The Planning Department has a December 19 deadline to implement the small business streamlining provisions of Proposition H, which was approved by the voters last month. Proposition H expedites the approval process for principally permitted uses in Neighborhood Commercial (NC) and Neighborhood Commercial Transit (NCT) districts and relaxes zoning controls for a variety of businesses in most NC and NCT districts. Mayor Breed placed Proposition H on the ballot in response to the economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and, calling out San Francisco’s “broken” permitting system, issued an executive order on November 19 requiring City departments to implement Proposition H within 30 days.

Under Proposition H, the City must complete its review of permit applications for principally permitted uses in NC and NCT districts within 30 days “to the maximum extent feasible,” and the City is currently re-tooling its interdepartmental review process to comply with this newly imposed time limit. As an additional streamlining measure, Proposition H exempts any change in use within these districts to a principally permitted use from the 30-day neighborhood notification requirement that might otherwise apply.
Continue Reading Prop H Brings Swift Approvals & More Flexibility to Many of San Francisco’s Retail Corridors

In late October, we reported on a number of California, San Francisco, and regional propositions, including measures impacting real estate and other taxes, rent control, affordable housing, permits, and governance. At the state level, results were mixed and in some cases still too close to call, with voters clearly rejecting expansion of local residential rent control (Proposition 21), appearing likely to reject proposed changes to commercial property tax assessment (Proposition 15), but appearing likely to approve revisions to residential property tax reassessment. Greater certainty is expected in the coming days and weeks, and no later than December 4th, when county elections officials must report final results to the California Secretary of State. In San Francisco, voters approved all of the measures that we reported on, including major new and increased business taxes.
Continue Reading Election Results: Key San Francisco and California Ballot Measures Impacting Real Estate

San Francisco voters will confront a number of tax measures on the November ballot. These measures are summarized below.

Proposition F — Adjustment of Baseline Funding and Business Tax Changes

Current Law:

San Francisco imposes a number of taxes under the Business and Tax Regulations Code (the “SF Tax Code”) on businesses engaged in business within the City. Three general taxes—so called because the revenues from which go to the City’s General Fund—imposed by the City are (1) the Business Registration Fee, (2) the Payroll Expense Tax, and (3) the Gross Receipts Tax. Currently, the SF Tax Code includes a small business exemption from the Gross Receipts Tax for businesses with less than $1 million in gross receipts attributable to the City.
Continue Reading San Francisco Tax Propositions on the November Ballot

San Francisco voters will again confront a formidable ballot on November 3, 2020, with 13 San Francisco propositions to consider in addition to state and federal offices and measures. The local propositions address an array of topics, including governance, affordable housing, taxes, and permits. Some of the key measures impacting San Francisco businesses are summarized below. Except where indicated, the measures require a simple majority vote to pass.
Continue Reading Another Daunting San Francisco Ballot

While the focus in November is on the top of the ticket, Californians also face a long list of ballot measures. Here we focus on three major measures that impact California real estate: Propositions 15, 19 and 21.
Continue Reading California State Ballot Includes Major Property Tax, Rent Control Measures

[Originally posted on September 9, 2020, updated on October 15, 2020]

Like so much of this unprecedented year, the 2019-2020 California Legislative Session ended with unexpected twists and pointed disappointments as the Assembly and Senate wrestled with the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing protocol, and friction between Assembly and Senate leadership in the final hours of the session, ultimately resulting in a number of highly anticipated housing bills failing to pass. High profile bills that died include SB 995 (extending the former AB 900 expedited CEQA review process for environmental leadership development projects through 2024); SB 1120 (providing ministerial approval and subdivision processes for residential duplexes on single-family zoned lots); and SB 1085 (expanding the Density Bonus Law to include qualifying moderate-income rental projects and student housing projects, among other changes).
Continue Reading 2020 Housing Legislation Overview: Started with a Bang, Ended with a Whimper

SB 35 was one of the most prominent bills to come out of a package of housing-related laws enacted by the California legislature in 2017. It promised to allow swift approval of developments that were consistent with local zoning and design standards. As long as a project met those standards, a city would have no choice but to approve the development. SB 35 was designed to ensure a project could be approved, even without support from elected officials or local neighbors. But a lingering question remained: once a project was approved, could local opposition groups use SB 35 to delay a development or overturn the approval in court?
Continue Reading Trial Court Decisions Illustrate SB 35’s Power

As previously reported on the Unfamiliar Terrain blog, San Francisco Mayor London Breed declared a moratorium on evictions of small and medium-sized businesses (those having worldwide receipts of $25 million or less) impacted by COVID-19 for non-payment of rent. By supplemental declaration on April 1, Mayor Breed ordered that the moratorium also applies to non-replenishment of security deposits. The April 1 supplemental declaration is the eighth of ten supplemental declarations (as of April 21, 2020) to the Mayor’s Proclamation of Local Emergency.
Continue Reading San Francisco Commercial Eviction Moratorium Applies to Security Deposits

We last reported on the Unfamiliar Terrain blog that California Governor Gavin Newsom banned the enforcement of residential evictions against qualified California tenants who fail to pay rent. Less than two weeks later, on April 6, the California Judicial Council substantially expanded statewide tenant protections and eliminated the qualifications for protection. With the Council’s action, residential and commercial tenant eviction lawsuits cannot be initiated during the state of emergency and for 90 days after, regardless of the cause and regardless of the financial condition of the tenant. Eviction actions already in process will be postponed by at least 60 days. The only exceptions are evictions that are necessary for the public health or safety.
Continue Reading California Judicial Council Postpones Residential and Commercial Evictions

UPDATED ON APRIL 22, 2020

On March 19, 2020, Governor Newsom issued a “Safer at Home” Order, which generally permits construction, including housing, to continue statewide. On March 31, 2020, six Bay Area counties – Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara – as well as the City of Berkeley, coordinated on and each issued updated local shelter-in-place orders extending and further restricting non-essential activities through May 3, 2020. Among other things, the local orders notably limit the types of construction permitted beyond the State’s Order and require those permissible construction activities to create and implement a “Social Distancing Protocol.”
Continue Reading Bay Area Further Restricts Construction in Response to COVID-19