Between 2007 and 2016, 15,541 new units of h ousing were built in SOMA and
1,022 units were built in the Mission District. In the Richmond, we added just
321. This tiny number is a tragedy, both for those of us who currently live in the
Richmond and those who would love to join us if we could just make room for
them. It betrays the spirit of a neighborhood that has historically welcomed newcomers
from around the world.
Our district’s lack of new housing is not due to some oversight. There is still demand for
housing in beautiful neighborhoods near oceans, parks and world famous landmarks.
The reason that we have built so little new housing is that it is illegal to build a building
more than 40 feet in height in almost the entire Richmond. Forty feet is about four
stories. You cannot build a modern city with enough room for a modern population in
This is why San Francisco’s state Sen. Scott Wiener has introduced Senate Bill-827, which
is a small bill with big ambitions. The bill would raise height limits to between 55 and 85
feet (5-8 stories) for buildings within a quarter mile of transit corridors. In addition,
projects in these areas would have no parking minimums and no density restrictions.
This simple change will allow the Richmond to build bigger buildings that house more
people and fewer cars. The extra units will allow people who currently
crawl into work from out of town along I-280 to hop on the Muni #38-Geary bus
instead. They will help the state of California reach its climate goals and reduce urban
sprawl. This would be a vital step towards relieving the crushing pressure of fat rents in
Wiener’s SB-827 will not change the Richmond overnight. San Francisco will still have
restrictions on demolitions and a laborious planning process. Instead, SB-827 will allow
us to build more units in the places where we do build. It will allow us to turn old gas
stations and disused parking lots into not tens, but hundreds of units. This will mean
more new local customers for local businesses and more new local businesses for those
Vulnerable communities are often wary of building programs, and with good
historical reason. We should consider the potential displacement effects of any
legislation that we pass and SB-827 is no exception. However, slowing down construction
in a city that is bursting at the seams will not prevent displacement, and will not keep
living costs from rising.
Under SB-827, San Francisco would keep all of its existing abilities to provide
housing assistance to people of all incomes. The City would retain the same
capabilities to keep strengthening renter protections, and the same control over local
affordable housing ordinances. The City can even use inclusionary zoning to get more
affordable units built in the extra stories. We need to build more homes and protect
people in their current homes.
T he state of California is in a housing crisis. Housing is no longer an exclusively
local concern. Californians aren’t going to disappear if we don’t build homes
and welcome them in San Francisco. They all have to live somewhere, and I want more
of them to live in the Richmond.
Member, Grow the Richmond, a group that advocates for greater housing density
in the Richmond District (www.growtherichmond.com)
Categories: Letters to the Editor