In an unprecedented decision, South San Francisco is the first San Mateo County city to consider ending single-family home zoning.
South San Francisco’s city council narrowly agreed to a 3-2 vote to allow maisonettes, triplexes, and other moderately tight buildings to be built in neighborhoods traditionally reserved for single-family homes.
The Wednesday, February 24 decision puts South City on the path of other communities like Berkeley and San Jose, where officials can end exclusion zone guidelines in hopes of addressing affordability and equity concerns.
“If we are able to offer more affordable housing and also consider modern housing for the missing center, I think we need to look at all of the options,” said Vice Mayor Mark Nagales, who shared the proposal with colleagues James Coleman and Eddie Flores supported. Mayor Mark Addiego and Councilor Flor Nicolas voted against the proposal.
As part of the decision, officials will consider changing the codes for residential areas with the upcoming update to the general plan. The proposal will be presented to an advisory committee formed to oversee the update and an outreach request will be made before any formal policy changes are considered by the councilors.
Consultants hired to make it easier to update the general plan are expected to cost around $ 100,000 and delay the process by about four months.
Those familiar with the work done so far on the general plan noted that councilors had recently agreed to concentrate most of the city’s future growth east of Highway 101 along El Camino Real and in the Lindenville neighborhood on the southern outskirts .
As part of the general planning discussion, which determined where new housing should be built, consensus was reached that the single-family neighborhoods, which cover around 85% of the urban land for residential use, should be preserved.
In criticizing the new proposal, Nicolas suggested that reversing course at this late stage would be tantamount to misleading the public.
“We clearly heard from everyone what they wanted,” said Nicolas.
For this purpose, the resident Laura Fanella criticized the plan to lift the protection of the single-family home (R1).
“Please stop doing this before you move on,” said Fanella, who alleged officials moved the goalposts to community members who want to maintain their quality of life in single-family neighborhoods.
Progressive Housing Advocates took a different perspective, claiming that building additional units across South San Francisco would undo decades of segregationist housing policies.
“I strongly support the study of foreclosure removal in South San Francisco,” said Resident Darryl Yip.
These efforts are in line with decisions in cities like Berkeley, Sacramento, and Minneapolis where officials agreed to change the zone codes in single-family neighborhoods to allow for more dense development.
Beyond the equity issues, proponents claim that building additional units will help communities whose housing is constrained meet demand and ultimately lower the cost of living, which has been a burden for so many.
In San Mateo County, affordability officials appeared to have focused solely on catalyzing more transitory development near city centers. No other city has spoken about changing their zone code for single family homes.
For his part, Coleman said he viewed the exploration as an opportunity to empower private property owners while downplaying concerns that officials are interested in dismantling the sanctity of single-family neighborhoods.
“We would give our residents more freedom and control over their property and, in conjunction with that, provide people with more affordable housing,” he said.
However, Addiego maintained a more cynical perspective, suggesting that breaking the density lines could invite predatory developers to South San Francisco, where they will buy undervalued rentals, displace renters from naturally affordable homes, and rebuild a handful of new, expensive units.
“I fear the possibility of where the disorder will come first,” he said. “There is no better way to guarantee gentrification than improving homes in the zone.”
Furthermore, Addie go, who did not cover up his dismay with the decision, shared the expectation that the problem will unsettle many residents.
“There is no way I can support that. And I will warn my co-workers that this will disrupt the community in a great way. “
And while those who supported the proposal recognized that the discussion ahead may be awkward for some, they felt compelled to at least study the matter further before making a decision.
“If we get the data and it doesn’t work, we can at least say we looked into it,” said Nagales.