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Yes In God's Back Yard: Bay Area Lawmakers Seek To Allow Affordable Housing On Church Lots

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Parking lots at houses of worship, which are typically filled for only a few hours each week, could soon be part of solving California's affordable housing crisis under proposals introduced in the state legislature.

On Thursday, State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 899, which would remove local zoning restrictions for 100 percent affordable housing developments located on land owned by religious institutions, such as churches, synagogues and mosques. Development would also be allowed on land owned by nonprofit hospitals.

"This legislation could open up a huge amount of land for affordable housing. We so desperately need it," Wiener, who has authored numerous housing bills, said on his Facebook page.

Under SB899, churches in areas near single-family homes would be allowed to build developments up to three stories tall, with up to 40 units of affordable housing. For houses of worship that are in commercial or mixed-use areas, developments up to 150 units and up to five stories tall are allowed.

Housing built under this proposal would be restricted to lower income households if rented for 55 years or owner-occupied for 45 years.

Meanwhile, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Berkeley) introduced Assembly Bill 1851 earlier this year, which would allow for churches to reduce their parking requirements to allow for the building of affordable housing.

In San Francisco alone, the city's Planning Department has identified 800 properties owned by religious organizations that are underutilized and that could be developed for affordable housing.

"It's a way for a parish not to maximize its revenue, but to maximize its mission," Father Paul Fitzgerald, president of the University of San Francisco, told KPIX 5 earlier this month. USF repurposed an old convent to student housing several years ago.

Hearings for SB899 and AB1851 have yet to be announced.


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