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Newsom takes on San Francisco NIMBY policies

"NIMBYism is destroying the state," Governor Gavin Newsom said of San Francisco's penchant for rejecting housing projects.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered the first audit of its kind — a "policy and practice review" geared at holding San Francisco accountable for its extensive "not in my backyard" attitude when it comes to housing.

The Department of Housing and Community Development will be conducting the review, working with the University of California, Berkeley Institute of Urban and Regional Development to identify the barriers impeding new housing construction. The department's Housing Accountability Unit receives the most complaints in the state about San Francisco. Additionally, cities of similar size, such as Seattle, approve housing construction at a rate three times higher than the city by the bay.

Newsom has been outspoken about San Francisco's handling of its housing crisis, telling the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board this past May that "NIMBYism is destroying the state. There's a crisis. Why the hell are you stopping projects? I mean, we've seen it over and over," he said.

According to the housing department, the state called for 82,000 units by 2031. San Francisco has constantly been under fire for rejecting code-compliant housing proposals and keeping bureaucratic red tape around development — only accepting a handful of projects that total 62 units in the first few months of 2022. The city recently took back its title as the most expensive city to build in, passing Tokyo, Geneva and London.

Mayor London Breed acknowledged the city has problems. "I welcome this review and look forward to cooperating with the state to implement solutions needed to get rid of barriers and bureaucracy that stand in the way of building new housing. For years, San Francisco has made it way too hard to approve and build new homes and that must change," Breed said in an email.

Breed isn't the only one looking forward to the aggressive review. City planning director Rich Hillis said by email the scrutiny is welcome and that his department is working with the state housing department to ensure the next housing report is in line with state law.

"We recognize that the City’s development review process is not geared toward getting housing built quickly or with certainty, and we share their desire to change that," Hillis said.

But Gustavo Velasquez, the director of the state housing department, took a firmer tone about the audit.

"We are deeply concerned about processes and political decision-making in San Francisco that delay and impede the creation of housing and want to understand why this is the case," Velasquez said in a statement. "We will be working with the city to identify and clear roadblocks to construction of all types of housing, and when we find policies and practices that violate or evade state housing law, we will pursue those violations together with the Attorney General's Office."

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