The San Francisco Planning Department’s report on SB 827 makes clear it would have a profound impact by eliminating planning and design standards “that are the backbone of livability, walkability and urban design quality” in San Francisco. Moreover, the legislation, coupled with the State Density Bonus, could more than double current height limits to over 100 feet throughout the city. It prohibits consideration of open space, setbacks, historic preservation, access to light and air, sun and shadow.
Some highlights from the report:
- “SB 827 proposes to increase housing development capacity in areas that meet minimum levels of transit service with state-imposed minimum zoning standards for certain key development controls. The bill would have its greatest impact on the State’s core metropolitan regions with more extensive transit service. In San Francisco, this would be virtually the entire city.”
- “[San Francisco’s] General Plan … explicitly emphasizes the importance of planning for land use change in consultation with communities and in consideration of a variety of relevant factors in the context of each area-urban form, open space, historic preservation, and other factors.”
- “SB 827 would affect most of San Francisco and would significantly upzone most of the city. [A]lmost 96% of the city’s parcels are within ½-mile of a major transit stop or ¼-mile of a transit corridor meeting the definition in the bill… Given that most major streets in the city have widths greater than 45′, the majority of the streets … would have their height limits doubled from 40’/45′ to 85′.””The legislation does not seem to remove the ability to use the State Density Bonus on top of the bill’s rezoning. Hence what is proposed as 45′, 55′, and 85′ heights could actually be 65′, 75′-85′, and over 100′ respectively.”
- “SB 827 appears to eliminate the ability to enforce Planning Code standards or other adopted Design Standards that are the backbone of livability, walkability and urban design quality. The bill’s provision regarding design standards is dramatic… SB 827 as proposed complete[ly] eliminates all design standards related to building envelope other than height for buildings within the prescribed height limits. It precludes the applicability of any design guideline and Planning Code provisions that in any way reduces the size and shape of the building envelope from a maximal box within the height limit, allowing only application of California Building Code standards. This would preclude the ability to maintain any standards regarding rear yard, lot coverage, exposure, open space, setbacks, and bulk controls of any kind, to name a few. While the California Building Code addresses light and air as primarily life and safety issues, these planning controls establish basic housing and neighborhood livability standards such as access and connection to daylight, openness in urban density, and natural spaces. Their elimination could result in residential projects with full lot coverage and little modulation or articulation, since any building modulation by definition reduces maximum building volume… The bill would also countermand the basic principles laid forth in the Urban Design Element, which reinforce livability patterns within the city fabric such as preservation of mid-block open space, inclusion of mid-block alleys on long blocks, matching of lightwells, and consideration of sun and shadow.”