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‘Cars to Casas’ ordinance would ease housing construction at former auto properties

Mayor London Breed Tuesday introduced an ordinance that if adopted would make it easier for housing developers to build on lots previously deemed for automobile use, such as gas stations and parking lots.

In an ordinance called “Cars to Casas,” developers would no longer need to seek a conditional use authorization from the Planning Commission in order to change zoning from auto to housing use — a step that can take up to 18 months, Breed said at a press conference in the Outer Sunset neighborhood.

The press conference was held with the backdrop of a four-story residential complex that includes Gus’s Community Market on the ground floor. The site was formerly a 76 gas station where the project sponsor was required to apply for conditional use authorization. The mayor said her proposed ordinance will streamline the bureaucratic process, adding:

“We’re not trying to make the west side of town into downtown. But what we’re saying is, with underutilized places like this place that used to be a gas station, there could be the possibility to create four stories with Gus’s Market.”

Additionally, the ordinance would relax density restrictions, allowing developers to add more units. Currently, the number of units allowed on a parcel is based on lot size, Planning Director Rich Hillis said. However, zoning district height limits would remain unchanged.

Executive Director of YIMBY Action Laura Foote said the ordinance will make it easier to build homes on auto-related lots and address The City’s lack of housing for families, adding:

“This is going to literally be taking that car-centric infrastructure and making it easier to build the thing that we know will make our city more sustainable. That’s homes for the families that are right now, they are searching on Craigslist and they are crying.”

Todd David, executive director of Housing Action Coalition, said it makes sense to look at car-centric lots for future housing developments since affordable local housing cuts back on commute travel and greenhouse gas emissions.

David said:

“We’re going to have workers living closer to the urban centers, being able to walk, take public transportation.”

Policy Associate Sarah Xu with Brightline Defense echoed David’s assertion, saying:

“This policy is a step in the right direction to move away from our reliance on cars, reduce air and climate pollution, and improve public health.”

Sites will be still be required to meet environmental agency regulations and remediation standards established for contaminated properties.  

Breed will officially introduce the ordinance at next Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

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