rendering of Geary Boulevard
Rendering: AECOM

Expanding Housing Choice

Housing Element Zoning Program
Part of the Housing for All initiative

Expanding Housing Choice aims to expand housing affordability and availability by allowing for increased density throughout the City, especially along transit and commercial corridors, in order to meet San Francisco’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation requirements set by the State of California.

View Zoning Proposal Interactive Map

All San Franciscans are impacted by the housing affordability crisis. As housing prices skyrocketed in recent years, teachers, first responders, service workers, and others who keep our city running have been forced to leave. American Indian and Black populations continue to decrease, while the population of unhoused residents has remained alarmingly high. Even for people with access to stable housing, the lack of diverse housing choices limits people's opportunities and impacts quality of life. (For instance, many seniors face challenges with finding suitable housing types as they age.)

Currently, the City's zoning rules limit the variety and types of housing that can be built and prevent us from building enough new housing to meet people’s needs. Most housing built in San Francisco in recent decades has been concentrated in the eastern neighborhoods, where zoning allows for mid- and large-sized developments. Meanwhile, the northern and western parts of the city have seen relatively little growth. These areas are primarily zoned for single-family development, which is less likely to be affordable to low- and middle-income residents and is shown to reinforce patterns of economic and racial segregation.

Expanding Housing Choice involves changes to San Francisco's zoning rules to accommodate new housing, increase housing affordability for low- and middle-income households, and help advance racial and social equity.

The project allows for more housing options in neighborhoods with greater access to economic opportunities and services that can support growth, such as public transit, parks, retail, and community facilities.

Some goals of the project include:

  • Start to reverse housing segregation in compliance with state requirements
  • Strengthen our communities by adding new neighbors and resources;
  • Coordinate new development with investments in infrastructure and services
  • Ensure all San Franciscans have a place to call home

Related Resources

Resources will be updated as materials become available. Please continue to check back for updates, or sign-up to receive our email newsletter.


SF Planning worked with Human Rights Commission illustrator, Michelle McNeil to create this series of "Expanding Housing Choice" campaign posters. Click on the image below to download.

thumbnails of three posters


Planning Commission – April 4, 2024
Expanding Housing Choice Memo to the Commission

Planning Commission - February 1, 2024
Expanding Housing Choice Informational Presentation

Planning Commission - November 30, 2023
Expanding Housing Choice Informational Presentation

Planning Commission - July 27, 2023
Expanding Housing Choice Informational Presentation

Planning Commission - April 27, 2023
Housing for All Informational Presentation

Expanding Housing Choice is one of the key implementation actions of San Francisco’s Housing Element. Under state law, San Francisco is required to adopt compliant rezoning before January 2026. To meet this goal, Mayor London Breed’s Executive Directive on Housing for All requires the Planning Department to submit a final zoning proposal for consideration by policymakers by January 2024.

The Housing Element was adopted in January 2023 and is San Francisco’s plan for meeting our housing needs for the next 8 years (2023-2031). It is the City’s first housing plan centered on racial and social equity. Its policies and programs express San Francisco’s collective vision for the future of housing, guiding policymaking, housing programs, and the allocation of resources.

Expanding Housing Choice is one of several key implementation efforts beginning in Spring 2023. Other priority implementation actions include:

  • Affordable Housing Funding & Production Strategy
  • Community Planning & Engagement
  • Housing Production & Process Streamlining;


Zoning Proposal Interactive Map

screengrab of interactive map showing colorful sections of proposed changes

View Zoning Proposal Interactive Map (opens in new browser window)


Map of San Francisco that illustrates corridors, nodes, and large sites that the City will prioritize for additional housing capacity Map caption: This map illustrates corridors, nodes, and large sites that the City will prioritize for additional housing capacity. Other areas may be added during the community engagement and adoption process. View a larger map.

Under state law, San Francisco must plan for roughly 36,000 housing units in the next eight years (2023-2031) to meet our city’s housing needs, on top of the housing units we already expect to be built. To foster more inclusive communities and undo the harmful effects of housing segregation and discrimination, the state requires that a significant share of new housing be built in neighborhoods with greater access to economic opportunities and services that can support growth, such as public transit, parks, retail, and community facilities.

Allowing for more and different types of housing in these neighborhoods helps ensure that more residents have access to housing that meets their needs, while strengthening community resources, infrastructure, and other services. New residents will also benefit from good access to public transportation, requiring fewer vehicle trips to access goods and services and reducing air pollution, including greenhouse gasses.

The City’s approach to increasing residential density in these neighborhoods will consider the need to protect communities vulnerable to displacement. It will also coordinate new development with infrastructure and services to ensure that new housing does not overburden our existing resources.

Proposed Zoning Map (Winter 2023)

SF Planning has reviewed community input from Phases 1 and 2 of outreach and developed a proposed zoning map. The Department is submitting the map along with the draft legislative amendments to the Mayor’s Office in January 2024. The Department will continue to collaborate with the Mayor’s staff to incorporate any requested changes  and to prepare the final ordinances for introduction at the Board of Supervisors, which is anticipated in early 2024.

The proposed map continues to focus change on major transit routes, commercial streets, and other major thoroughfares and hubs of activity. Key changes include:

  1. Higher heights (ranging from 140’ – 300’, or 14-to-30 stories) at key intersections and areas that currently allow heights of 80’ or more.
  2. Adding additional Neighborhood Commercial (NC) parcels that were proposed for removal of numerical density limits under separate pending legislation by the Mayor and Supervisor Safai (Board File #230734).
  3. Adding additional areas for increased height limits and increasing proposed height limits ever further based on community and Supervisor feedback.
  4. Further sculpting off the main corridors and lowering height and density in various locations that are primarily residential.


A map showing proposed housing height limits in San Francisco within the North and West parts of the City.

Map caption: A map showing proposed housing height limits in San Francisco published in Winter 2023. Click on image to enlarge.

Draft Zoning Proposal (Fall 2023)

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on a question marker to open/close the view.

What is Expanding Housing Choice?

What is Expanding Housing Choice?

Expanding Housing Choice is a set of changes to San Francisco’s restrictive zoning rules. These changes are required by state law and focus on property in the Western and Northern parts of San Francisco, specifically in and near the areas designated by the state as Housing Opportunity Areas [1].

[1] This project is a required implementation action of the City’s Housing Element.

What are the goals of the zoning update?

Expanding Housing Choice involves changes to San Francisco's zoning rules to accommodate new housing, increase housing affordability, and help advance racial and social equity.

How much housing does San Francisco need?

While San Francisco has built more housing, including affordable housing, in recent years than many other Bay Area cities, housing production in both the City and the broader Bay Area have not kept pace with population and economic growth over the past several decades. This shortage of housing has caused home prices to soar in recent decades, and many residents have difficulties making ends meet and are vulnerable to being priced out of San Francisco and California. The state’s increased housing requirements mean that every jurisdiction will need to build more to address current needs and these long-term trends. Under these requirements, San Francisco needs to build approximately 82,000 housing units affordable to different income levels over the next eight years (2023-2031), or about 10,000 units annually – this is known as our Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA, commonly pronounced “Ree-Na”). This figure is almost three times higher than the City’s requirement in the previous Housing Element (2014-2022).

Where can I see the draft proposed rezoning map?

The proposed map, including prior drafts published during the Housing Element and rezoning outreach are available at Expanding Housing Choice.

What is the project timeline?

This project is a required implementation action of the City’s Housing Element. Under state law, the rezoning must be adopted by January 2026. San Francisco needs to build approximately 82,000 housing units affordable to different income levels over the next eight years (2023-2031), or about 10,000 units annually – this is known as our Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA, commonly pronounced “Ree-Na”).

Where is this work happening?

Is the entire city being rezoned?

To promote inclusive communities and address housing segregation, the state mandates that a substantial portion of new housing, including affordable housing, be constructed in neighborhoods with better access to economic opportunities and essential services, such as public transit, parks, shops, and community facilities. These neighborhoods are primarily concentrated in the northern and western parts of the City. In addition to proximity to transportation and services, the rezoning is looking at the areas likeliest to produce housing, particularly those streets with vacant commercial buildings, parking lots, while considering ways to increase ability to add multi-family housing in surrounding areas. The proposed map continues to focus change on major transit routes, commercial streets, and other major thoroughfares and hubs of activity. Much of the eastern and southern parts of San Francisco have already been rezoned in the past. These areas can and have accommodated most of the city’s new housing in the past two decades. We expect to continue to see tens of thousands of new housing units in these areas.

Why is Expanding Housing Choice important to our city?

Why does the current zoning need to be updated? 

Like many major American cities, San Francisco has a complicated and inexcusable history with urban development that reverberates to this day, particularly within our Priority Equity Communities (areas with a higher density of vulnerable populations, such as people of color, seniors, youth, people with disabilities, linguistically isolated households, and people living in poverty or unemployed).

The current rezoning program focuses on western and northern San Francisco where restrictive zoning polices currently make it challenging to build new housing, particularly multi-family structures that tend to be more affordable and provide diverse housing options for people in all stages of their lives. Over the past 15 years, only 10% of new housing in the City was built in these areas, even though they cover over 50% of the City’s land. In contrast, most developments in recent years have been concentrated in eastern San Francisco where mid– and large-sized developments are allowed. State and City policies require us to add housing in the western and northern areas of the city so that we can create housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income households and start to reverse historic patterns of economic and racial segregation.

What happens if we don’t rezone?

Changes to our zoning rules are required by state law to maintain certification for our Housing Element. Without compliant rezoning legislation, San Francisco risks losing certification for the Housing Element, which could lead to a loss of vital state grants that the City relies on. These grants total hundreds of millions of dollars, used to build affordable housing, pave city streets, and keep MUNI and other key City services running. Failure to comply could also lead to lawsuits and state-imposed penalties, including fines and “builder’s remedy” projects. That means that the City would lose the ability to apply any kind of zoning rules (including today’s height, density, and setback rules), apart from basic life-safety building codes. In other words, the City would lose local control over the housing it currently approves, allowing the state to approve many kinds of developer projects with few, if any, limits. See SF Housing Policy and Practice Review.

Other California cities are facing this problem now because they don’t have certified Housing Elements or risk losing their certification for not completing actions they committed to in their Housing Elements. A significant number of cities are facing large “builder’s remedy” projects across the state, including cities such as Redondo Beach and Santa Monica to Menlo Park and Palo Alto. Just in the past two months, we’ve seen a series of dramatic legal rulings and settlements, including a Beverly Hills case where a judge suspended the city’s permitting power because the city didn’t have a valid housing element. Similarly, in the city of Davis – which was also without a certified Housing Element - was forced to approve a project that violated zoning rules and would have otherwise required voter approval.

Why does the zoning in most San Francisco neighborhoods prohibit multifamily apartment buildings?

The restrictions on the number of homes that can be built on most of the city’s residential land date back to the 1970s, when San Francisco’s housing context was substantially different. The city had lost population from 1950 to 1980 as many middle- and high-income households, who were typically white, moved to rapidly growing suburban communities of single-family homes. Regional housing production substantially exceeded today's levels, and housing costs were lower relative to incomes. Zoning changes in the 1970s that prohibited multi-family housing indirectly institutionalized racial and social exclusion in more affluent and predominantly white San Francisco neighborhoods. These types of practices and regulations are known as exclusionary zoning.

How will new housing impact infrastructure and transportation in the City?

Expanding Housing Choice is a collaborative effort with City departments to align housing growth with essential infrastructure and services for healthy, connected, and resilient communities. New housing will be added gradually, and City agencies are planning to enhance community facilities to meet the pace of growth. Key infrastructure and service agencies, like SFMTA, SFPUC, Rec Park, and SFUSD, routinely maintain and update their own long-range infrastructure plans informed by population and housing growth projections.

How are you working with people on the zoning proposals?


The rezoning effort builds on 2+ years of citywide engagement on the Housing Element. This outreach aims to build community understanding of the purpose, impact, and benefits of rezoning. Outreach also aims to ensure that community members can participate in shaping the rezoning proposal through various opportunities, such as open houses, surveys, focus groups, briefings with neighborhood groups, and other events. It’s important for the Planning Department to engage in ways that are approachable to all people in the communities in which they live.

The Department offered community organizations and neighborhood groups opportunities to meet with project staff, learn more about the project, and have more in-depth discussions around community hopes, concerns, and priorities related to the rezoning.

Outreach continues to target several types of audiences:

  • People facing the greatest levels of housing insecurity and with higher barriers to participation were recruited for housing education workshops, focus groups, and stakeholder interviews in addition to all general public events;
  • The general public, who was invited to participate in open houses, online surveys, webinars, and informational hearings;
  • Organized groups such as neighborhood associations and advocacy organizations who signed up for office hours or were part of Community Conversations (e.g. a presentation on the project followed by discussion);
  • Sectors providing specialized expertise, such as social service organizations and nonprofits and professionals from the architecture and housing development community; and,
  • Decision-makers and government advisory bodies, including district Supervisors, the Planning Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, Youth Commission, Small Business Commission, and Cultural Districts.

Where feasible, demographic information about participants was collected to ensure that feedback was broadly representative of San Francisco. In partnership with community-based organizations, outreach efforts focused on people facing the greatest levels of housing insecurity.

How will the rezoning contribute to a more equitable city?


San Francisco, like many cities in California and the United States, acknowledges the discriminatory effects of past zoning policies on Black, American Indian, Asian, and Latino/e/x communities, as well as low-income people. Throughout the 20th century, cities often used zoning regulations, specifically by limiting multi-family housing, to maintain segregation in wealthy, predominantly white neighborhoods, contributing to systemic racism and discrimination.

The San Francisco rezoning initiative aims to address historical injustices by increasing affordable housing options in areas where Black, American Indian, Asian, and Latino/e/x communities, as well as low-income individuals, were historically excluded. It seeks to provide better access to affordable housing for families of all income levels, especially those who have faced housing discrimination like redlining. The strategy includes measures to protect current tenants and small businesses while promoting feasible housing solutions for all income levels, with a specific focus on developing housing that is more affordable for low- and middle-income workers and families.

How will this impact my neighborhood?

Will the updated zoning help create new development in our neighborhoods?

Zoning is an important part of creating sustainable and equitable communities that increase access to economic activity and allow new homes and businesses. Expanding Housing Choice focuses on increasing housing capacity in the Housing Opportunity Area, on streets with commercial and transit where development is most likely to happen. Zoning changes do not force new developments to happen. The City generally does not directly build housing, and new housing mostly depends on property owners and economic conditions for construction.

Would new zoning require changes to existing buildings?

No, changes to existing buildings would not be required when zoning is updated. Owners would maintain the same discretion and control over their property that they have today.

How will this impact historic buildings?

New zoning would not force any changes to historic buildings. Listed historic resources will continue to be subject to certain protections and the rezoning policies include policies meant to encourage or require continued preservation of designated historic resources. The City has started work on the San Francisco Citywide Cultural Resources Survey (SF Survey), a multi-year effort to protect our cultural heritage by identifying and documenting places and resources of cultural, historical, and architectural importance to San Francisco’s diverse communities.

Buildings identified as cultural resources will be subject to review and requirements intended to preserve cultural heritage even as new housing is added. SF Survey will produce information on many buildings that will then be newly listed among the register of local landmarks and other designated buildings subject to heightened scrutiny.

How will this work impact housing?

Will new zoning changes increase affordable housing?

Zoning changes in the Housing Opportunity Areas will facilitate the development of 100% affordable housing development by increasing height and density to make more affordable housing projects financially feasible. The City currently requires mid-sized and larger housing developments (10+ units) to include 15% of affordable housing units, also known as “inclusionary housing” and “below-market rate (BMR)”. Current rules also allow projects to meet this requirement through paying a fee (equivalent to 20% of units) which is an important funding source the city uses to build projects with 100% affordable housing. The proposed Local Program would let projects paying the fee be eligible for the zoning benefits (as opposed to state bonus programs which do not allow this option). Additionally, in March, San Francisco Voters approved Proposition A that will allocate an additional 300 million dollars to fund affordable housing development.

Beyond subsidized affordable housing and inclusionary housing, the rezoning and related efforts will increase the variety and types of housing available, adding fourplexes, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), townhomes, and mid-sized multi-family buildings, all of which tend to be more affordable than single-family homes. Studies show that relaxing land use regulations such as limits to density and height, will increase the housing supply and stabilize or reduce rents and home prices across the market. Thes ares the trend we are seeing in Sacramento and Minneapolis. Sacramento, for example, upzoned in key corridors in conjunction with other reforms such as reducing development fees and transitioning to ministerial approval processes. Today, while the population continues to grow quickly, it is building more housing per capita than any other region in California, and the rents are falling faster than any other large city in the state [1].

Additionally, many studies conclude that market-rate housing development causes rents in nearby rental buildings to slightly decrease.

[1] Sacramento found a solution to California affordable housing crisis (

Will this work cause gentrification or displacement?

The rezoning aims to create a greater variety of housing options and more affordable housing choices so residents can live in the communities they choose. This means supporting current residents while also embracing new residents and development.

The rezoning aims to achieve this goal by permitting additional residential options along our streets with commercial and transit and key sites identified in the 2022 Housing Element. These are generally in neighborhoods that have not experienced significant housing growth in the past two decades. Fulfilling this policy action aims to alleviate some of the market pressures on existing housing while creating capacity for new neighbors to our community.

Studies show that gentrification and displacement are worsened by inadequate investment and insufficient housing production, leading to more intense competition for limited housing that drives up prices.

Why do we have to rezone if there are vacant units in San Francisco today?

The latest census data from 2022, shows the rental vacancy rate is approximately 5.5% and homeownership vacancy is 0.8%, which are both less than the national average.

Recent studies indicate that in cities like San Francisco, where there are fewer vacant homes available for rent or sale and housing costs are extremely high, more individuals are susceptible to homelessness. This poses significant challenges, especially for those with low incomes. Research recommends promoting the construction of new homes across various parts of the city through initiatives such as rezoning. Go deeper: Quarterly Residential Vacancies and Homeownership, Fourth Quarter 2023

In a typical housing market, at least 5% of units are expected to be vacant and available for rent or sale at any given time, and a rate between 5-10% is not unusual nationally. This level is important to allow people the ability to move, find available housing in a range of neighborhoods and types of housing, and ensure low availability doesn’t put undue pressure to raise prices. And it is expected for units and buildings to undergo renovation and maintenance over time as buildings age. Higher than typical vacancy rates matter, and the voter-approved vacancy tax is one way in which the City is addressing the issue.

While efforts to encourage landlords to rent out vacant units are ever evolving and important, they will not adequately address the scale of our present and future housing needs or fulfill the commitments outlined in the 2022 Housing Element. State law mandates rezoning to address San Francisco's Regional Housing Needs Allocation shortfall, which is 36,200 units. The State does not consider strategies of relying on existing homes sufficient to alleviate the housing shortage or to meet our obligation.

Can empty offices be used to fulfill our housing requirements?

San Francisco, like many cities, is facing high office vacancy rates since the pandemic. The City is actively encouraging the conversion of office buildings into housing and has changed our zoning to facilitate this process. However, conversions are extraordinarily complex and expensive, requiring extensive renovations while facing the same challenges as more simple housing projects such as high construction costs. Moreover, most office buildings are not physically suitable for conversion due to their layout and lack of residential necessities like windows and ventilation. Go deeper: How housing is developed

How can I get involved?

How can I get involved and stay informed?

As the rezoning moves through the adoption process, zoning proposals and related topics will be reviewed at hearings at the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors; each of these venues is open to the public and provides space for participation. Sign up here to receive updates, as well as notifications about how to get involved.

Will my input and feedback be considered during the rezoning process?

Yes! The feedback the City receives has - and will continue to - directly inform zoning proposals. Over the last several years of outreach, San Franciscans shared perspectives from across the spectrum along with personal stories and experiences that continue to resonate with many community members and decision makers.

For a detailed overview of how feedback has shaped the process to date, please review Phase 1 and Phase 2 Community Engagement Summary (link forthcoming) and watch one on one interviews with community members.

Expanding Housing Choice is one of many Housing Element implementation efforts that will begin as early as Spring 2023.

Mayor London Breed’s Executive Directive on Housing for All, directs the Planning Department to submit a final zoning proposal for consideration by policymakers by January 2024 to ensure we are on track to meet State requirements.

Phase 1 – Laying the Foundation: Initial zoning proposals will be shared with the public for feedback.

Spring to Summer 2023 Outreach will include : *
  • Housing education workshops & resources
  • Community conversations
  • Focus Groups
  • Open house(s)

Phase 2 – Building the Structure: Revised zoning scenarios will be shared, responding to public feedback from Phase 1.

Fall 2023 Outreach will include : *
  • Community conversations
  • Open house(s)

Phase 3 – Raising the Roof: A final zoning proposal will be brought to policymakers for adoption.

Winter to Spring 2024 Community members will have opportunities to provide input throughout the adoption process.

* Outreach events are subject to change.

Community Conversations

Community Conversations: We can join your neighborhood group meeting to provide an informational presentation, answer questions, and discuss community concerns and ideas. Email us to schedule a conversation:

Meetings and Events

Event Information Materials
Phase 2 Webinar
2023 December 13, noon – 1:00PM

Location: Online
Review the webinar recording and presentation slide deck to learn about the progress we have made to better meet San Francisco’s housing needs through a Draft Zoning Proposal, Local Zoning Program, and additional strategies to support current and future residents and small businesses.
Open House
2023 November 8, 5:30PM - 7:30PM

Location: SF LGBTQ Center, 1800 Market Street

Open House
2023 November 15, 5:30PM - 7:30PM

Location: County Fair Building, 1199 9th Avenue
Phase 1 Webinar - Laying the Foundation
2023 September 14, noon – 1:00PM

Location: Online
Review the webinar recording and presentation slide deck to learn about the Housing Element zoning program, Expanding Housing Choice. The webinar covers the background of the project and how we can make changes to better meet San Francisco’s housing needs, increase affordability for low- and middle-income households, and help advance racial and social equity.
Open House
2023 July 11, 5:30PM - 7:30PM

Location: County Fair Building, 1199 9th Avenue

Open House
2023 June 22, 5:30PM - 7:30PM

Location: SF LGBTQ Center, 1800 Market Street

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