent an extra unit.

Melgar told the press upon introducing the bill in January that she had witnessed many single-family homes in her part of the Ingleside Terraces residence park empty out as owners died or moved away while keeping the property.

Without raising allowed building heights, the law allows for more options while attempting to keep what Melgar called “family friendly” characteristics of the Westside neighborhood. The program is limited to well-resourced neighborhoods as defined by the State Department of Housing and Community Development.

“While we want to see developers build new affordable housing across the city, we also need more sensible options for smaller, in-fill projects that homeowners can take on,” said Sunnyside homeowner Jon Winston in a statement. “This should help cut the red tape and expense that makes it challenging to just add a few units.”

Additionally, the program seeks to provide displacement protections and benefits for renters. It's designed for single-family homes but prohibits project if tenants were evicted or bought out in the past five years.

“This legislation will give homeowners options to age in place or growing families to expand by adding more private units on the same lot,” Melgar said in a statement. “This is one small piece of a plan for San Francisco to grow into the future that makes sense for the Westside.”

The new units created will be exempted from Costa Hawkins restrictions which froze San Francisco’s rent control to the year 1979, meaning the program can create new rent controlled housing where it currently doesn’t apply.

Adjacent neighbors and neighborhood organizations will still receive notice of a pre-application meeting, but the ability for public-initiated discretionary review hearings for one unit properties after that will be removed.

“As an organization that has fought for tenant protections for 53 years, we are acutely sensitive to unintended consequences of clumsy legislation,” said Róisín Isner of the San Francisco Tenants Union in a statement. “We commend Supervisor Melgar for working with advocates and her thorough consideration of complex pressures. We lend our support for this proposal.”

San Francisco is required to come up with ways to add more housing described in the Housing Element and reduce delays in issuing permits. This ordinance is one attempt to create more tool towards that goal.

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