Amid housing shortage, SF speeds review of in-law units


San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued an executive order on Thursday to speed up the process of approving Accessory Dwelling Units, also known as in-law units, to clear a backlog of hundreds of pending applications.

ADUs are part of the mayor’s strategy to increase housing in The City and the only way of creating rent-controlled units.

Breed said at a press conference at the Department of Building Inspection:

“We know we face a number of challenges, especially the bureaucratic red tape that sadly gets in the way of producing the kind of housing we need in San Francisco.”

Breed’s directive calls for city agencies involved in approving ADUs to respond to pending applications within six months and for city agencies to respond to new applications within four months moving forward.

The mayor also wants city agencies, including the Fire Department, Planning Department and Department of Building Inspection to come up with clear guidelines for applicants with questions.

Breed said:

“The goal is to get these units on the market as soon as possible to get them completed and to make it easier for the property owners to trying to provide these units.”

Applications have faced long reviews from city agencies because of these inconsistencies resulting in backlog of 900 applications stuck in the review process, said Breed.

The CIty has approved 377 ADUs already with 90 percent of units under rent control, said Breed.

Serina Calhoun, a principal architect with Syncopated Architecture, knows all too well of the bureaucratic process when submitting applications and plans to The City for her clients.

Calhoun said the process can take anywhere between 12 to 24 months and even warns clients beforehand.

Inconsistencies on interpretations of building and fire codes have led to delays, said Calhoun.

Supervisor Tang, who sponsored legislation to make it easier for property owners to build ADUs, said:

“It’s not enough that we have laws in the books to say that we allow you in San Francisco to create ADUs. We actually have to make it possible.”

Tom Hui, director of the Department of Building Inspection, said in a statement:

“We are committed to fast-tracking and streamlining the permit issuance and inspection process for all housing and ADU projects.”

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay and covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a San Francisco native and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Follow Jerold on Twitter @jerold_chinn. Email tips to

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