San Francisco Leaders Consider Suing the State Over Housing

The next showdown over California housing policy is brewing in San Francisco, where the failure to meet a state-imposed deadline could soon cost the city millions in funding plus local control.

The response by some local lawmakers? To sue the state.

“Two San Francisco legislators are contemplating a lawsuit against the state of California for the latter’s persistent pressure on The City to build more housing,” the San Francisco Examiner reports. “Saying they feel The City has done its fair share to spur housing production and is being unfairly singled out for failing to meet state-imposed housing goals, two members of the Board of Supervisors are asking City Attorney David Chiu to advise lawmakers of The City’s ‘legal options.’”

Those two supervisors are Board President Aaron Peskin and Supervisor Connie Chan.

“We cannot force developers to build and yet new legislation would seek to penalize San Francisco anyway,” Chan and Peskin wrote in a recent letter to Chiu.

“Developers have chosen not to build,” Chan and Peskin wrote. “Yet the City is being penalized by allowing these same developers to essentially have peremptory powers over regular local processes.”

They also say the state hasn’t given them enough funding to address the housing shortage.

Sen. Scott Wiener, who is also a former San Francisco supervisor, called Chan and Peskin’s arguments absurd. Wiener noted that the city is notorious for prolonging the permitting process. 

According to the Department of Housing and Community Development, it takes an average of 523 days just to get approval for a housing project in San Francisco — the longest in the state. It then takes another 605 days on average for the city to issue the permits.

In the face of a severe housing crisis, California lawmakers have passed a multitude of laws aimed at increasing home building. A number of jurisdictions, from Marin County to Huntington Beach, have fought these efforts, sometimes through legal means. Huntington Beach sued the state last year over the Regional Housing Needs Assessment. In November, that suit was dismissed by the courts. The state is also suing Huntington Beach for allegedly violating state housing laws.


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