GovernmentHousingNewsSan Francisco

More than 400 in-law units approved as SF clears years-long backlog


San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced on Thursday that The City has cleared its application backlog of 919 accessory dwelling units that had been waiting for approvals from various city departments for several years.

Last August, Breed issued an executive directive calling for city agencies to respond to the pending applications to create the units, also known as in-laws, and to respond new applications to build in-laws within four months.

Since Breed issued the directive, The City has been able to approve 439 applications for in-law units. More than 90 percent of the units are rent controlled. The rest of the applications have been reviewed by city agencies are awaiting to hear back from applicants.

At the press conference, Breed showcased six garages that will turn into four ADUs at 3434 18th St. in the Mission District — a Mission Housing Development Corp. property.

Breed said the bureaucratic process delayed the process for many applicants which delayed the creation of the units due to disagreements from city agencies on specific issues with an application, which why she issued the executive directive:

“We created a simple, straight-forward ADU checklist. The first of its kind so applicants can get the information they need to start the process upfront so that each department could be provide consistent feedback.”

Since August, Breed said The City received 206 new applications to construct in-law units with all of the applications reviewed within four months. Of the new 206 applications, The City approved 18 of them.

A number of several improvements to the process included having all of the departments, such as the Planning Department, Department of Building Inspection Fire Department, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and the Department of Public Works, reviewing the applications together at the same time.

The new “roundtable” process allowed for the departments to issues its comments or request for changes to the applicant at the same time instead of the old process where an application would get moved around from department to department.

Breed said The City needs start looking ahead of the next generation and where they are going to live in the city they were born and raised in:

“We have to start now thinking about the future and providing more housing opportunities is really what’s going to make it possible so that the next generation of San Francisco can afford to live here and the people struggling to live here have real opportunities to live in the communities that they love.”

Serina Calhoun, a local architect that operates a firm in Hayes Valley, said she has seen a dramatic change in the ADU process since Breed issued the executive directive last August:

“Projects that were taking over two years for approvals are now being processed in four months. We submitted two projects at the end of October and they are already approved.”

Additionally, Breed has also introduced legislation to eliminate Department of Building Inspection fees for ADUs and 100 percent affordable housing projects. Fees can range from $100,000 to $150,000 for each project and are significant cost to the project’s total cost.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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