Corona Heights Zoning Controls Map
Corona Heights Zoning Controls Map

Supervisor Wiener’s proposed legislation to halt the development, or expansion, of homes exceeding 3,000 gross square feet in size within San Francisco’s Corona Heights neighborhood was passed by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors yesterday.

The legislation could effectively put an 18-month hold on any such projects where a final building permit has not yet been issued, in the name of “preserv[ing]  the existing neighborhood’s character.”  And in 18 months, the legislation could be extended.

Of course, the legislation could be expanded as well.  Or in the words of a plugged-in reader: “It’s a matter of time before this legislation swarms across the city as other neighborhoods glom on,” and perhaps “it sort of suggests a new standard of sub 3,000-square-foot homes and legacy ‘superclass’ houses.”

115 thoughts on “Legislation to Halt Development of “Monster Homes” Passed”
    1. This is standard zoning in many places

      I would want aholes building 4000 sq ft houses next to my 1500 at rancher either

      1. Wow, a new line is drawn in the NIMBY wars. 3000 sq ft is not huge –especially for a large family. If anything this legislation is ANTI-Family, but we already know that SF hates children.

        For what its worth, I was raised in a home 9,000+ sq ft and even that felt small at times.

        1. It’s not worth much. We have been raised here for generations in 1200-1500 sq ft homes. Weather is good here so we go outside.

  1. Does anyone have a link to the area that is actually covered by this legislation?

    [Editor’s Note: Now mapped above.]

  2. Hilarious. Anything to prevent families from living in SF I guess. Don’t allow any homes big enough to hold an entire family, that will help keep kids in our city!

    1. Huh ? So long as you don’t have more than a Brady Bunch, 3000 sq. ft. is plenty large enough to comfortably house a family.

      1. The legislation does not prohibit 3,000 square foot homes. The limit only comes into effect when you increase an existing building by over 75% and do not add additional units (and there are also lot coverage restrictions). So, it is quite possible to take an existing 2,000 square foot home and make it a 3,500 square foot home all without a conditional use permit under this legislation. Also, you can still build as large as you like in any case if you can get a conditional use permit.

        So, people will still be able to build “Brady Bunch” style homes. Maybe, not mansions, but definitely “Brady Bunch” homes.

      2. I have 2,500 for two people and two dogs, I can’t imagine raising a family in something that is not 3,000 or larger.

        1. boy you live a sheltered life. I was brought up in a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom condo, along with my parents and 4 siblings. and a cat.

          1. There’s always someone who will have lived in harsher conditions than the next person. Heck I studied 2 years in Paris in a 90sf “studette” under a slanted rooftop with 50 practical square feet and a sink that would convert to a shower. Shared bathroom with the Philipino neighbors who were 5 in their room and NO shower. That’s all I could afford. I considered myself fortunate.

            Now that I can afford it I will live wherever I want, in many more square feet than I can decently need.

          2. I have worked hard for what I have, I might not need all the space but I enjoy that I have the option and am able to afford it. I also love it. If you are with in planning code regulations and people are buying the properties why have a hold like this. What is the point?

          3. If people want huge and they can afford it, they still need to obey the law. SF has too many people who build and want obese houses anyway. I call it housing obesity. Some of the new houses in my neighborhood are so swollen and out of scale with the lot that they were built with ‘slimming panels’. But a fattie is a fattie! They still look so wrong.

          4. Yet they did so by respecting the law, obviously. Now taste is a different issue. An obese house for you is a nice house to someone else. Are we going to add a “division of good taste and socially acceptable behavior” to the SF politburo offices?

        2. MarinaBoy – How much home you want is a matter of personal taste and I won’t dispute your desire. But realize that you’re on the high end of the range even by bloated mid-America standards and an outlier by international and SF Bay area standards.

      1. I was raised in a family of four with five cats, in the 80s, in under 900 square feet, in a house in the Sunset. The new “standard” of 3000 sq ft “homes” is an inflated sense of entitlement and expectations. But it’s the new normal, isn’t it? OK, 900 sq ft was tight. If you’re a family of two, though, with 2500 sq ft, and you think that’s small, then you should take a second look at all the useless stuff you own.

  3. Wow. That’s going to affect the resale value of empty lots and fixer uppers. Were I an owner in one the streets concerned I’d be pissed.

    Let’s try to understand the rationale behind a size restriction. Wealthy people will buy a teardown, a fixer upper or an empty lot and develop it to the largest possible envelope.

    If you restrict to 3000sf the idea is that wealthy people will find it to small and decide not to move there.

    This legislation is a mix of social discrimination, class envy, Nimbyism, blatant micro-managing all summed up by an arbitrary number. At 2950sf, you’re one of us. At 3050, we don’t want you here.

    I thought my Supervisor was smarter than the other pseudo communists at the BoS. I guess I was dead wrong. Does he feel that the escalation by the Gang of 3 1/2 is making him look inadequate?

        1. The law will just keep amateurs out of the RE game while savy developers work between the letter of the law and make money… Same game different rules.

        2. My take is that anytime there’s an arbitrary limit set there’s an angle somewhere that someone will figure out. Say someone has a large family and purchases a 6000sf lot, huge per SF standards. That person could arguably go to the city and claim that the SF rules force him to underbuild. He would ask for a lot split to build 2 houses. I don’t know if any of this is even feasible per SF’s rule. Just that with new arbitrary constraints come unforeseen loopholes.

    1. It’s the same arbitrary line of thinking used by the formula retail opponents. And Weiner is just being bullied by local NIMBYs who will determine his fate at the ballot box.

    2. The legislation does not prevent homes over 3,000 square feet, it requires a conditional use permit for homes larger than this size ONLY when the developer increases the size of existing development by more than 75% without adding an extra unit. This does make it harder to build larger homes over 3,000 square feet, but it does not prohibit them. For example, you could take an existing home of 2,000 square feet and add 1,500, making it a 3,500 square foot home, all without a conditional use permit.

      Also, wealthy people already live in Corona Heights, it is not a working class neighborhood, and it will continue only continue to grow more affluent with or without 3,000+ square foot homes.

  4. I’m not shedding any tears. 3,000 SF is a HUGE single family house. The only people this affects is the ultra-wealthy and they can just go jump in Lake Merced for all 99% of the City cares.

        1. iknowsnow says 3000sf is huge. Per US standards it is not. That’s just 15% more than the current average. Some people in SF just want big houses. Some do not. To everyone his own, as long as everything is legal.

  5. Does this include “in law units” built into the new or remodeled house? The presence of which might add to some housing inventory. So let’s say you want to remodel the owners house is 2200 and the apt 799? that’s ok?

    1. Definitely OK. In your example, you are adding a new unit. The legislation specifically allows you to increase the gross square footage of the existing structure by 100% (and up to 3000 gross sq ft) if you add a unit. So, not only could you add the 799 sq ft in law, you could add an additional 2200 sq ft to the home (making it 4400 sq ft main home with an in law of 799 sq ft, for a grand total of 5299 sq ft). Seems pretty fair to me. Note, this all assumes the additions remain within 55% lot coverage (i.e., the legislation requires 45% open space on the lot which does nothing more than reiterate the current zoning laws)

  6. There’s a strange dividing line between completely new construction and expansion… If you have an existing structure at 3000 sq ft, you can grow 75% larger as long as you’re leaving 45% of the lot open and otherwise conforming to zoning. With a big lot, potentially not much of a restriction. If there’s no house there already, though… Bzzzt. Limit is 3000.

    There’s also a slap in the face to any owner who’s in process… they may have significant monies expended already on architect, engineer, city fees, etc. Shouldn’t they have made this apply to “new applications” instead of “any project without a final permit”? Yikes.

        1. There new rules are never pulled out of thin air. It always starts with a specific conflict and someone who manages to make his case better than the other party. If you have the ear of a politician it always helps.

          A ridiculous proposition was the Jasper Alley clusterfudge. Someone Ellises a building to create TICs but needs the underused (read illegally used) first floor for parking garages. There was a big outcry from that specific community and the people went to beg for their local supe to “do something”. And there you go: a supe proposed to forbid the creation of garages if an Ellis had taken place. That didn’t fly but the supes are always in a reaction mode. Often “overreaction” when emotions are high.

          1. That new legislation is required to support ones case is usually not an indication that one has a good case.

          2. BobN,


            But we are dealing with very emotional people there. If you have been living under rent control your whole life, you gradually lose touch with the realities that the rest of us have to live through. Taxes, extra safety regulations, disclosures, permits, new rules for every little detail.

            The world changes all the time but if you are a tenant since 1980 you are living in a de-facto 1980 bubble. You look at the outside world with a distorted point-of-view. You can’t relate to what other people are going through, paying a fortune for sub-par housing and trying to improve their own lot. For you they are trying to build too much, too high, too expensive. These newcomers are a threat to your continuous enjoyment of the 1980 life.

        1. If you believe that the public testimony presented at this hearing documented by the linked video constitutes self-interested “NIMBYism,” you are one sad, sick puppy.

      1. it’s also targeting some other development up on States, I believe. It’s also mentioned in the video.

  7. Would this legislation allow multi-family homes with total square footage exceeding 3000 but where individual units have square footage less than 3000? or are those not allowed in corona heights already?

    [Editor’s Note: Try clicking the link the legislation above which answers that very question.]

    1. The legislation is a bit more nuanced than what you state. First, the 3,000 limit only kicks in where a developer increases the existing building size by over 75% (provided lot coverage restrictions are met) and does not add an additional unit. So, you can build OVER 3,000 square feet if you only increase the building size by 75% and meet lot coverage restrictions. If an additional unit is added, then you can increase the building size by up to 100% and still go over 3,000 square feet (as long as you meet lot coverage restrictions) and you are not required to get a conditional use permit. Finally, even if your development is impacted by the 3,000 square foot limit, you can still win approval so long as you can get a conditional use permit.

  8. Weiner is just playing to the NIMBYs for his election (that is also 18 months away). He is more pro-development than this and I expected better of him.

    1. A few comments saying this, but in reality Weiner was re-elected last November to his second (and last) term on the BoS.

    2. This whole issue is not about development vs anti-development. It is about smart, appropriate development and what the impact it has a on a particular, somewhat uniquely situated neighborhood which makes its peculiar contribution to this great city.

      1. Every neighborhood is particular and uniquely situated, having its own peculiar contribution to this great city.

        1. I’m glad you agree with me. Still, not I’m sure you understand the dynamics involved here or anything else about this great city.

  9. Normally I’m with Weiner, but this is stupid. I would expect this sort of legislation from Campos, but am very surprised about this one coming from Weiner. It’s arbitrary, and the fact that it applied to projects that have already possibly been pending for years, and could have tens of thousands spent in the planning face is ridiculous. I would expect a number of lawsuits to come out of this. It’s unconscionable to change the rules on people halfway (or further) into the planning process, particularly given how drawn out and expensive our planning process already is.

    1. As noted in the Chron article, Campos actually tried to turn the tables on Weiner by arguing this same type local action is justification for his proposal for a “moratorium” on market rate housing in the Mission.

  10. Yeah, I disagree with this.

    But Scott Wiener is not stupid – au contraire. I live near here, know a lot of people in this area, and regularly talk to even more (dogs and kids at the park). This move is VERY popular among the locals. Lots of long-term renters who are deathly afraid of being evicted, and they blame the ever-wealthier new population for that. And lots of old hippie types who like the little-ish cottages/homes in this area and hate anything big or wealthy. There was an active, vocal group of locals pushing for this, with free coffee etc. at tables looking for petition signatures (that’s how you get what you want). So that is the voter base in the area. Only 29,000 people voted in D8 last election, and Wiener got 23,000 of those. He only needed 15,000 to win (actually far less), and this move probably locked in a few hundred votes and lost him maybe 6 votes. All politics is local.

      1. I would be all for it – probably unconstitutional though, so district elections are not going anywhere.

    1. You probably don’t need more than 250sf per person. Heck a human can suffice himself with 100sf and shared bathroom. But if you work hard and can afford it, you will try to live where you want and in the space you want.

        1. Of course. But why changing local rules for a specific set of streets? Some streets will be OK for 5000sf and others only 3000? That’s just a sign it’s an attempt an pandering to a specific class of people.

  11. Another proof is that rent control is killing SF.

    “Lots of long-term renters who are deathly afraid of being evicted, and they blame the ever-wealthier new population for that.”

  12. Continue to bulld cubbies and force people to the burbs. No one stays. This is a get on get off transitional market in part because of the unfriendly family housing situation. I live in a modest 3200sf period home with 1200 attic buildout potential. It’s not huge. But, leaving San Francisco anyway….

    1. The burbs I live in now and grew up in is filled with 1200-1500 sq foot homes. Where are you talking about? Danville?

  13. I have no problem with limiting the size of homes…it’s really no different than other zoning powers that limit lot coverage or height. And as many have stated, this is a conditional use…if the lot characteristics make it that a larger home is easily accommodated and pisses off no neighbors, then it will probably sail through the conditional use process.

    This neighborhood is not unique, but is typical, of the kind of neighborhood clinging to san Francisco hillsides, full of little houses and cottages. There IS in fact a big impact when folks max out zoning envelopes. The elevation changes, and folded nature of the hillsides can make a not enormous project loom over its neighbors.

    Anyone who knows me on this site knows that I’m generally very pro development, but I don’t disagree with this legislation at all.

    And quoting the average size of new homes in America has virtually nothing to do with the size of SF residences. A “family” house in SF was traditionally 1500 square feet or so. Transforming those by going up, out and down to absurd extents is unfortunately typical of our supercharged times, but is not necessary. OK, that’s a value judgement, I admit it, but I’m sticking to it.

    1. If you want a picturesque city, I suggest you move to Cabot Cove, Maine.

      Wait… Cabot Cove does not actually exist. They shot it in Mendocino which is a sleepy but beautiful coastal community.

        1. Restricting house sizes to keep a hill picturesque is hypocritical. Before these small houses there was a green belt. Then these houses defaced the wonderful nature.

          Cities change all the time. If we want to pour amber over this city at least let’s be coherent and make it citywide Then charge a fee to pay for the upkeep of the little people in the cute gouses.

          1. I support development in much of the city but also see why we might not want massive homes in established SFH areas or high rises in North Beach. I realize this leads to exploited rules and corruption but the alternative is worse IMO

          2. Whether it is worse or better is a matter of opinion or aesthetics. Yes rules are necessary. But in a hyper-regulated city like SF any new rule has to be looked at very closely.

          1. No State taxes! Gun show galore! Extra Cheap drinks! Neighbors with an average IQ of 90! 60-year-old cocktail waitresses in bunny suits! Yeah!

  14. Well, the San Francisco real estate market is really quite under-regulated. We need this.

  15. This is called zoning right?

    I bought a modest 1500 Sq Ft home in the burbs. I’d expect to not have d bags building 4000 sq Ft monster homes on either side of me. What’s the difference here?

    1. It’s new zoning. Someone who bought 2 weeks ago didn’t expect zoning to change. It changes the financial dynamics of your purchase. The supers always make it harder to do stuff, not easier. They have a clear enemy and it’s change. But change will happen.

      1. Zoning changes but I agree this is the neighborhood using the system to discourage speculators and carpetbaggers

        Don’t know. It’s a tough issue because on principal it is counterproductive.

  16. I like Scott Weiner, but he drank the kool-aid on this one. This is wrong headed and something to be expected of David Campos.

    1. He is representing his constituents. It is more or less a zoning change to preserve the character of an existing neighborhood.

        1. no, the message is welcome to the neighborhood, respect it don’t ruin it, add to it don’t overwhelm it.

          1. “Ruining it” in the real world means letting it rot or setting up a crack house or a meth lab.

            Ruining something with money comes dead last in the “Great Ledger of Ruinous Things”. You can say what you want, but it’s a clear case of “I have mine and you can have yours as long as it’s not better than mine”. It’s another brand of Nimbyism, but Nimbyism nonetheless.

  17. What’s the reason to limit size of the house? It does not hurt anyone.

    That neighborhood is under-utilized. If they want to limit the size of the house, why not allowing multi-units on the same lot? Maybe allow people to build a 4 unit condo with 2000 sf each instead of one 3000sf house?

  18. They do. And this is one of the many ways this silly piece of legislation will be worked around. Say I have a 2500 sqft house, I want to add 1500 sqft. I’ll just write an in-law unit into the plans. The city loves additional units. But… of course I’ll never rent it out (because rent control). I’ll be used as a regular part of the house, maybe used by in-laws when they come into town and rented on AirBnB for some of the time.

    1. You are another person who doesn’t understand this new law. If you had a 2,500 square foot home in this neighborhood (the ordinance only covers Corona Heights), as long as you do not cover more than 55% of your lot, you can increase the home by 75% without adding any units or applying for a conditional use permit. So, you could actually add 1,875 square feet to your house without needing to add an in-law unit or apply for a conditional use permit. The 3,000 square limit would NOT apply. So, your whole silly Airbnb scenario is irrelevant

  19. Just saw this article, and looks like there have been specific issues in Corona Heights in particular that may have sparked this (see below):


    In summer 2013, two adjoining lots on Ord Court, a dead-end street tucked into the steep and winding roads near Twin Peaks, were sold to Kenneth Tam, according to property records.

    Each lot contains a single-family home, one built in the 1950s and the other in 1910, with a total appraised value of $2.4 million, according to the Assessor-Recorder’s Office.

    Soon after the sale to Tam, plans were filed to add large second homes to each lot. One would be four stories and the other three, with the entrances on States Street up a steep hill from the existing homes’ front doors on Ord Court.

    In both instances, 25 percent of the lots would remain undeveloped backyard, which is the minimum amount allowed in the area. And in both instances, Planning Department staffers recommended approval. However, complaints from neighbors, who are concerned about the removal of backyard trees where one of the homes would go, have stalled the project.

    Other home-expansion projects in the vicinity have caused considerable outcry — and in one instance, a potential health hazard when a home under dramatic expansion and owned by Port of San Francisco Commissioner Mel Murphy collapsed and slid down a hillside in 2013.

    Since then, Supervisor Scott Wiener has proposed a tougher approval process for projects that would cover more than 55 percent of a lot or add a home of 3,000 square feet or more.

    The proposal would only cover a select area in Corona Heights, and would apply to “monster homes” rather than bona fide “cottages,” said Wiener, but the outcry from neighbors and accompanying action from the local lawmaker may be a cautionary tale.

    As for whether or not a second building could be appropriate on some lots in Corona Heights, “it’s a case-by-case basis,” Wiener said, declining to comment on an individual project.

  20. FWIW, SF is hardly the first Bay Area city to put monster home rules in place. The other cases I know about are based on aesthetics: “preserve the charming nature of the XYZ neighborhood” and such.

    This Corona Heights rule also is prompted by aesthetics but has an escape for projects increasing housing. Central SF is motivated to oppose density dilution and I think that’s part of the living unit merger prohibition. Actually all of the inner Bay Area should be concerned about density dilution.

  21. I find the term “Monster Home” pretty ridiculous. Are these villain’s lairs with obligatory bat cave and ICBM launching pads?

    In any case, the wording is very typical of politicians who have learned that finding the right name for your enemy is part of the propaganda.

    How about we call all rent controlled tenants “Sticky Leeches”. NIMBYs could be named “Socially Inept Passeists” and anti-development hecklers “Useless Nincompoops”?

  22. Earlier posters claimed that it was a specific project that prompted this legislation. They also claim this is NIMBYism. Both statements are not true.

    If you had attended the Planning and Land Use Committee meeting, you would have seen that over 80 people from all corners of the small neighborhood covered by the ordinance showed up in support of the legislation. The reason that people came from all over is because there are numerous such projects taking place – Ord St and Ord Ct are only 3 short blocks long and there are 5 such projects there alone. If you throw in States St, you can get the count up to 13. These projects all have the same things in common – buy a small house from an estate, go to the planning commission to get a variance around whatever code is getting in the way of creating 5000 sq ft of splendor, rip out any significant trees that might be getting in the way (with or without a permit), and use deep pockets to fight the neighbors who just want the existing code enforced.

    One project alone cost the neighbors over $12,000 in legal fees to fight a developer who wanted to cover a single RH2 lot with two 4,000 sq ft homes each of which was over 4 stories high on streets where there are only one and two story homes. Fighting developers to just get the existing code applied is very expensive, so we approached Scott. Scott listened to our story and responded with legislation that doesn’t stop anyone from building anything that is characteristic of our neighborhood. I know for a fact that if we’d asked Scott for a moratorium, he would have respectfully declined to help us.

    What this legislation does do is send a message to the developers that their questionable behavior is noted and they are now required to explain at a formal hearing why they should get the variances. In addition, because the legislation requires a Conditional Use if you want to violate the limits, the neighbors no longer have to bear the cost of filing a discretionary review (which was the only option we had prior to this legislation). I know the initial cost is relatively small, but after you hire the architects, arborists, and land use lawyers to support your claim at the hearing, the costs quickly go up.

    About the NIMBYism, our neighborhood as born the brunt of a lot of development. Come take a look at Ord St today and compare it to Ord St 20 years ago. Virtually 60% of the homes have been renovated or “developed”. In addition, our neighborhood supported Scott’s legislation to allow the legal addition of in law units. As I said, we are not anti-development, we just want sensible development where the existing zoning codes are enforced.

    1. i am certain that not all of these builds utilized variances to the code. one problem here is that neighborhood groups can read the code, but do they really understand it + how DBI works? i’ve seen simple over the counter builds questioned by neighbors to the point where building steps in, and the house takes on an awful generic look the group hates. Then the group hates the design, and halts everything. Even though it was their fault, and they actually like the original design. This is giving far too much power to the lay people. And variances require 311s anyway?

    2. “legislation to allow the legal addition of in law units”? How many legal in-law units were added since the legislation?

      If it is not zero, probably close to zero I guess. Before rent control is repealed, no one in the right mind would like to build a “legal addition of in law units” and put one’s house under rent control.

  23. Thx to YKWIM for providing a background on this. I too was shocked at Weiner doing this, then I read the comments & the court order. It’s true the people should not be able to expand into their backyards with extra houses. The guy that owns that property up there should sell for a different one.

    I’m hoping that Weiner will go on to bigger and better things in the state legislature or even become Governor one day. Now that there’s a background on this, I’m totally fine with it.

    1. Weiner as Governor? Darn you need to get out of the 7X7 more.

      Once you cross a bridge or the DC/SSF moat, life is ruled by the dirty C-word: Capitalism. In this foreign land, there are more owners than renters, people will have much of their nest egg in their home and do not like having busybodies restricting their opportunities.

    2. Definitely not a governor. In fact, none of the SF supervisors has any hope for a state level position other than district representatives. SF BOS is nothing but a group of boys and girls fighting for some kind of “rights” for their favorite small group of constituents, be it ethnical, income, immigration or whatever.

      SSF and silicon valley might be labeled as capitalistic, but remember that silicon valley is 100% democrats. Actually, SF bay area is almost 100% all democratic except a lone Republican representative in Dublin/Pleasanton area. Comparing this with the over 33% state congress, you will see that SF is probably the 2.5% of the state and it is at the far, far, far left. So Weiner as Governor is joke.

      However, Weiner can sure replace Leno since he will compete within SF.

      1. Being a Democrat is not contradictory with being a capitalist.

        Also, the SV is not 100% Democrat. Remember that some of the VCs are pure libertarian. For instance Peter Thiel…

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