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Proposal to remove San Francisco from Coastal Commission could increase housing

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(The Center Square) – Housing experts say a California bill to remove urban San Francisco from California Coastal Commission oversight could significantly increase the speed of housing permitting and the availability of housing.

Under State Sen. Scott Wiener’s, D-San Francisco, SB 951, San Francisco would be excluded from the state’s Coastal Commission, which includes all land within 1,000 yards of the ocean. The California Coastal Commission has complete zoning authority over the Coastal Zone. Given that the state’s most populous cities are on the coastal zone, stringent permitting requirements, including Coastal Commission approval, add significant time to the housing development process.

With interest on loans often one of the highest costs borne by developers, longer permitting and approval times cut deeply into profit margins for dollars competing against other asset classes, such as the stock market, and even housing in other high-demand states or regions where housing can be built more affordably and rapidly.

“The Coastal Commission plays an important role in protecting coastal resources like beaches, bluffs, and wetlands, but the Commission should not be in the business of second-guessing — and frequently delaying or undermining — local housing decisions in urbanized areas that are not natural resources,” said Wiener in a statement. “We need local planning departments and state housing agencies to handle housing permitting. SB 951 eases the process for housing that has no effect on coastal resources, and in the midst of this housing crisis, we should all agree on the need for that.”

The Coastal Commission was codified into law in 1976. Since then coastal development has become much more expensive and time consuming. In one notable example, the Commission denied construction of a desalination plant in Huntington Beach after 20 years of debate.

In San Francisco, which has the longest housing approvals process in the state, it takes three years for the typical housing project to be approved. Given that the city has a goal of building 82,000 homes over the next eight years, San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s sponsoring of the bill comes as little surprise.

“San Francisco is changing how we get housing built, and we need to remove barriers that get in the way of that important work, including at the state level,” said Breed in a statement. “SB 951 addresses a key issue impacting urbanized areas in coastal cities like San Francisco, while still protecting important coastal resources across the state.”

According to California YIMBY research director and city planner Nolan Gray, the proposed legislation could significantly improve housing development times and affordability.

“It’s a no brainer. San Francisco, like much of California, has an extreme housing affordability crisis,” said Gray to The Center Square. “Keeping San Francisco in the Coastal Zone just subjects projects to a series of delays and permitting. It’s common sense policy and something that should be explored in other urbanized areas on the coast.”