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Mayor Lee Launches Public Land for Housing Program

Initial Redevelopment of Public Land Will Include Four Publicly-Owned Sites with Greatest Potential for Affordable Housing Development; Overall Program Will Identify Buildable Sites for At Least 4,000

Mayor Edwin M. Lee today launched the Public Land for Housing program that will dedicate underutilized public sites towards housing for low, moderate and middle income San Franciscans. The first phase of the Public Land for Housing program will develop plans for the redevelopment of a minimum of four publicly-owned sites with the greatest potential for affordable housing development. The program overall will identify buildable sites for at least 4,000 units by 2020, 50 percent of which will be affordable to low or middle incomes.

“San Francisco voters signaled resounding support of our City’s ambitious 2020 housing goals, to build and rehabilitate urgently-needed housing that is within reach of lower-income and middle class families,” said Mayor Lee. “Working together, we are making measurable progress, but we will, and must, do better than Proposition K’s target of 33 percent affordable housing on City land. We can use our property as an investment in our future, to showcase what is possible when you combine public funding and innovation, creating housing affordable for our working residents.”

The Public Land for Housing program will be led by an interagency planning team including the Planning Department, Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, and land-owners including the Municipal Transportation Agency and Public Utilities Commission. The team will review underutilized sites under City jurisdiction, identify those that provide the best opportunities for housing, and prioritize the reconfiguration and development of those sites into homes for San Franciscans. At least half of the housing developed under this program will be permanently affordable to low and moderate income households, and market rate housing developed in partnership with the permanently affordable units will be aimed at middle class family households wherever possible.  

The Public Land for Housing program will target sites towards two key priorities: 1) development of low income housing for households earning less than 60 percent of area median income; and 2) development of moderate and middle income housing affordable to households earning up to 120 percent of area median income, often in mixed income buildings. The program will also emphasize the inclusion of other public benefits, such as open space, affordable ground floor space for business or nonprofit tenants, and green infrastructure.

The launch of this program comes on the heels of several recent transfers of public sites for affordable housing development – the dedication of 1950 Mission Street near the 16th Street BART station from the San Francisco Unified School District, the transfer of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA)’s Upper Yard site in Balboa Park, and the pending transfer of a waterfront site, Sea Wall Lot 322-1, from the Port to the Mayor’s Office of Housing & Community Development for affordable housing development.

Two larger sites – the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC)-owned property at the Balboa Reservoir, and the SFMTA-owned air rights over the Central Subway Station under construction at 4th and Folsom Streets – will be analyzed for development feasibility under the mixed-income model noted above.

“By formalizing these community efforts into a program for the future, we will be able to actively seek out similar opportunities and create an ongoing pipeline of affordable projects on public sites,” said Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development Director Olson Lee. “Our nonprofit housing agencies are effective partners in the development of low-income housing, but we need more sites to expand their efforts. And because of a lack of federal and state subsidies for moderate and middle incomes, workforce housing is particularly difficult to develop. Using our public sites both to continue our pipeline of low income housing development, and as a laboratory to create mixed and middle income housing is a natural fit.”  

This intensive review of public land for housing was one of the recommendations of the Mayor’s Housing Working Group. This working group, comprised of housing experts and advocates, met over the course of the year to develop strategies to address the City’s critical housing needs. They developed a number of recommendations ranging from process changes to legislation to funding directives.

For more information on the Mayor’s Housing Working Group recommendations, go to: