The third time was the charm for fourplexes, as Supervisor Rafael Mandelman’s third attempt to densify as many as four units onto all residential lots citywide, and six units on corner lots, overwhelmingly passed the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Reports of the death of single-family zoning in San Francisco have been greatly exaggerated; or at least, scuttled by an unexpected veto from Mayor London Breed. District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman has repeatedly attempted to phase out single-family zoning with his original “fourplex legislation” in January 2021, which would have allowed any single-family home to be split into four separate units. That failed, so Mandelman took an even bigger swing at the fences with a revised version that also juiced up corner lots so they could have six units. That version passed the Board of Supervisors in July, but Mayor Breed vetoed it, saying it would actually “set back housing production.”  

Pissed off but undaunted, Mandelman brought a third version of the fourplex legislation before the board Tuesday afternoon. The day before the vote, the SF Standard did some vote-counting and determined that Mandelman had the votes to pass it, and more importantly, Breed was on board with this version. “I would be surprised if it didn't pass tomorrow,” Mandelman told the SF Standard, “but I've been surprised before.”

He was not surprised. The Board of Supervisors passed Mandelman’s latest fourplex legislation 10-1, with only Supervisor Shamann Walton opposing. There was no debate before the vote, and Breed has indicated she will sign the measure into law.

“It was nearly two years ago that I began down this path to allow small- and medium-sized apartment complexes citywide, and I’m glad that we’ve finally arrived at a version that has the support of the Mayor, my colleagues on the Board, and pro-housing advocates,” Mandelman said in a release. “While we have much more work ahead to streamline and lower the costs associated with building new housing, this is an important step in the right direction to increase density in San Francisco and puts us on the right path to add the capacity to meet our housing needs.”

This version is a highly massaged compromise measure, and leaves intact the whole fourplex possibility for every lot, and six units on corner lots concept. But this version also whittles down a requirement that the owner doing the subdividing has to have owned the building for at least five years. That requirement is now only one year before the owner can subdivide the property, which some supervisors still think is way too long.

“This will be reserved for predominantly wealthy people,” District 11 Supervisor Safaí told the Standard. “You have to have the ability to buy a piece of property and then sit on it for a year.” (Though honestly, how many non-wealthy are buying houses in San Francisco?)

But for others, the motivation was more to get something-anything accomplished in terms of upzoning. “I’d kinda like to be done with this thing,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin said at an October 3 Land Use Committee meeting, before voting for the measure.

Related: Breed Vetoes Fourplex Legislation, Says It Would ‘Set Back Housing Production’ [SFist]

Image: Andreas Strandman