Proposed planning changes could mean denser, taller developments with more affordable housing; community meeting Dec. 9

The new AHBP program from the Planning Department could make it easier for developers to build denser, taller developments in places like the Geary corridor

The new AHBP program from the Planning Department could make it easier for developers to build denser, taller developments in places like the Geary corridor

On Wednesday, December 9, the Planning Association for the Richmond (PAR) will host an informational meeting about the proposed Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP) from the city’s Planning Department.

The new program would provide incentives for developers to include more affordable housing for very low, low, moderate, and middle-income households. Development bonuses, such as increased density, would be offered on a graduated scale based on the percentage of affordable units provided.

According to the Planning Department (view PDF), the main goals of the program are to:

  • Increase the numbers of on-site affordable units
  • Improve feasibility of underutilized sites
  • Increase availability of middle-income housing
  • Expedite entitlement of 100 percent affordable housing units

What that could translate to here in San Francisco, and specifically in the Richmond District (as part of the “Local” ABHP) is increased approvals for denser developments, and much taller buildings.

Depending on the percentage of affordable housing units in a new development, a developer could increase the height of a building by 2 or 3 stories:

  • Projects that include 30 percent or more affordable units for low and middle-income households will be able to build more residential units and up to an additional two stories than currently allowed under existing zoning regulations.
  • Projects with 100 percent affordable units will be able to build more residential units and up to three additional stories of residential development than currently allowed under existing zoning regulations.

Some are opposed to the AHBP, fearing that thoroughfares like Fulton and Geary could see an influx of new developments that greatly exceed the current height restrictions of 3-4 stories.

Socketsite reports “the program would add the potential for building another 16,000 units of housing across city, an increase of roughly 4 percent over the 380,000 units that currently exist.”

However the distribution of those units is not spread evenly across all neighborhoods. Collectively, the inner and outer Richmond District neighborhoods would see a 7% increase in the total number of housing units. The Bayview (23%), Financial District (11%) and Western Addition (11%) would see the greatest increases as a result of the AHBP (view map).

There is also a State option for the ABHP which requires a lower percentage of affordable units to qualify for the bonus (5% – 20%) but requires a minimum of five affordable housing units in a development (whereas the local option has no minimum for units but 40% or more must be two bedroom units). The State option would enact California’s existing Density Bonus Law.

“Opportunities for public input on this Program have been insufficient so far. This program portends significant changes to type of buildings built in our communities, to streetscapes and the environment in which we live,” said Richard Correia, the President of PAR.

“PAR is providing this forum to allow the Planning Department to explain the Program and for community to weigh with comment, concerns and ideas. The forum will include a presentation by a Richmond District Resident and attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions.”

The meeting will take place Wednesday, December 9 at 7pm at the Richmond District Recreation Center (281 18th Avenue).

Sarah B.


  1. I think this is great. I know not everybody will agree with me, but we need more housing. Period. Many will complain about “losing the spirit and character” of a neighborhood, but if the character of a neighborhood consists of $3,000 one bed room apartments in ugly buildings from the 60s and 70s, I think that is a character that needs to be changed.

    Also if this article is correct, buildings will only be able to be 2-3 stories above current levels. Not exactly sky scrapers we’re talking about here.

  2. Agree especially that the monotonous and gloomy, bric-a-brac 1950s architecture and streetscapes of the Sunset could be improved even with substandard modern architectural designs that would otherwise ruin other neighborhood’s character. However, keep your eye on the shell as affordable housing sometimes means for those making > $150K/year, which does nothig for teachers, civil servants, service industry folks, etc. Hope Eric will ensure ‘affordable” means exactly that.

  3. There is no point in increasing human density unless related infrastructure is also improved. Look forward to 90 minute rides on an AX.

  4. I don’t want to see a bunch of cheap housing going up. I’m fine with more housing but do not want it if it is cheaply built.

  5. it already takes 45 minutes to get to FiDI from inner ricchmond on the bus, and buses are overcrowded. Without a plan for a subway, im against this. Build the infrastrutrue 1st or at least have it in process. There are already too many illegal in-laws in the richmond that are fire hazards. I could see geary getting upzoned but not really anything else.

  6. In terms of improved infrastructure, I know they are working on creating a muni only 38 lane on geary (http://www.sfcta.org/delivering-transportation-projects/geary-corridor-bus-rapid-transit-home) which I think would solve a ton of problems regarding transport. It keeps muni from weaving in and out of lanes to drop off, and muni runs much faster. I’ve seen this system implemented successfully in foreign cities with populations 10-20x san francisco’s and don’t see a reason why we shouldn’t do it here.

  7. I agree with Motor – too many illegal in-law units – we are too dense already, where we’re not supposed to be.

  8. Ted, the BRT plans for Geary are a joke. It has to change lanes many times because of politics in each neighborhood it passes through. Still going to be better off walking backwards with shoelaces tied together once crossing Van Ness when going east. A very quick solution for Geary is to change service to 90% Rapid (formerly Limited) and eliminate all stops that are not transfer points for lines going north-south. Those who cannot walk to a Rapid stop can take a local and wait at the next Rapid stop. A significant number of Limited stops were added in the 1980s revision of Muni, which should be eliminated. I do not recommend a return of streetcars as neighborhood politics also increases the number of stops. A good example of this is the N Judah where there are stops one block apart to appease the Catholic church at Funston. These stops were added after the conversion from the green PCC cars to Metro.

  9. Housing densities in the Richmond are up 50% at least, when you consider every garage is an apartment, and every cottage now has a flat (with an illegal 3rd in the basement). Now the “housing density advocates” to double the heights of buildings; Next they will go want to push the set backs to eliminate backyards for more “housing density”. The only winners in this game are Real Estate speculators, Realtors and Contractors (plus the Building Inspectors who are paid to look the other way). Who needs gardens anyway, when we can turn all of the Residential Real Estate ( single family homes) in the Richmond into Commercial Real Estate (rental revenue generating property)?

  10. Denser housing means more people, more cars, etc. Without the supportive infrastructure of parking, transportation, the neighborhood will only get more crowded and QoL will certainly go down as will the rise in crime rates and other assorted inner-city ills. Let’s not turn the Richmond into another Bronx.

  11. Glad to hear not everyone is for density – enough with ramming everything through in the name of the ‘housing/affordability crisis’ – keep the Richmond sparse!

  12. I’m for adding density because we need more housing!
    However I was surprised to see how dense the neighborhood is already.
    This website allows you to click on blocks to see the density in any part of the city, http://www.city-data.com/nbmaps/neigh-San-Francisco-California.html
    search for density in the data field.
    For reference the average density of SF as a whole is about 21,000 people per square mile. Paris averages 55,000 and the most dense city is Manila at 111,000 people per square mile, according to wikipedia.
    Small blocks of Chinatown and the Tenderloin can exceed a density 240,000 per square mile according to the website.
    Most of the Richmond is between 20-30,000 people per square mile.
    If you don’t like density consider a move to the suburbs.

  13. “If you don’t like density consider a move to the suburbs.” Please stop with this line – it is OVER. No one is moving anywhere – people are allowed to care about the neighborhood our families have lived in for generations. So arrogant and offensive.

  14. BRT won’t work if we keep lowering the speed limits and intentionally throwing off stop lights to “control” traffic. There are already existing laws in place–crack down and make examples of speeders. People who are already breaking the law don’t give two skittles whether the limit is 35mph or 25mph.

  15. Who are you to say where anyone should move, Max? Because we don’t like your idea of what the neighborhood should be? That is so hostile and immature!

  16. Most of the comments here seem to imply that the Richmond is “crowded” or something along those lines. The Richmond District is one of the few neighborhoods in the city that has hemorrhaged population for decades – because almost no new housing has been allowed while household sizes have dropped by a third.

    I, for one, would love to see our population stabilize (or, gasp, grow?). Then maybe we can fill some of the vacant retail spots that have plagued Geary for a decade or more.

  17. i hope all come out to oppose this idiotic plan to add density without addressing transportation and infrastructure. we need to demand more of our city leaders.

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