Discretionary review reform continues 

City planners appear to be forging ahead with plans to overhaul The City’s building appeal processes despite recent directions from city lawmakers to hold off for a year on such reforms.

Developers consider reform of The City’s discretionary review rules critical because it could make it more difficult for neighbors to arbitrarily halt building projects by paying a small fee to lodge an appeal.

Such appeals seek review of construction proposals by planning commissioners and, potentially, by the Board of Supervisors.

But the proposed reform unsettles some neighborhood groups and activists because it could make it more difficult for them to lodge opposition to projects.

The Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee on March 8 determined that reform proposals should be deferred for a year.

“While the Planning Department feels that the time is ripe for Discretionary Review Reform,” Planning Director John Rahaim wrote in a recent letter to the public, “we respect the Committee’s decision and will use the additional time to collect data on how often the Department’s determinations align with the Commission’s decisions and to improve upon our internal review procedures.”

The department scheduled public one-hour hearings to discuss proposed interim discretionary review reforms on May 6 and May 10. The hearings are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the department’s 1650 Mission St. headquarters.

“The Department has developed a policy for the Commission’s consideration that would provide every Discretionary Review request with a public hearing, while reducing the amount of staff and Commission time required to process requests that do not demonstrate exceptional or extraordinary circumstances,” Rahaim said in the letter.

The planned hearings and the proposal to introduce interim policies were criticized by two planning commissioners who said they should have been consulted about staff’s work on the issue.

“I’m uncomfortable that you’re proceeding at a time when resources are limited,” Commissioner Kathrin Moore told staff during a commission hearing on Thursday, with an “ongoing attempt by the department to continue some form of DR reform.”

Acting Planning Director Larry Badiner told the commissioners that the public hearings were scheduled following consultation with the commission’s president and vice-president.

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