By Kat Callaway
Supervisor Scott Wiener (District 8: the Castro, Noe Valley, and Diamond Heights) made a surprise proposal only days before the Planning Commission was scheduled to consider Supervisors John Avalos’ (District 11: the Excelsior and Ingleside) and Jane Kim’s (District 6: the Tenderloin and SoMa) proposed amendment to the Inclusionary Ordinance, which closes an interpretation excluding Group Housing from the Inclusionary Provision fee. Wiener proposed a change to the Ordinance that would require 12% affordable housing in all new developments exceeding ten units, but would change the definition of “affordable housing” for Group Housing to be units with rent affordable to households earning 90% of AMI Area Median Income (AMI) ($64,200) instead of rents affordable to households earning 55% of the AMI ($39,250), as required of all other new residential developments.
Wiener was forced to withdraw his proposed legislative amendment when the City Attorney advised him that its implementation would likely be illegal without voter approval. He endorsed the Avalos/Kim amendment, but continued to justify his proposal by championing the need for more housing for those at the 90% AMI level, naming as examples teachers, social workers, and food service workers. His remarks were occasionally dismissive of residents with income lower than 90% AMI, with Supervisor Kim reminding him to “remember who he is addressing” referring to the large representation of District 6 residents, Supervisor Kim’s District and the home of many low-income households (earning 55% of AMI or less).
Because of conflicting language in the Planning Code Section 415, the Inclusionary Housing Requirements are not applied to Group Housing projects. Group Housing is defined elsewhere in the Planning Code as any residential building which “…provides lodging or both meals and lodging, without individual cooking facilities, by prearrangement for a week or more at a time, in a space not defined by this Code as a dwelling unit. Such group housing shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, a Residential Hotel, boardinghouse, guesthouse, rooming house, lodging house, residence club, commune, fraternity or sorority house, monastery, nunnery, convent, or ashram.”
In the past, the Code has been interpreted to exclude Group Housing from the definition of “Housing Unit” or “Dwelling Unit,” calling them bedrooms, and therefore excluding them from the Inclusionary Provision requirements, including the requirement that 12% of on-site units (or 20% of off-site), be rented or sold below market rate.
The proposed amendment by Supervisors Avalos and Kim would create consistency in application of the Inclusionary Program to include group housing development projects. It clarifies the definition of a “Housing Unit” to explicitly include a group housing bedroom as well as a dwelling unit. It also establishes that the pricing for the inclusionary group housing bedrooms would be calculated at 75% of pricing for studios, as established by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD).
Both Supervisors Wiener and Kim commented favorably on the turnout at the Planning Commission session on July 20, 2015 by District 6 residents. The Tenderloin, consistently the lowest district in voter registration and turnout, found its voice and was well represented with speakers for and against the Planning Commission’s recommendation on the Avalos/Kim amendment.
While the Planning Commission holds no authority to approve or disapprove such an action, its recommendation to the Board of Supervisor’s generally greatly influences the final vote by the full Board.
The Avalos/Kim amendment was passed the following day by the full Board of Supervisors.