News Releases
The latest news and announcements from Mayor London N. Breed


Thursday, August 30, 2018
Contact: Mayor’s Office of Communications, 415-554-6131



Executive order will streamline the approval of accessory dwelling units and clear the backlog of existing applications to create more housing throughout San Francisco, including adding new rent-controlled units


San Francisco, CA—Mayor London N. Breed today issued an Executive Directive to accelerate the approval of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), commonly known as in-law units, and to clear the backlog of pending applications. ADUs are an important part of Mayor Breed’s strategy to create more housing throughout the City, and the only way to add new rent-controlled units to San Francisco’s housing supply. However, the lack of clear and consistent standards has subjected applications to an unnecessarily long review period, resulting in a backlog of 900 applications in some stage of review.

Mayor Breed’s Executive Directive calls for all outstanding ADU applications to be responded to within the next six months, and requires that moving forward, all new applications must be acted upon within four months. The Directive instructs City departments to set clear, objective code standards for ADU applications, which will provide the guidance necessary for applicants to navigate otherwise conflicting code sections, and as a result, allow these units to be approved more quickly. This will take the form of an information sheet, also being issued today, that will set these standards so all ADU applicants have clear and reliable guidelines.

“San Francisco is in desperate need of more housing, and we need to be encouraging the construction of new homes, particularly when we are talking about new rent-controlled housing,” said Mayor Breed. “The current backlog of ADU applications is unacceptable and a clear sign that the process is not working. When people apply to build these new homes, it should be clear what their application should include and that the City will handle their application efficiently. We cannot let the process drag on for months and months, as that delays homes from being built and discourages future applicants.”

Since 2014 when the first ordinance was passed to allow the construction of new ADUs in the Castro neighborhood, the program has gradually expanded to allow new ADU construction throughout San Francisco. ADUs are constructed within buildings, using underutilized storage or parking spaces, and are often cheaper and faster to build than traditional units. When an ADU is built within a rent-controlled building, that new ADU is also subject to rent control. More than 90% of the 377 ADUs permitted to date will be rent-controlled.

“We cannot say that we want to create more housing opportunities and then put barriers that restrict people from creating housing,” said Supervisor Katy Tang. “These are practical solutions to help property owners create more ADUs without jeopardizing life safety issues, and I am glad to see our City departments working collaboratively on this issue.”

City departments have already taken steps to clarify and expedite the review process, including dedicating a window at the Department of Building Inspection to provide specific guidance on ADUs to potential applicants, and a station staffed by an employee from the San Francisco Planning Department that allows applicants to schedule appointments online to review ADU-specific code requirements.

“We are committed to fast-tracking and streamlining the permit issuance and inspection process for all housing and ADU projects,” said Tom Hui, Director of the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection. “We are taking additional steps to ensure the review and approval process allows greater flexibility and predictability without sacrificing safety or livability.”

Clearing up inconsistencies in various code requirement approvals, such as shared paths of travel, emergency escape and rescue openings, and alarm systems is a key part of reforming this review process. The information sheet created as part of today’s Directive clarifies those code requirements in a central document that City departments and prospective applicants can easily reference.

“San Francisco's ADU program is a model for how to add density in existing buildings,” said Mark Hogan, an architect who has worked on numerous ADU applications.  “But the program has been mired in bureaucracy for the first few years of its existence. It has been slow to see these units start construction, even with a huge number of permits filed. This is a welcome change that will help get these sorely needed homes built quickly.” 

Further information about the City of San Francisco’s Accessory Dwelling Unit program is available online at