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  • Laura Waxmann-San Francisco Business Times

S.F. leaders propose reform of project appeals process to curb ‘frivolous’ opposition

By Laura Waxmann  – Staff Reporter, San Francisco Business Times

Nov 10, 2020, 12:58pm PST Updated Nov 10, 2020, 2:18pm PST


Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Matt Haney announced Tuesday that they plan to introduce legislation that would raise the requirements for members of the public to appeal city-led development projects in San Francisco.

The new legislation is aimed at preventing the “abuse of the appeals process for City projects and policies that often result in unnecessary delays and increased costs,” Breed and Haney said in a joint statement issued Tuesday. It would not apply to private development projects.

Current city law allows a single person to appeal development projects and city policies relating to transportation, public works, infrastructure and the environment to the Board of Supervisors on an administrative basis. The proposed legislation would require signatures from 50 San Francisco residents or the support of five members of the Board of Supervisors to launch an appeal against projects that are not directly under the board’s authority.

In addition, the new legislation would allow “a number of project types” to move forward as the appeal is being heard, according to its sponsors. These projects include those that are temporary in nature, involve “easily reversible physical changes” and those related to health and safety.

“Our response to the pandemic has shown that San Francisco is capable of doing great things when we don’t get in our own way,” Breed said in the statement. “People should be able to appeal projects and policies that are going to impact our city and their lives, but by setting the bar so low for an appeal to be filed, we set ourselves up for delays and cost overruns before we even get started. That’s a system designed to fail. This legislation allows for appeals to continue, while preventing frivolous appeals that keep our city from moving forward.”  

The city leaders pointed to the recent appeal of the City’s Slow Streets program to make a case for the need for reform of the city’s current appeals process.

The program is designed to limit car traffic on select streets to allow pedestrians to navigate them safely during the Covid-19 pandemic, but was appealed by two community members. 

“While the appeal was eventually dismissed unanimously, the delay was unnecessary and resulted in hundreds of hours of staff time that could have otherwise been spent responding to other City and resident needs,” Breed and Haney said in the statement, adding that a total of six separate appeals have been filed since June to “stall” San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency projects.


Largest San Francisco Construction Projects Ranked by Construction cost Project Construction Cost

Pier 70 $3.00 billion2

Oceanwide Center $1.60 billion3

Central Subway (T Third Line LRT Extension) $1.58 billion

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