New site top banner


Cow Hollow Association

Let your elected representatives in 
San Francisco and Sacramento know that 
SB 50 does not solve the housing problem
-- and disproportionately hurts San Francisco.
Speak out at SF Planning Commission Hearing
Thursday 3/14/19 at 1pm
City Hall, Room 400


March 2019

Effects of upzoning in Seattle.
CHA Residents:

Do you realize that if the Sacramento legislators who represent San Francisco get their way, the light, air, privacy, view, rear-yard open space and parking surrounding your home or apartment is at great risk of being lost FOREVER?

State Senator Scott Wiener's SB 50 legislation, after last year's defeated SB 827, claims to help solve California's housing crisis and create more "affordable housing," yet this bill will actually do more for luxury builders than anyone else.  If you follow the money, the primary backers include real estate developers and technology companies.

SB 50's usurping of local control over zoning laws is keyed to a property's proximity to public transit, and in San Francisco, that affects 96% of the parcels.  

In Cow Hollow and Pacific Heights, you will no longer have RH-1 and RH-2 designations; instead all properties will be zoned as RTO (Residential Transit Oriented).  This means new projects will have no density controls or parking requirements, and there is an incentive to demolish, merge lots and rebuild with luxury condos with a few token tiny, affordable units.  

Here's the kicker: If a project includes these affordable units, it allows a developer to increase the height beyond current zoning limits and " pick and choose exemptions for themselves from the otherwise applicable local building limits"height, density, setbacks, lot mergers, parking, massing, exposure, rear yards, floor-area ratio, demolition, design standards and impact fees.  Accordingly, the bill eviscerates local zoning rules by turning them over to Sacramento's legislated preemptions.

Imagine the house next door, across the street, or along Lombard now replaced by a seven (7) story high-rise, densely packed with units, with no light wells, covering the entire lot, and offering no parking -- all in a building the size of the Russian Consulate!  SB 50 rewards unchecked speculation, kills cherished neighborhoods and significantly worsens housing affordability.

If this sounds alarmist, it is not! This is exactly what SB 50 prescribes in an overwrought, unnecessarily heavy-handed and unprecedented preemption of local zoning, all in a vain attempt to solve an affordable housing shortage.

Please come speak out against this latest attempt 
to forever change the character of our neighborhoods 
and  all of California!
SF Planning Commission Hearing
Thursday, March 14th at 1 pm
City Hall, Room 400

If you can not attend, please write your representatives 
(scroll to the end for email addresses)  and forward this email to 
your friends and family throughout California.

Time, Talent, Resources!

San Francisco  bears the brunt of SB 50's upzoning.  
It raises the serious question, who are San Francisco's State Legislators (Wiener, Ting, Chiu) representing?
Nearly all of San Francisco is near transit and can be upzoned under SB 50! 
How much density, height and congestion increases can one city bear
before they destroy what made it so desirable in the first place?

  • 96% of San Francisco  eligible  for upzoning.   Residential development that is either within ½ mile of the Muni Metro, BART, Ferry or Cable Cars or ¼ mile from a frequently-serviced bus stop will be eligible --  SF Planning Department analysis of SB 50
    The hidden consequence of this bill is the impact on our neighborhood from c ombining SB 50 and other existing housing bills (State Density Bonus and Housing Accountability Act).   That would allow increased heights up to 70' in residential areas and up to 75' in our commercial districts (Lombard, Chestnut, Union, and Fillmore). 

    This was proposed to replace the Bridge Motel on Lombard and it's only about 55' tall -- imagine 75'!
    A recent example -- the new building on Lombard between Divisadero and Scott (formerly Wolf and Lion Pet Supplies) had originally considered going up to 65' with inclusion of affordable housing units (State Density Bonus), but decided against it for concern over the neighborhood opposition to the height (it would be significantly taller than any building in the area).  Projects in the future with SB 50 will be "by-right" and won't have to go before San Francisco's planning authority or respond to public opposition!
  • SB 50 puts developers in charge of their own planning.   Cities will have NO planning power and neighbors will have NO say.  If developers include a certain percentage of affordable housing in the project, they can choose, in addition to increased height and density, three (3)  exemptions from building codes.  Here's a small sample of local development standards, design and planning tools they can choose from:
  • Remove setbacks : No more areas for trees, green belts, and side yards.
  • Reduce floor area ratio : Building size/density can grow 47% to 297%.
  • Eliminate environmental sustainability : Any development standard adopted by a city that isn't state law can be ignored by developers.
  • Remove onsite open-space:  Courtyards and balconies can be omitted.
  • Allow  demolition : Developers can demolish all buildings not on the California Registry of Historic Places.  Most city building are not eligible, and of those that are, most are not registered.
  • Remove exposure requirements : Allow windows that inhumanely stare at a wall.
  • Encourage lot mergers : Up to 150 linear feet of frontage and possibly no limit with the State Density Bonus. 
  • Eliminates single-family zoning.   SB 50 overturns single-family zoning in  areas that are "above median income, jobs-rich with good public schools" and lack major transit. Local RH-1, RH-2, RH-3 and many other residential zoning codes will no longer apply. 
    Upzoning in Bay Area.
  • Rewards construction of up to 75 foot towers next to single-family homes.   SB 50 encourages 75-foot luxury towers in single-family areas that are either close to transit or close to jobs and good schools. The limit is NOT 45 and 55 feet, as Wiener falsely says in SB 50, due to its interface with other state legislation (State Density Bonus). Up to 7-story buildings will be in areas currently zoned 4-stories if multiple zoning laws are combined and applied. 
  • Cities can't stop a luxury tower unless the project hurts public safety.   SB 50 is weaponized by the Housing Accountability Act of 1982, quietly amended by local politicians Nancy Skinner and Scott Wiener in 2017.  It bans cities from rejecting any "density bonus" project unless the development "puts public health and safety at risk, or on any property listed in the California Register of Historical Resources."  Therefore the onus is on the neighbors to claim and prove the risk.  Otherwise the project proceeds.
  • Demolition.   Local anti-demolition laws are honored, BUT if the demolition of a home would result in even one more housing unit than what presently exists on the parcel, the demolition must be allowed.   San Francisco's local demolition laws will be null and void.
  • Zero parking requirement .  This bill encourages severe density increases with no associated parking, on the assumption that everyone will ride public transit.  There's been a decrease in public transportation ridership of 20%.  In reality, the lack of parking will only clog the streets and highways with more Uber and Lyft cars.  Read here.
  • Turns developers into the fox guarding the rental hen-house.   SB 50 utterly fails to protect renters. While it purports to temporarily prevent developers from razing "rental housing," only cities who keep a register of their renters can stop developers from misstating  who lives there.

  • SB 50 does nothing to address the infrastructure plans and costs that will be needed to accommodate all these new developments.   How will California plan and pay for the increased needs of utilities such as sewer, water and power plus public transportation, schools, fire and police, parks, wear and tear on the the roads and all aspects of infrastructure from this dramatic increase in housing in the U.S.'s already most populated state?   SB50 provides no funding whatsoever for all of this. Instead, it foists all those expenses on the cities and communities.

All of District 2 is  eligible for upzoning -  we're the pink!

Our San Francisco elected representatives Scott Wiener, Phil Ting and David Chiu are claiming to help solve California's housing crisis with a statewide, one-size-fits-all solution. Meanwhile they are pushing through legislations that hurts the very city they were sent to Sacramento to protect. 

There is a housing problem, but the issue is AFFORDABLE housing (low, moderate and middle income), and this bill does nothing to guarantee this type of housing will be built. In fact, on the contrary, it will encourage a proliferation of market rate, million dollar condos that do nothing to address the problem, meanwhile seriously impacting the local character of our neighborhoods - the very reason many chose to live here and tourists love to visit.

In San Francisco we currently have over 58,000 parcels of property that have been purchased and fully entitled/approved for development, but nothing is happening due to the high cost of building.  SB 50 does nothing to provide funding for or subsidizing of housing.  And with the estimated thousands of new millionaires from the IPOs of Uber, Lyft, AirBnB, Pinterest, etc. who want to live in San Francisco, there's added motivation for developers to use SB 50 to focus on luxury properties at the expense of the purpose of the bill -- affordable housing.  There is no reason to expose 96% of San Francisco to virtually unlimited development just because the real estate developers and tech companies, their funded organization (YIMBYs) and our elected  r epresentatives Scott Wiener, Phil Ting, and David Chiu say so.

Please come speak out against this latest attempt 
to forever change the character of our neighborhoods 
and all of California!
SF Planning Commission Hearing
Thursday, March 14th at 1 pm
City Hall, Room 400

If you can not attend, please write your representatives 
(scroll to the end for email addresses) and forward this email to 
your friends and family throughout California.

Time, Talent, Resources!

Related Articles:

Does Upzoning Boost the Housing Supply and Lower Prices? Maybe Not.

What the regional housing "compact" amounts to - so far

Can LA build its way out of its housing crisis?

Oppose State Bill 50

Please let our representatives know your stance.

Copy and Paste the addresses below into your own email.

Share this email with your friends and family in San Francisco and all of California.

Please copy Cow Hollow Association:

SF State Senators and Assembly and their aides (author and supporters of SB 50):

San Francisco Planning Commission:

San Francisco Supervisors:

Mayor London Breed:

Cow Hollow Association
Board of Directors

Sherry Archer, David Bancroft, Anne Bertrand, Lori Brooke, 
Don Emmons, Cari Gennarelli, Cynthia Gissler,
Karen Laughlin, Veronica Taisch, Geoff Wood