San Francisco New-Housing Construction Trends
Many of the charts included in this report are based on or excerpted from the San Francisco Planning Department’s 82-page 2014 Housing Inventory report, released in April 2015, which can be accessed using the link at the bottom of this article. Much of the text below detailing housing-inventory statistics is excerpted from this report as well.
The process of application and review, public hearings (and sometimes ballot proposals), revisions, entitlement, permitting, construction, inspection and completion is complex and lengthy. Housing units are being planned and built, and existing units are being altered and removed. And there are many housing types: rental or sale units, market rate or affordable, social-project housing or luxury condominiums.
The new-housing landscape in San Francisco is in constant flux: new projects, developer plan changes, city plan changes, and shifts in economic and political realities. The basic reality is that the city, after its recent 2008-2012 new-construction slump, is now experiencing a huge building boom. So far, however, it has not been able to keep up with accelerating population growth, soaring employment and concomitant surging buyer/renter demand.
“The production of new housing in 2014 totaled 3,654 units, a 50% increase from 2013. This includes 3,454 units in new construction and 200 new units added through conversion of non-residential uses, alterations to existing units or buildings, or expansion of existing structures. Some 140 units were lost through demolition (95), unit mergers (20) and removal of illegal units (24).
“Some of the larger projects completed in 2014 include: 1411 Market Street/NEMA Phase II (437 market-rate units and 52 affordable inclusionary units), 185 Channel Street (315 market rate units), Rincon Hill Phase II (312 market rate units).The 1190 4th Street (100% affordable 150 units) and St. Anthony Foundation’s 121 Golden Gate Avenue (100% affordable 90 senior housing units) are two major affordable housing projects completed in 2014.”
“The Planning Department approved and fully entitled 57 projects in 2014. These projects propose a total of 3,756 units. In 2014, 3,834 units were authorized for construction. This represents a 21% increase from 2013. New housing authorized for construction over the past five years continues to be overwhelmingly (90%) in buildings with 20 or more units. In 2014 the average project size was 16 units.”
“Some of the major projects authorized for construction during the reporting year include: 2801 Brannan Street (434 units); 3350 8th Street (408 units); 250 4th Street (208 units); and 588 Mission Bay Boulevard (200 units).”
“In 2014, 269 projects with about 8,030 units were filed with the Planning Department. This number is higher than the count in 2013 by 66% and is a little over double that of the five year average of almost 3,690 units.
Residential Development by City District
New construction has been concentrated in a few specific districts of the city, mostly where there are commercial lots able to be converted to residential use and where higher density housing projects are most viable. The ability to take under-utilized commercial property sites and turn them into multi-unit or even high-rise residential projects is particularly prized. Generally speaking this describes the quadrant of San Francisco around and to the southeast of the Market Street corridor.
New Development Pipeline
We also have an overview of the quarterly San Francisco Planning Department’s Pipeline Report, which complements the annual Housing Inventory reports with a longer term perspective: The San Francisco Residential & Commercial Development Pipeline Report. Below is one chart from this report.
There are over 50,000 housing units of all kinds currently in the pipeline – and the pipeline is growing and changing quickly now – but some of the bigger projects (such as Treasure Island and Hunter’s Point/Shipyard) may take decades to complete.
Construction vs. Conversion
“Thirty-three single-family units were added in 2014: Single-family building construction made up a very small proportion of new construction in 2014 (1%).” Very few new houses are built in San Francisco, as developers prefer to build higher density housing projects on our limited supply of land. The houses that are built are typically big and expensive.
“New condominium construction in 2014 dropped to 1,977 units from 2,586 units in 2013. Condominium conversions were up by 98% in 2014 (730 from 369 conversions in 2013). This number is 20% higher than the 10-year average of 606 units.” The rules governing condo conversion in San Francisco are byzantine, politically-wrought and, seemingly, ever-changing, and the changes affect the ability to convert existing multi-unit properties and TICs into condominiums. .
Affordable Housing Construction
Very generally speaking, the city requires that new home developers either dedicate 15% of their units to affordable housing, which could be built on-site or on another city site, or contribute to the city’s affordable housing fund “in lieu” of building the units themselves.(The rules are more complicated than that, but that’s the general idea.) There are few subjects more politically charged in San Francisco than affordable housing: how much should be built where and who should be responsible for the costs.
“In 2014, 757 new affordable housing units were built. These new affordable units made up 21% of new units added to the City’s housing stock. This count includes 267 inclusionary units and 59 units added to existing structures. About 83% of the new affordable units are rentals affordable to very-low and low-income households.” These units are allocated, rented and sold under rules and formulas pertaining to social and economic circumstances and housing cost. Large projects are also built on an ongoing basis by private-public social organizations for dedicated purposes such as senior housing.
“In 2014, a total of about $30 million was collected from developers as partial payments of in-lieu fees for projects.”
Major affordable housing projects completed in 2014 include: 1190 4th Street (150 units); 121 Golden Gate Avenue (90 units); 378 5th Street (44 units); 833-871 Jamestown Avenue (96 units); 1600 Market Street (23 units); and 63 West Point Road (15 units).
Housing Units Demolished, Merged and Abated
“Dwelling units are gained by additions to existing housing structures, conversions to residential use, and legalization of illegal units. Dwelling units are lost by merging separate units into larger units, by conversion to commercial use, or by the removal of illegal units. The net gain of 155 units from alterations in 2014 is comprised of 200 units added and 45 units eliminated.”
The Context behind San Francisco New-Housing Development
Population, Employment, New Supply vs. Demand
What ultimately underpins new housing construction is demand. San Francisco is seeing surging population and employment that has been far outpacing new supply. Below are 3 charts we made up plus one from the CA Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Insufficient Housing = Increasing Prices & Rents
Below are two of our charts illustrating the white hot rental and sale markets in San Francisco, which are motivating investors and developers to build new homes, and motivating the city and non-profits to try and accelerate the construction of affordable housing units as well.
New Housing Construction by Bay Area County
As can be seen below, Santa Clara has taken the lead in new home construction in the Bay Area. “In 2014, Bay Area counties authorized 21,090 units for construction, 8% more than the 2013 authorizations of 19,551 units. In San Francisco, 98% of new housing is in multi-family buildings.”
SF Housing Stock by Building Size
Condo Values by Era of Construction
The first golden age of SF apartment buildings, many of which were later turned into condos, was in the period of 1920 – 1940: The units in these buildings are large, light, gracious and filled with elegant detail. Pacific Heights and Marina are filled with these buildings. Though there are beautiful condos built in other eras (Edwardian flats, Art Deco apartments), the second golden age really arrived with the latest burst of new-condo construction, built for an increasingly affluent population: These units are ultra-modern, high-tech and feature highest quality finishes and amenities. They are exemplified by the new, luxury high-rises of the greater South Beach-Yerba Buena area, though variations on this theme, in non-high-rise form, have been springing up all over the city.
The units in these newer buildings command a premium both when rented or, as seen in the chart above, when sold – now surpassing an average dollar per square foot value of $1000. This is the major motivator for developers today.
Housing Unit Construction by Bedroom Count
We haven’t found an easy place for construction data by unit size, so this first chart above is extrapolated from SF MLS sales of condos built 2001 -2015. It may not apply perfectly to units built as apartment rentals or affordable housing.
Typically, the smaller the unit, the higher the dollar per square foot value on sale or rental, however in San Francisco, 3+ bedroom condos are often high-floor units with spectacular views that sell for extraordinary sums – but these would be outliers to the general rule. The city plan appears to have a bias for 2-bedroom units, which it designates as “family units” – this may be an anachronism considering that 38% of city residents live alone and that SF has the lowest percentage of children of any major U.S. city.Lately there has been a push by developers (and some housing advocates) toward smaller or even “micro” units, but other segments in the decision-making chain in the city, such as supervisors and neighborhood community groups, often push back against allowing this trend to gain traction in the city.
The politics of new home development in San Francisco is not for the weak of heart. There are very, very strong opinions and pressures regarding how it should best proceed.
San Francisco Planning Department
Pipeline & Housing Inventory Reports
Below are links to the SF Planning Department Pipeline and Housing Inventory report webpages. They contain huge amount of data, which we have attempted to represent accurately.As noted by their authors, who did an incredible job, the original reports themselves are “compiled and consolidated from different data sources and subject to errors due to varying accuracy and currency of original sources.”
And this image-link goes to a flowchart of the Planning Department’s
review and approvals process:
This report was created in good faith and is based on data from sources deemed reliable,
but may contain inadvertent errors and misrepresentations, and is subject to revision.
© April 2015 Paragon Real Estate Group