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  • Laura Foote - SF Chronicle

Peskin’s bill is San Francisco’s attempt to stop just about everything

San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin doesn’t deserve accusations of NIMBYism. His proposed legislation isn’t Not In My Back Yard, it’s BANANAs: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.

Under Peskin’s proposal, many more small projects will require a conditional-use permit and go before the City Planning Commission for neighborhood-wide debate. This dramatic increase in public hearings will amount to a “denial of service attack” on the planning department.

There already are major delays in processing permits. Flooding the planning department with unnecessary paperwork will shut down everything from simple kitchen remodels to vitally needed new housing.

The BANANA legislation is being sold as a way to stop “monster homes” and “illegal demolitions” under the laughable idea that by blocking construction we are “preserving starter homes.” Instead of finding ways to get more multifamily housing, this legislation hilariously treats million-dollar single-family fixer-uppers as “relatively affordable” and in need of “protecting"

We’re in the middle of a catastrophic housing shortage. If we’re serious about solving it, then every neighborhood must allow new multifamily buildings. It’s an unavoidable fact, but one that the entire Bay Area has been desperately trying to avoid.

Our most exclusionary neighborhoods have successfully blocked new housing for decades. Almost all of the new housing has been restricted to a few (often poorer) neighborhoods. This law would double-down on that exclusionary history.

In neighborhoods that have blocked housing, a new multifamily apartment building would be the biggest building on the block. (For example, think about the beautiful apartment building next to the Painted Ladies on Alamo Square.) The families that would find housing in these new apartments would shop at local stores and enrich the character of the neighborhood. But Peskin’s BANANA legislation would consider that code-compliant apartment building “out of scale” and put the brakes on approvals.

Say goodbye to missing middle housing and gentle-infill development.

Instead of either allowing a use or prohibiting it, conditional-use hearings trigger a neighborhood argument that culminates before the Planning Commission. With an estimated 10-times increase in conditional-use hearings, the planning department would need to hire tens, if not hundreds, more employees.

Or nothing will get done — which seems to be the intent.

The BANANA legislation will turn what formerly were over-the-counter permits into long hearings with an unpredictable outcome. Minor projects, such as removing dry rot, will wait months in line to go before the Planning Commission for approval. And once they’re finally there, the fireworks really start.

Get ready for SFGovTV programming to become all-planning-commission-all-the-time. I can hear it now: “At 10 a.m., we’ll debate if the Smiths deserve that open-floor-plan kitchen. Stay tuned for ‘Do the Johnsons Really Need that Bedroom For Grandma?’ starting sometime after 2 p.m.!”

Supervisor Peskin says that this is about illegal demolitions and “monster homes.” Cracking down on illegal demolitions is a narrow issue of enforcement and fines. This 64-page sprawling legislation is really about two visions of San Francisco: one with room for more neighbors and one that closes the gates.

Our state leaders are enacting bold laws to get us the housing we need. But our county supervisors are trying to block these changes. While Gov. Gavin Newsom is declaring war on NIMBYs, local electeds are allying with them.

On paper, San Francisco is steadily allowing more housing. From density bonus programs to accessory dwelling unit legislation, we are making progress. But Peskin’s proposal (with co-authors Supervisors Rafael Mandelman, Norman Yee, Hillary Ronen and Sandra Fewer) would take San Francisco backward, ensuring none of the new laws result in new housing.

This BANANA legislation will gum up the process so everything creeps to a standstill. For folks who want to freeze the city in amber and exacerbate displacement of residents, this legislation is great.

For those who want a diverse, affordable, thriving city for all, this potential law spells disaster.

San Francisco should be a leader on housing in the Bay Area. Please reach out to your representative on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and let him or her know you do NOT support this proposal — it’s BANANAs.

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