Distribution of Developments in San Francisco's Housing Pipeline

According to our latest survey of the Planning Department’s data, the number of (net-new) housing units under construction in San Francisco remains around 8,100 with building permits for another 5,500 units issued, approved or in the works.

There are another 28,300 units of housing in projects that have been approved but not yet permitted, which does include 10,500 units by Candlestick, 7,800 units on Treasure Island and 5,680 units at Parkmerced, projects which have overall timelines measured in decades, not years.

And with proposals for another 12,600 units of housing currently being reviewed by the City’s Planning Department, the number of units in San Francisco’s overall Housing Pipeline remains around 55,000 for the second quarter in a row, up from 51,000 at the same time last year.

For context, roughly 3,000 units of housing wrapped-up construction in San Francisco last year and a total of 13,000 units were added from 2007 through 2014 (27,000 units since the year 2000).

UPDATE: Another 4,000 Units Added to San Francisco’s Housing Pipeline

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by condoswatch

    Wow! So many units. Is there demand for the supply?

    • Posted by Rainer Wilke

      Please say that is sarcasm?

    • Posted by SFrentier

      You know what they always say….build it and they will come!

  2. Posted by NJ

    This says “net-new” is that really the case? I’m looking at Bernal and around Dolores park on the map – are these actually new units going in, or just rehabing older ones? I’m all for more housing, I’m just having a hard time picturing what would have gotten approved. I suppose lifting old houses and adding a unit below, that sort of thing?

  3. Posted by Ghostwriter

    I look forward to anti-development locals thanking developers for reducing the smell of urine and the risk of stepping in human feces in SoMa. That neighborhood is on the ups. Planning needs to wrap up the Cental SoMa Plan so even better projects can be submitted for entitlement.

    • Posted by Oh Dear

      Pray tell how any amount of development will stop the smell of #1 and 2? Wait, unless the shade from the highrise residential will somehow keep the smell from getting too bad from cooking in the sun? Is that what you mean? Cause certainly there is no linkage between the two that I have ever seen.

    • Posted by Pablito

      The amount of development in SOMA or the types of projects has nothing to do with the amount of poop and pee on the streets.

      • Posted by Gee Ess

        I think maybe Ghostwriter was implying that new development leads to gentrification, and if the amount of poop and pee is determined by the makeup of people who spend time in the area, that gentrification might change the mix in a way that reduces poop and pee.

        You may disagree with that idea. Is it hard to follow?

        • Posted by Oh Dear

          Yep, like street people will somehow disappear from soma….puff just like that.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            Do not underestimate the influence of newcomers on how a neighborhood can change its attractively to the homeless. One day a homeless guy pulled an old mattress in front of my windows and started to set up camp there. A quick call to the police station and the cops showed up to redirect the guy to a homeless shelter, then got Recology to pick up the mattress.

            3 years ago we had 6 permanent street people in a 2 block radius. Today: none.

            If you have new residents in a “gentrified” area, this will be more frequent and will end up having a significant impact. If there are only warehouses and empty storefronts, everything goes after 6PM.

  4. Posted by Mark F.

    A good start, but San Francisco could easily use 100,000 new units or more.

    • Posted by SFcitizen

      That sounds good, but what about infrastructure? Water? Transportation?

      • Posted by HousingWonk

        Is the “what about infrastructure, water, transportation” the new NIMBY version of “traffic, noise, parking”?

        Cause I am seeing the new litany more and more, coming from the same NIMBY types.

        • Posted by Ohlone Californio

          It can be that. It can also be a legitimate question, especially in an open forum of ideas such as this one. To be honest, traffic is really bad these days. Water, well, that’s an evident concern these days. Noise and parking? I don’t feel like those should be concerns myself …

          • Posted by sfdragonboy

            Actually my take on the increased traffic around town is more due to all those Uber and Lyft drivers out there trolling for riders. One weekend while caught in traffic downtown, I looked around and every car had the U sticker or pink moustache prominently displayed.

        • Posted by Oh Dear

          I see the need for supportive infrastructure going hand in glove with increasing the amount of people living per unit area. At least that was the assumption when I studied planning years and years ago.. What’s changed?

      • Posted by anon2

        Yes, it needs more of that also.

      • Posted by van nessident

        What about it? The same NIMBYs who oppose any and all housing in their neighborhoods are nowhere to be seen when it comes to speaking up for infrastructure improvements (Geary BRT? Van Ness BRT?).

        • Posted by Rainer Wilke

          They’re organizing via nextdoor to kill vanness BRT

          • Posted by Ugh

            Nextdoor is a cesspool for grouchy nimbys and racist profilers (lock the doors there’s a dark skinned person walking down the street!). When I want to induce a headache, I peruse that site.

        • Posted by spencer

          BRT is barely an improvement . It should be killed and money saved for subways

          • Posted by SFRealist

            Well, BRT on Geary would be a huge improvement if done right. But will that happen? Will the city be able to resist making BRT stop every block in the Tenderloin?

      • Posted by Aaron Goodman

        the city, real estate groups, banks, and private profiteers seem to forget these issues consistently….

      • Posted by sebra leaves

        What about water? Do you want to share your share?

        We not only have a scarcity of housing and water, we will soon have a food shortage if we keep evicting local food production. Watch the price of salmon soar after they close the Tiburon Salmon Institute.

        There must be room for something other than just housing in San Francisco Bay.

    • Posted by BayviewSF

      100k units means 300k new people. Where do you find that many new people? That’s a 40% population growth for a mature city.

      • Posted by anon2

        There are 7 billion people on the planet Earth. Shouldn’t be too difficult to find a couple hundred thousand who want to live in such a desirable place.

        Such high growth for a mature city is not common, but not unprecedented either. Look at the growth of New York City around the turn of the 20th century or Hong Kong in the 1970’s.

      • Posted by Yup Let's Do It

        I believe the City’s population projections for 2032 put us at 1 million so we’ve got no problems with population growth.

      • Posted by Wai Yip Tung

        I wouldn’t worry about it. If there is no demand, it does not matter how many units are permitted, the developer will simply stop building. They won’t do this to lose money.

      • Posted by san FronziScheme

        SF has gained 50K new people between 2010 and today. These people are mostly newcomers that can afford the high housing costs. For one person ready to pay $4K in rent, you have several that can only pay $3.5K-to-$4K and even more in the $2.5K-$3.5K segment. Right now they are living in the periphery.

        If you have massive new supply, this will push some of the prices down. Even if the new units are usually more expensive, the shell game of rentals relieves pressure from less desirable places. Then these places will be filled by people who couldn’t afford the very little supply there was before.

    • Posted by zig

      100K new units and the current Muni system would be a really not good

      • Posted by anon2

        So then how about instead of complaining, we pay for the construction of new grade-separated transit lines (either underground or elevated) using infrastructure bonds financed by special district parcel taxes on the new units. Special taxes and/or developer fees on 100K new units could finance a lot of new transportation (and new sewers, and new water, and etc).

        No need to re-invent the wheel with neighborhood growth planning. Using money from new units to pay for the infrastructure to support those new units is an absolute no-brainer, and is extremely common in development all over the world. It’s not rocket science.

        • Posted by san FronziScheme

          Charge 20K per new unit, add 100,000 new units and you have $2B right away. Then the added property taxes on 100,000 units will provide an additional $1B a year.

          This is how you can finance new transportation.

        • Posted by zig

          I moved out of SF to the suburbs and my wife takes BART now which is somewhat better. I have no confidence in SF but being trapped on the Muni Metro was awful

          • Posted by BobN

            We had an employee years ago who tired of the drive from the Sunset to Burlingame. He quit for a job in downtown to which he could take MUNI from a couple blocks from his home. His commute time doubled.

        • Posted by Orland

          There will never be enough funding for a First Word transit system in this country so long as the goddamn Pentagon keeps bleeding us of 600 Billion dollars annually.

      • Posted by Wai Yip Tung

        This is already taken care of as a Transportation Impact Development Fee. $725 million is expected to contribute toward transportation in 30 years from commercial development. Another $430 million from residential development is proposed.

        • Posted by Mark

          $725M in current dollars will get you about 1/2 mile of tunnel.

          • Posted by Wai Yip Tung

            You mean Central subway? Fed and State paid for that. San Francisco only chipped in 100 million.

            The 6.5 mile Geary BRT cost a more reasonable 300 million.

          • Posted by zig

            How long have we been planning the Geary and Van Ness BRT?

          • Posted by BobN

            The use of the word “reasonable” to describe spending $300M for 6.5 miles of nothing more than paving, curbs, occasional raised platforms, and signal equipment is obscene.

          • Posted by anon2

            “to describe spending $300M for 6.5 miles of nothing more than paving … is obscene.”

            Well, you see, they insisted on using red paint for the BRT lane, which had been bid at about $850 per square foot. Yellow or green paint would have been much cheaper at only $1 per square foot, but the SFMTA thought the red color would stand out more.

            Plus they have to buy at least a dozen roller-brushes to put the paint down on the road, and you know those are going for $650K a pop…

          • Posted by Wai Yip Tung

            You are welcome to critique on specific project. The point is we have a system in place to invest in infrastructure along with development. This is the answer to those “What about infrastructure?” question.

        • Posted by Aaron Goodman

          this TIDF is worthless, and should be 50% more at a min. Tax the developments adequately and we would have a transit system…

  5. Posted by alberto rossi

    The story only links to other, older socketsite stories. Editor, how about a link to the pipeline report?

  6. Posted by Mark

    Looks like a weather image of precipitation over the city. Sadly, I really don’t see a lot of development going on in Parkside/Sunset unless the Taraval and Noriega strips get upzoned which will never happen. The rest of the area is suburban-style, low-rise rowhouses. I should know…I live in one.

    This city is “anti” everything. MUNI tries to speed up the L-Taraval so that it doesn’t take 45 to an hour to get to downtown and people whine and complain that they have to walk 2 blocks to a stop instead of 1. Housing is in short supply, but the Central SOMA plan insists on height restrictions even though it’s in walking distance to the financial district and the Market St/Central Subway. Geary merchants (once again) want to stall plans to remove lanes for BRT even though enhanced transit will make their businesses more attractive.

    • Posted by HousingWonk

      We have too much local control in planning decisions in SF and the rest of California. And too little top down control. There’s actual academic studies on this stuff. Put too much land use control in the hands of locals and what you get is less and less housing built.

  7. Posted by anon2

    Why so little out in the Sunset? They’re really not pulling their weight…

    • Posted by Rainer Wilke

      Relief for this will come at the state level. its really the only option.

    • Posted by SF_Landlord

      Sunset is pretty much built out. Unless you invoke eminent domain and flatten a bunch of single family homes there’s not a lot of empty land.

      • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

        Wouldn’t need to resort to such extreme measures (nor could we – at least not legally). There are simpler options, such as re-zoning areas to allow for taller, multi-family buildings. Then the voluntary flattening and building would begin.

      • Posted by woolie

        You don’t need eminent domain. Many home owners would realize a big gain if allowed to redevelop a SFH into 8 condos. This happens organically in other cities all over the world. It’s the natural progression of a neighborhood. Instead, we have nonsensical low-density zoning that essentially privatizes streets and views into the hands of existing land owners.

        • Posted by parklife

          You would have a difficult time getting approval to demolish existing buildings unless they were exclusively owner occupied and not subject to rent control. The idea of demolishing any rent controlled units will be a difficult sell at city hall. The Park Merced development is exhibit A and not many developers have the $ or the potential profit motive to weather the inevitable storm. This is one reason zoning alone won’t be successful in encouraging a significant amount of multi-unit developments in the Richmond or Sunset.

    • Posted by sfdragonboy

      Exactly (and I live in the Sunset). Perfect example is the large corner lot a half block more West by the Sunset Brewing Company on Noriega. Empty. Can easily be a several floored apartment building with a dozen units. Either the owner is holding out for max money or just isn’t savvy enough to know what a gold mine he/she has out there.

      At the same time, what was the thinking or rationale for redoing the Shell station at 19th and Lincoln to be as-is essentially but with a car wash? That entire lot could have easily been converted to a huge apartment complex. But no, you will get a car wash in cold, foggy Sunset. Yeah, that makes a whole lot of sense….

  8. Posted by Accounting

    You say “27,000 units since the year 2000.” How many people have moved here since 2000?

    • Posted by HousingWonk

      A little over 75,500.

      2000 Census has SF population at 776,733
      The US Census 2014 estimate (based on annual data collected through the US Census’ American Community Survey): 852,469

      The population growth doesn’t even capture the full scope of demand – as there are also a large number of consumers in the marketplace that want to rent an apartment in San Francisco but not at the price offered and are seeking apartments outside the City as an alternative (substitution goods in the parlance of economics). Oakland’s rental affordability crisis is not so much a function of Oakland itself drawing demand on its own, so much as being the substitution good being selected by those consumers whose preference was SF but couldn’t afford it. Those folks are part of the overall demand for housing in SF that is NOT captured by sheer population count data.

      So, its even worse. Which is why its also good to look at job growth data, as one can extrapolate from that, some X% of the employees of those jobs have a primary preference to rent housing within X commute minutes from work (meaning, a primary preference for housing in SF)

      And we’ve added a LOT of jobs.

      • Posted by SocketSite

        From 2000 through 2014, the number of San Francisco residents with a job, either in the city or within commuting distance, increased by 68,300.

        • Posted by HousingWonk

          That’s not the appropriate metric. That just tells you how many people living in SF HAVE a job. That’s an employment rate metric.

          What you need is a count of the number of jobs based IN San Francisco that have been added since 2000, regardless of where the employee lives, from which you can extrapolate housing demand generated by the addition of those jobs.

          • Posted by SocketSite

            With that we’ll disagree. Not everyone that works in San Francisco wants to live in the city. And a measure of where people are actually spending their dollars, be it on rent or a mortgage, is a measure of true demand.

        • Posted by HousingWonk

          I will try to be clear. AGAIN. The total demand for housing in San Francisco is not defined by the number of people who currently live in San Francisco. That’s just stupid. The demand for housing in San Francisco is defined by a combination of existing San Francisco residents PLUS that sum total of housing consumers seeking to rent in San Francisco who are priced out and seek substitution housing elsewhere.

          In terms of extrapolating demand for housing from job growth in SF, you don’t look at the number of employed San Franciscans. You look to the total number of net new jobs added to San Francisco and figure out a metric to extrapolate what percentage of those net new job holders would choose SF for housing as the primary choice of housing (some of whom, will wind up NOT renting in SF due to price)

          Your method doesn’t really tell you anything, outside of employment rates and increases to median household incomes due to those increasing employment rates.

          When attempting to predict housing demand as a function of job growth in a region, the accepted methodology is to look to the growth in JOBS, not the growth in employed households, and then use the growth in JOBS to extrapolate housing demand.

          • Posted by SocketSite

            When attempting to predict housing demand as a function of job growth in a region, the accepted methodology is to look to the growth in JOBS, not the growth in employed households, and then use the growth in JOBS to extrapolate housing demand.

            That’s correct. And if we were talking about trying to predict future demand based on future job growth, we’d agree. But we’re not. Because…we already know how many of those people with jobs actually chose (i.e., demanded) to live in San Francisco from 2000 to 2014.

            And while “consumers seeking to rent [or buy] in San Francisco who are priced out and seek substitution housing elsewhere” might desire to live in San Francisco, by definition they don’t count as actual demand, at least not until prices drop or there’s shift in demand or utility curves.

      • Posted by Ohlone Californio

        What is the percentage of +- error estimate? There are a great many of illegals in San Francisco. There are are a great many housing units filled well beyond capacity in numerous parts of town. I understand that there’s a metric for that. Is there a metric for garages sleeping 3 humans too? Flats sleeping 10? off the grid live work scenarios?

        • Posted by BayviewSF

          The overcrowding housing is a public hazard. City should give landlords the right to evict based on overcrowding over capacity.

  9. Posted by BayviewSF

    Current for-sale housing inventory is only about 550. 55k units will be 100 times of the active inventory. This will cause an over-supply some time in the future.

    • Posted by Wai Yip Tung

      Rejoice for the impending 100x explosion in houses for sale! The buyer’s market is coming. No more housing crisis!

  10. Posted by HousingWonk

    So, of the 28,300 units “entitled but not permitted”, only 4,320 of them are NOT part of decades long projects. That’s pathetic.

    8,100 units are under construction. Great. Only 3,000 units delivered last year. Seven year average between 2007 – 2014 is 1,857 units per year. Pathetic. 1,928 units per year average since 2000. Even more pathetic as it includes all the years of the housing bubble.

    In comparison, in Seattle, a West Coast booming tech city surrounded by water (sound familiar) delivered 8,300 units last year. That’s in a city with 200,000 less people than SF. (a quarter smaller than SF). So, nearly 3 times as many units delivered, for a city 75% the size of SF.

    Over the last ten years (2004-2014), Seattle has averaged 4,280 units per year. That is 225% more than SF. And if you were to adjust for population sizes, Seattle averaged roughly 300% more units per year than SF over that time period. Even with that, based on job growth and household growth, Seattle is probably under-delivering by 10% – 20% of demand. Result – Seattle has seen rent growth like most tech center-ed coastal cities (supply not meeting demand, but not nearly as bas as SF). But it still sits much more comfortably in the affordability spectrum. Its NOT amongst the Top 10 most expensive rental markets. Average 1BR rents in Seattle are HALF that of SF. And WA state doesn’t have a state income tax (and its sales tax is about equal to California) – so gross income vs. gross income comparables overlook that take-home pay rates are better in WA state. AND, the median income household in Seattle is still sufficient to purchase the median-priced home in Seattle (assuming 20% downpayment, 30 year fixed rate mortgage, at current rates)

    Supply works. And we aren’t delivering even HALF as much as we need. As someone noted above, we need 100,000 units. As a start.

    This “news” is nothing to crow about. Rather, its a searing indictment of a complete abdication by city leadership to the screaming, hair on fire NIMBYs.

    • Posted by Jeff

      Really appreciate this post. No responsible discussion of this topic should begin with such a disingenuous headline grab. The developments that comprise the bulk of this “new” housing will not, if at all, contribute to demand cessation for over a decade. Discussions need to be focused on what gets built within the next 1-2 years.

      [Editor’s Note: Yes, the number for which we irresponsibly buried in the first sentence of our report.]

      • Posted by SFRealist

        Exactly. This 55,000 number is pointless because it will take DECADES. The relevant number is what gets built in the next two years.

      • Posted by Gee Ess

        I don’t think your 55k number was disingenuous, but I do think that the annual rate is a way more relevant number / helpful for discussion, since that relates to other annual rates we care about (like population growth).

  11. Posted by Mark

    You can build all the units you want, but as was pointed out above infrastructure is required to deal with that added capacity.

    Our transit cannot carry today’s population effectively and efficiently, so imagine adding 100,000 new residents across the city, not to mention hundreds of thousands more across the Bay Area, and see how well our transit system handles that. It can’t and it won’t.

    The Central Subway will do very little to solve our problem (if anything, it will add more stress to an already resource-strained system), BRT is a joke (let’s spend billions to save 5 min on our 45-60 min commute), Caltrain is already maxed out, BART will soon reach its limit, etc. And that’s just transit. We’re not talking water/sewer, additional cars on the already jammed roads, etc.

    • Posted by HousingWonk

      Translation: NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY!!!!

      Demanding all that stuff before any housing can be built is just more NIMBY nonsense. We aren’t getting a subway down Geary anytime soon (thanks Geary small business cranktards!). Instead, people will get around on the bus, by bike and by Uber. Like they do today. And magically, we will manage.

      The whole water/sewer capacity thing is just a canard. As housing developments get built, the capacity will get increased – as it always does, and gets generally paid for by the development in question.

      • Posted by woolie

        SFMTA bus routes have low ridership by NYC MTA standards. Subways are great, but 90% of the transit demand can be solved by dedicated bus lanes. If it didn’t take a decade to study each one.

        • Posted by HousingWonk

          Absolutely. And that obstacle to increasing bus capacity is NOT a financial one. Its a self-imposed political one. And thus not a real objection in terms of those complaining we don’t have the infrastructure. We can have it. The NIMBYs have chosen to prevent it.

          • Posted by Orland

            NOT financial? Total absurdity!

          • Posted by moto mayhem

            subways! forget buses.

            and some areas do need better transit before upzoning. It takes 1 hr from many parts of richmond to get to FiDI. on the other hand, theres low hanging fruit like Western SOMA

    • Posted by Wai Yip Tung

      Infrastructure? Las Vegas has more than doubled its population in the last 20 years. They need a lot of infrastructure don’t they? If Las Vegas can figure this out, why can’t San Francisco have enough infrastructure to handle even modest amount of growth? Can you explain how San Francisco is deficient compare to all other cities in the world that has grown much more than SF? How come their transit works and ours don’t?

      • Posted by HousingWonk

        Because inventing imaginary obstacles to growth is the favored tactic of SF NIMBYs.

      • Posted by Ohlone Californio

        Nobody who has spent a significant amount of non-tourist time in residential Las Vegas could ever say that it has figured out its own infrastructure or growth needs. It has not and is very much a mess.

    • Posted by Aaron Goodman

      MARK is 100% correct, capacity is reached, BRT is worthless, and we cannot deal with the added water/sewer, open space and amenities impacts of 100,000 more people… Capacity has been reached…

      • Posted by anon

        Yes, raise the gates! I’m here, screw everyone else!

  12. Posted by Dixon Hill

    Those 55,000 units will not be built in this cycle, which is already long in the tooth. And probably before the end of the next cycle, either. If it costs $400,000 per unit in development costs, that is $22 billion. The capital markets will not supply that much debt and equity financing to developers in San Francisco over a short period.

    There is a reason why owners of huge projects (such as ParkMerced) plan their development horizons over many years. Nobody wants to be left holding the bag. When this cycle ends, there will certainly be an excess of units but it won’t be the tens of thousands that some commenters are hoping for.

    • Posted by HousingWonk

      Sure, but there is no reason why the capital markets cannot deliver financing to generate 10,000 units built per year on average. As I noted above, Seattle – a market with much lower rents per square foot than SF – delivered over 8,000 units to the market last year. There’s no reason that San Francisco, a market with much higher rents, a much larger population base, with a much larger tech industry in it & surrounding AND with a much larger metropolitan area surrounding it, cannot deliver 10,000 units to the market each year – at least from a financing side.

      The absorption capacity is there.

      • Posted by Dixon Hill

        From the original post: “…another 28,300 units of housing in projects that have been approved but not yet permitted, which does include 10,500 units by Candlestick, 7,800 units on Treasure Island and 5,680 units at Parkmerced, projects which have overall timelines measured in decades, not years.”

        If what you say is correct, and given the strongest housing market in the memory of anyone living, why would holders of land with approvals not move forward with obtaining building permits? Is it because they aren’t as smart as HousingWonk?

        All this talk about building tens of thousands of units in this business cycle is nothing more than a bunch of theoretical arm-waving. It just isn’t going to happen. If you really believe what you are suggesting, and you have the cash to back it up, you should approach the developers of ParkMerced and Treasure Island offer to finance the immediate development of thousands of units.

        • Posted by HousingWonk

          No SINGLE developer wants to take the market risk of delivering all the units in their pipeline at a single time – in part because you never know exactly when the business cycle is going to turn. Which is why loading so much of the housing pipeline with just a handful of developers isn’t going to get us a more robust pipeline. We need LOTS of developers, each being allowed to building to higher densities than currently to allow for that risk to be spread out and MORE units delivered to market overall.

          This isn’t rocket science and its what happens in cities all across the country that have less onerous land use regulations.

          • Posted by Dixon Hill

            It still isn’t going to happen. And it has nothing to do with land regulations. The units have been approved. They just won’t be built to your schedule.

        • Posted by anon

          Requiring these developments be awarded to a single developer is the reason. Upzone all of the city to 85′ and I GUARANTEE you that we’d get 15-20,000 units a year and no problem with capital markets providing funding. Giving monopolies on development to a select few will OF COURSE cause them to spread development and risk over years or decades. The worst that happens for them then is steadily increasing prices…what’s to lose in taking 10 years instead of 5?

          • Posted by Dixon Hill

            Yes. Those large property owners have a *monopoly* on how it will be used. We should impose eminent domain and require that the maximum possible number of units be developed immediately. For the good of society.

  13. Posted by Yup Let's Do It

    No, it will cause the prices to go DOWN which is what we want so that we can stay competitive.

  14. Posted by Dave

    Nice overview HousingWonk.

    Some points,

    Seattle has a significantly larger land area in its city limits. That makes capacity and infrastructure issues in SF much worse than they are there or in most cities. Everything is so concentrated in a small area.

    On paper SF needs to build more. But how will that look? Gridlock 24/7 in some places – I can’t imagine what SF will be like if it really grows to 1 million.

    Residents can’t be kept from living here but quality of life issues of which adequate infrastructure are a part may on its own slow down population and job growth in SF. Businesses already know BART is near capacity and so too other transportation systems.

    The question to ask is, given that the infrastructure won’t be improved are added to significantly for decades, should signifant more growth occur in SF or should SF maybe look to other Bay Area communities to absorb some of the projected SF growth.

    Delivering 10000 units per year sounds great but where to put them. The West of Twin Peaks area, Sunset, Lakeshore, Mid Town Terrace. Those areas will remain single family neighborhoods with virtually no room to add units.

    SOMA east of 3rd is getting built out. TI and HP are taken. Central SOMA might be able to add thousands of units if built to the current code – I believe I read someone here write that.

    But, Taraval, Noriega, Ocean Avenue, Irving, Geary. I don’t see any major up-zoning there. Though units could be added if they were built to their 3 story (mostly 3 I think) code. There are single story building on Ocean, Noriega and Taraval.

    • Posted by HousingWonk

      Upzone the entire West side. Its time to tell the NIMBYs to shove it. 2/3 of the City are renters. There is no need to fear the single family homeowners on the West side.

      I can imagine 1M people in SF. Easily. You know what would happen if you TRIPLED SF’s density? It would look like Paris. Which last time I visited, was most certainly NOT a hellhole.

      The gridlock fears are completely overblown. We will adapt and solutions will occur. Capacity expands to meet demand.

      This B&M-ing about “where will we put them” is just that – B&M-ing.

    • Posted by HousingWonk

      Having a large land area makes infrastructure HARDER not easier. You have to build more miles of roadways, subways, etc. to connect different parts of a city than in a denser city. So you have it backwards – adding infrastructure capacity to Seattle is harder not easier than SF. Doubly so, as the state of Washington has no state income tax and as well as state constitutional obstacles to the ability to bond against tax increments. Making it much harder to finance public works projects there.

      Yet, somehow, magically, they’ve managed to build more housing units despite that.

      There’s plenty of room in SF. We’ve just politically chosen to zone the City to not allow for growth. That’s not an intrinsic, physical obstacle. That’s a political one.

      • Posted by Dave

        But as long as we live I don’t see that changing. it will take the next generation or two. Maybe it will someday happen. Say up-zoning the Sunset but we won’t live to see it.

        With peskin on the board I think a slowing will be coming. Gang tower is likely toast when it goes before the board. 3M too if it has to go before the board.

        If anything it will get harder IMO to up-zone in SF in the next few years.

      • Posted by BayviewSF

        What does Peskin represent? Does Peskin represent NIMBYs and slow growth to keep SF from changing too rapidly?

        Or does Peskin represent rent controlled tenants to slow development and thus prevent gentrification from driving out lower income residents?

        • Posted by Alai

          I think that rent controlled tenants have interests which are mainly aligned with homeowners (as long as the rent control remains in effect).

  15. Posted by Notcom

    What awful colour choices for the graphic…it looks like nothing so much as a culture in a Petri dish (OTOH, I suppose one could argue that’s exactly what SF is the past few years).

  16. Posted by Greg

    The comments here just reminded me of the Simpson’s monorail episode.

  17. Posted by Dave

    As to Seattle – as HousingWonk pointed out rents are a lot less. Home prices less but not so much – maybe 30% less.

    Seattle is the top tech worker out-migration city from the Bay Area per a report I saw a while back

    SF being at historically low affordability levels means even tech worker salaries have not kept pace.

    Folks do what they have to do and the nice thing about Seattle is it is beautiful and an outdoor person. My cycling buddy is relocating their with a new company. Getting about the same salary but as HW says his rent will be 50% less and he will be able to buy once he gets to know the neighborhoods.

    He didn’t know about the lack of a state income tax. That factor is one of several which makes Washington a great retirement spot – there are banana belt zones there if you don’t like the rain.

    Affordability, quality of life. All factors that could impact this projected growth to a million people in SF. Not saying it won’t happen but I will believe it when I see it happen.

    • Posted by Wai Yip Tung

      I wonder why you are so skeptical for the demand of growth? Fresno has grown by 25% in only 15 years. They do this while they have some of the highest unemployment rate in California.

      • Posted by Dave

        Didn’t say anything about growth in the Bay Area specifically. It is growing moderately. Other major metros like Dallas are growing faster, other major metros like Chicago not faster.

        Growth will continue but I think there will be a shift of the worker bees in the tech industry out of the Bay Area to places like Seattle, Portland, Austin and Denver. over time.

        As an investor I feel that will impact the relative gap in real estate prices between the Bay Area and these other places. It will shrink.

        But, IMO, the Bay Area will always be one of the priciest markets in the US.

        • Posted by Wai Yip Tung

          Even if there is a net out flow of people to those 4 cities, which I doubt, San Francisco will still grow. It is pulling in people from dozens of cities all over the country and internationally. I see a strong gravitational pull. I know far more people moving in than moving out.

  18. Posted by alberto rossi

    The color scale on the map is hard to interpret. There’s only one project of any size in the outer Mission (that I could find), 61 units at 5050 Mission, yet the entire area is bathed in green. Park Merced is supposed to be over 5000 units, but is colored blue.

    [Editor’s Note: As titled, it’s the distribution of projects, not units.]

  19. Posted by Dave

    HousingWonk – sorry, a blanket up-zoning would be a disaster.

    Think of the Sunset – an oppressive neighborhood at street level. Paved over fronts, no greenery and row houses crammed/lined straight to each other for block after block.

    The Sunset was a previous generations’ mistake.

    A blanket up-zoning? Each owner of a 25 foot wide house now allowed to develop it to 3 or 4 stories. Parcel by parcel? Imagine the hodgepodge that would result. The Sunset at 2 stories as it is now is depressing IMO. The same thing at 4 stories – forget it.

    That said, using some imagination and looking at the area as a whole, not lot by lot …

    With the climate changing, for whatever the reason, the weather in the Sunset has been spectacular a lot of these past few summers. Its potentially a great urban location.

    How to transform it?

    Block by block IMO.

    If most of the Sunset is renters and the owners are off-site (don’t know if that is true) I’d take a square block – towards the zoo where they are smaller.

    Rezone the entire block and bring in a developer to demolish everything. Build from scratch. 4/5 story townhomes. Back from the street, Parking, back from the street. Building toward the center of the block the exterior, street-side, could be green open space, wider sidewalks. Something special..

    You could probably increase the density3/4 fold and have more open space. The kicker is the owners of the demolished homes share at some level in the profits in building 150 units where 50 existed before. Could be very lucrative for them.

    Taking it a step further – the block along the ocean which is a dismal looking jumble of homes as you drive by on the Great Highway (a friend from SOCAL said a while back when driving with me on the GH – what an ugly beachfront).

    Anyway, how about 15, 20 story towers scattered along that stretch? With fantastic beach and ocean views in the increasingly less foggy Sunset?

    Blanket up-zoning with each owner left to their own devices would be a disaster. If the Sunset is ever up-zoned there needs to a holistic area-wide vision. IMO.

    • Posted by HousingWonk

      The usual sky-is-falling pablum over the idea of letting private property owners do with their private property as they will. And who gives two farts if a street is a “hodgepodge” of heights? You see that all over the country in various cities and its fine. You just want to substitute YOUR personal aesthetic judgement for just letting the market meet demand.

      • Posted by Dave

        Not at all. The Sunset is potentially a great urban location. Missed out on years ago.

        Its not personal aesthetic judgment. You’ve been there. it is an oppressive and ugly neighborhood. Look at what Vancouver does. Look at what other cities do.

        SF should just settle? I don’t get that mentality. But it must be in the water we drink. Who knows.

        Repeating the mistake of the original Sunset development won’t work. And will never fly. I would strongly oppose any piecemeal up-zoning of that area. Not that it going to happen in our lifetimes.

        So a moot theoretical point.

    • Posted by BobN

      Something special..

      Show me any city on earth which has taken the approach of rising higher but pushing development toward the interior of blocks, thus robbing people of private and semi-private outdoor space in favor of front yards. It’s just not what people like. It’s what drivers like, as they cruise down the road to another neighborhood. The few new urban areas with wide-open vistas and space between developments are devoid of pedestrian traffic. They’re pretty in pictures and horrible places to live without cars.

  20. Posted by BayviewSF

    In Bay Area, San Francisco is probably the only city with 50k units approved. Tri-valley city Dublin is also building many new houses, town homes. With 2 BART stations, Dublin can be a convenient location for many commuters.

    I think population growth can happen in more cities. New population does not have to live in SF, Dublin and other suburban cities are perfectly fine.

    • Posted by anon2

      Pretty much all of the little municipalities that speckle the Peninsula are not pulling their weight as far as building.

      So many of the Bart and Caltrain stations there are surrounded by single-family tract homes and large vacant lots.

      San Mateo County has 10 times as much land area as San Francisco does, and could well have taken advantage of the recent local booms in real estate and employment to create a much more vibrant region with more people and activity, but it still couldn’t out-pace it’s urban neighbor to the North, either in absolute number of new people or by percentage.

      The traditional idea of a suburb was a relic of the post-WW2 baby boom, and has been obsolete in the major cities of California at least since the end of the 20th Century.

      Today in the Bay Area, I think we need to throw away those distinctions of urban vs suburban, downtown neighborhoods vs outer neighborhoods. The idea of an exclusively low-rise or exclusively low-density neighborhood should not even exist any more, anywhere in the Bay Area at all.

      • Posted by HousingWonk

        Agree completely.

        • Posted by Aaron Goodman

          Than agree to build a world-class above ground mass transit system, that can be implemented in less than 10 years, and serve the entire city properly… including water/sewer, transit, public pools, libraries, school funding, new schools, new parks, new open space and improved and expanded life services, including emergency services… You keep packing the box, but forgetting that if the lid does not close, we got a problem in the future procedures captain housing wonk…..

  21. Posted by moto mayhem

    The best thing SF could do to increase housing is massively upzone Western SOMA. THe Western SOMA plan is one of the worse neighborhood plans ive seen as it is completely backwards. Most of Western SOMA was zoned to only 4-6 floors just 3 years ago. Unbeleiveable, right? Every new building in this neighborhood should be a minimum of 12 floors, but allowed up to 20. Its in the central core of the city, walkable to downtown and to BART, and also right next to the freeway, so can house commuters without causing city congestion. Its a travesty that NIMBYs were able to complete that awful plan.

    On topic, its good to see the 55,000 “in the pipeline”, but I doubt more than 20,000 are completed in next 5 yrs.

    • Posted by two beers

      While you’re at it, how about upzoning Pac Heights? The density on some of those acre mansions is quite low. We could use eminent domain, send some billionaires packing to Burlingame, and erect 30 floor towers on the top of Broadway. We’ll be a shining like of urban density, putting places like Singapore and Shanghai to shame


      • Posted by BayviewSF

        Upzoning only gives owner an option to build taller and higher density buildings. City will promise not to force any one to build taller and higher density buildings on private property. Property rights belongs to the property owners. City will only give more freedom to property owners to build taller and higher density buildings, but they are allowed to build low rise and low density as long as they do not care about the extra dollars they can make by developing taller and higher density buildings on their well-located property.

        • Posted by zig

          you are responding to this like it is a legitimate comment and not a red herring

      • Posted by moto mayhem

        im ok with this, but likely pac heights owners will not be

    • Posted by san FronziScheme

      One easy upzoning: Grant the right for all RH-1 to become RH-3 if they already have 3 floors. A lot of the standard SFH vics have a similar layout that allows to have 3 units. If you also permit backyard expansions without neighbor recourse, this could help create 2/2 or 3/2s of 1100-to-1300sf.

  22. Posted by Aaron Goodman

    The uncolored areas, should be developed, especially St. Francis Woods, Pacific Heights, and any other wealthy neighborhood, it should not be on the backs of the poor or low income areas to be the only density.

    If you allow the Parkmerced projects, you need to allow others in high end neighborhoods as well, or than you are the official “NIMBY”….

    still have to deal with the density, capacity and lacking money for the proper infrastructure and amenities in timely fashion… 19th ave. is a joke, adding 5700 units in parkmerced will immediately show how lousy the transit issues are really thought through….

  23. Posted by baybay

    Out of these 55,000 units, how many will be turned into Airbnb hotel suites?

    • Posted by san FronziScheme

      If you are following the airbnb drama, you probably saw their blog post yesterday where they announce they are doing a strategic change by trying to crack down on units that are not “permanent housing”. This should alleviate the fear that airbnb listings are taking units permanently from the regular market.

      • Posted by Jake

        What? Unless I missed it, Airbnb’s “compact” includes nothing new for SF. Just more vague play nice language, such as “we will work with”, “we will encourage”, and we will release aggregate stats. When are they going to delist properties not registered with the city?

        • Posted by san FronziScheme

          1 – More info on my statement.

          2 – Registration and enforcement.

          I am not registered and probably never will, but this is due to my set-up (30+ days) which falls outside of the short-term rental area. I can tell you that the people at the county need some fine-tuning as far as 30+ days is concerned. Everyone will get a reminder to register and they’re giving you 30 days to comply whatever your situation. I did 311 them and they’re being very helpful. Not resolved yet…

    • Posted by Ohlone Californio

      Judging by the overall ratio of full time AirBnB units (4033) to housing units in SF (379597)? I’d say 94 or so. Of course, many of those 4033 would never consider putting their units onto the open rental market in the first place, so that number is skewed. The AirBnB thing was a canard inserted by poverty pimps in the BOS.

  24. Posted by Dave

    Aaron Goodman is right. Build up St. Francis Wods, Pacific Heights, Forest Hill and other upscale areas too.

    But that will never happen. progressive power structure or conservative power structure – they all answer to the same PTB.

    I drive through St. Francis Woods every day and every day there is an assigned SF Public Works team trimming, planting, sweeping those streets.

    I live on the “poor” side of Mt. Davidson and we nary see a city worker doing upkeep. When some traffic easy islands were put in the promise was they would be planted. Never happened. Well, one island did get planted but by a resident.

    Dealing with the hand one is dealt, the question remains how to fit/foist all this housing in less “desirable” areas without destroying the quality of life there. The real exceptions are TI an entity unto itself and crony capitalism at its best IMO and Park Merced. .

    • Posted by zig

      Need to be realistic about a place like Western SOMA. That plan…ignores the larger context. There is no progress that can ever happen if 100% of people are never “harmed”.

      Western SOMA and frankly places like San Bruno next to BART stations are not worth preserving in the current state of our housing crisis and there should be a lot more residential housing in both or we never solve the problems we face.

      Upzoning residential SFH neighborhoods, many not near PT, is a step much further and counterproductive both in terms of how fast new housing would be built but also politically.

Comments are closed.

Recent Articles