Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor – Richmond Review


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

four stories.


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

the City.


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.


Robert Heaton

Member, Grow the Richmond, a group that advocates for greater housing density

in the Richmond District (www.growtherichmond.com)

1 reply »

  1. Grow the Richmond is interesting because one of their founders works for a startup that focuses on hiring real estate agents.

    The interesting thing about SB827 is that it basically allows density in ever part of SF and our own planning commission opposes the bill in its current form. Also Tenant’s Rights activists and anti gentrification and civil rights groups across the state oppose it because they fear it will light up speculation: something our neighborhood is experiencing at alarming rates. We also need to worry about the businesses who do not have rental protections losing their locations because of redevelopment.

    I appreciate transit-rich, dense development. I just cannot support opening the flood gates for the free market until Costa-Hawkins is repealed and SF can regulate things better.

    Liked by 1 person

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