Battle with SF Planning Commission

Saw this thread on twitter. I will just copy and past the whole thing down here. I am sure @Elt1 can relate.


I was just at Planning Commission to help out my Sunset District friends in @ bestsidesf by reading their letter. It was a good reminder that every single member of the Planning Commission is failing to grapple with the scale of our housing shortage and should be replaced.

At issue was a homeowner’s plan to add a third-story addition with 3 new bedrooms, and a 2-bedroom ADU (in-law unit) in the garage. All 100% legal under zoning. Had already done plenty of back-and-forth with the Planning Department staff.

A Discretionary Review was filed by a fake “neighborhood association” that consists of one homeowner across the street, who appears to have founded it solely because if you’re a “neighborhood association,” you can file DRs for free.

DR is a mechanism that exists only to slow down housing. It’s saying, “I know this project is perfectly legal and ordinary, but I’m mad about it, so let’s have a hearing where you can rule to make them change it anyway.” DR should be abolished.

At the hearing, the project sponsor pleaded to be allowed to expand his home, pointing out that he had a multigenerational family of 7 adults and 3 kids. Neighbors accused that he would instead rent out the bedrooms separately as a boarding house.

A Commissioner, Moore, all but called the project sponsor a liar, saying she did not believe this could be family housing, that it was “set up like a hotel” with “luxurious bathrooms.”

She added it “looks like a dormitory” and she was “very troubled.”

Commissioner Melgar, to her credit, pushed back, saying that cultural norms differ and we should not bring that kinds of expectations of what family space is. Fong, Hillis and Koppel agreed.

But Hillis then started grilling the architect about the living room in the ADU. Couldn’t the circulation be better? Under intense questioning, the architect admitted the ADU layout could be improved.

Richards then made a motion to grant the Discretionary Review, remove the front deck, remove the rear staircase, and revise the ADU layout in consultation with the Planning Department. It’s still not clear to me what removing the deck or staircase had to do with anything.

This motion passed 5-1, with only Moore grunting an annoyed “no,” likely because she didn’t support the project at all.

This whole fight was over ONE unit of housing. ONE. We are supposed to be building 5,000 homes per year, according to the mayor, and 20,000 per year is what we really need if we’re going to solve this shortage within a generation.

There is no way we’re going to get there with this level of micromanagement, this needing of “Kumbaya moments” where everyone on the block agrees, this desire from the little Napoleons on the Planning Commission to put their fingerprints on everything.

We need to be approving not just ADUs, but 10-25 unit apartments in the Sunset that are not perfect and about which someone is still going to be upset. The process is broken. DR needs to be abolished, the Sunset needs to be upzoned, and we need a brand new PlanCom that gets it.

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This is another example of having too much democracy. We should not allow everything to be decided by votes. Why do we allow one neighbor to derail development of an entire neighborhood? If it’s allowed by the current laws that should be it. There shouldn’t even be a planning department.

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The way to fight these nymbyies is to accuse them of being rascist. If your cultural need is to have all your family together it could be a good argument to defeat racist neighbors. The poor homeowner should organize protesters in front of Moore’s house.

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Unfortunately that didn’t save the deck and the rear staircase. Maybe they could have made a Feng Shui argument?

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A permit expediter is worth her weight in gold. Thanks Irene!!!

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In the old days the Mafia did that job

You need to bribe the whole street. Free Hawaii travel packages for every neighbor and then maybe you can have a deck built on your property.

I prefer the Mafia method. Promise you won’t burn them down, if they leave you alone. Nimbyies are basically bullies.

That’s not democracy. 1 neighbors is literally over ruling everyone else. That’s dictatorship.

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No it is extortion