Housing Element


This Housing Element provides a roadmap to balance our employment growth and housing demand and is a comprehensive, long-term plan to address housing needs in the City of South San Francisco. The Housing Element is South San Francisco’s primary policy document regarding the development, rehabilitation, and preservation of all types of housing.

The Housing Element includes:

  • A review of the challenges and accomplishments in the last Housing Element planning period (2015-2023), including an analysis of housing production over the previous cycle.
  • An analysis of the City’s current and future housing needs.
  • An analysis of governmental and non-governmental constraints to housing production.
  • An inventory and analysis of housing resources to meet the City’s housing needs and address its housing challenges.
  • An analysis of Fair Housing issues and how the City will alleviate existing patterns of segregation, discrimination, and concentrations of poverty.
  • A comprehensive, long term housing plan setting goals, policies, programs, and quantified objectives to address the City’s housing needs and equity goals for the next planning period 2023-2031.


The City achieved a lot during the last eight years

01We built new senior housing and new affordable housing.

The City provided incentives to deliver 100% affordable housing, including an 81-unit senior housing project at 310 Miller Avenue and two affordable housing projects totaling 84 units (located at 418 Linden Avenue and 201-219 Grand Avenue) that are under construction.

02The Downtown Station Area Specific Plan was a success.

Complete neighborhoods, where residents can reach community amenities (e.g., grocery stores and retail), public facilities (e.g., parks and community centers) and services (e.g., health care and affordable childcare) within a 20-minute walk.

03ADUs have ramped up.

Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs have become increasingly popular after the City adopted a new ADU ordinance and removed its previous mandatory parking replacement policy. Interested homeowners can now more easily add ADUs to their property, and many are, helping to create new rental housing in existing neighborhoods.

04We did most of what we said we would!

The City identified a number of policies and programs in the 2015-2022 Housing Element to address equity, fair access to housing, and affordability. Most of these were completed, including adoption of an updated Inclusionary Housing Policy, commercial linkage fee, and park impact fee. The funds we are now collecting from new commercial projects will help fund affordable housing projects in the next planning period.



South San Francisco has transitioned from industrial center to life sciences and research powerhouse. The continued growth of jobs has boosted the economy, but housing production has not kept up with demand. This has led to housing affordability and displacement issues.

  • South San Francisco’s population has been growing, with 12% growth in the City from 2000 to 2020 compared to 9% for the county and 15% for the Bay Area. This increase throughout the region is mostly due to natural growth and our strong economy drawing new residents to the region.
  • As the City has continued to grow, the racial composition has evolved since 1990, with a majority Asian Pacific Islander and Latino population in 2020. The majority of Asian Pacific Islanders reside in the Westborough sub-area, while most Latinos reside in the Downtown sub-area. More than half of all South San Franciscans speak a language other than English at home.
  • South San Francisco has a higher percentage of lower income households than the rest of the county and region, with 48% of households earning less than 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) compared to 40% of households in San Mateo County and 39% of households in the Bay Area.

  • In this Housing Element, the City has strengthened its policies and programs to more effectively promote low, very low and extremely low-income housing over the planning period, including enhancing several strong policies and programs that are already in place and including clear timelines and quantified objectives.

  • The City’s need for additional housing extends to both the rental and the for-sale market and the City has a substantial need for increasing its overall supply as well as preserving existing units that are naturally affordable. “Missing middle housing” – including duplexes, triplexes, townhomes, cottage clusters and accessory dwelling units may open more options across incomes and tenure, from young households seeking homeownership options to seniors looking to downsize and age-in-place.



The Housing Element is an important document that will shape the future of our community.

  • It is important that it reflects the vision of the people who make South San Francisco unique.
  • To accomplish this, South San Francisco developed a broad and diverse outreach plan designed to reach as many community members who live and work here as possible.
  • The development of the Housing Element underscores the importance of effective community engagement through strategies like targeted outreach to people with disproportionate housing needs, partnering with local organizations, and connecting people to services.
  • The City conducted 37 multilingual meetings, 5 Spanish language meetings, 43 board/commission meetings, and 54 other outreach meetings in the last three years.
Land Use
Multilingual Meetings37
Community Workshop1272113
Sub-Area Meetings943319
Spanish Language Meetings5
Padres en Accion11
Sub-Area Meetings1113
Boards/Commission Meetings43
Joint PC/CC1135
City Council11114
Planning Commission2114
Youth AdvisoryCommission112
General Plan Community Advisory
Committee (GP CAC)
GP CAC Forum314
Commission on Racial and Social Equity11
Other Outreach54
Online Surveys2610220
Story Bank11
Stakeholder meetings21125


  • The Plan Bay Area 2050 Final Blueprint, a regional plan covering the nine-county Bay Area region, forecasts that the Bay Area region will add 1.4 million new households between 2015 and 2050. For the eight-year time frame covered by this Housing Element (2023-2031), the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) identified the region’s housing need and assigned a Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) to each jurisdiction and distributes each jurisdiction’s housing unit allocation among four affordability levels, from very low-income households to market rate housing based on population projections.
  • The Housing Element must identify sites for housing development that are adequate to accommodate the City’s allocation of the regional housing need and a plan to implement a set of programs and policies help facilitate, encourage, and incentivize the production of housing for all income levels.
  • For South San Francisco, the assigned RHNA is 3,956 units. The total number of housing units and the distribution by income category requires the City to ensure there are adequate housing sites and programs to address a variety of housing choices, types, and densities.

RHNA = Regional Housing Needs Allocation

Income GroupSouth San
San Mateo
Area Units
South San
San Mateo
Bay Area
Very Low Income
(<50% of AMI)
Low Income
(50%-80% of AMI)
Moderate Income
(80%-120% of AMI)
Above Moderate Income (>120% of AMI)1,86320,531188,13047.1%43.1%42.6%
Source: Association of Bay Area Governments


Most new housing development will occur at sites that are currently developed and will undergo intensification or redevelopment. Through the General Plan process, the City received community input and developed rezoning and development standards that have informed the opportunity site inventory.

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Rectangle 72
Very Low
Low UnitsMod UnitsAbove Mod
Total Units
RHNA Projection
w/20% Buffer
TypeVery Low
Low UnitsMod UnitsAbove Mod
Total Units
ADUs (based on high projection)11311311338376
Total to comply with RHNA8901,84373413,59917,066

South San Francisco’s Opportunity Sites are located in four corridors:

  • Lindenville Corridor as an extension of the Downtown

  • South Airport Boulevard Corridor to introduce housing east of 101

  • El Camino Real – North Corridor between SSF BART and Orange Avenue

  • El Camino Real – South Corridor between Orange Avenue and San Bruno BART

Lindenville Corridor

Lindenville Corridor

The General Plan update and Housing Element proposes to create a new vibrant residential neighborhood in Lindenville, ensuring appropriate City services, amenities and retail to support new residential growth. As part of the General Plan and Housing Element implementation, the City has initiated a Lindenville Area Specific Plan to thoughtfully integrate housing with existing industrial and commercial uses. 

For more information: https://shapessf.com/plan-lindenville/ 

South Airport Boulevard Corridor
El Camino Real- North Corridor
El Camino Real- South Corridor


The City of South San Francisco has been reasonably successful at promoting housing development and has led the push to build more market rate and affordable housing by reducing review times and entitlement hurdles. Given the patterns of land use and development in the City, and the remarkable challenge of preserving land for residential housing in lieu of office development, this Housing Element continues the approach of its predecessor by promoting high-density housing development on infill sites, adjacent to transit wherever possible.

01Our ongoing conversation with the community through our public engagement highlighted California’s housing crisis and the need to reduce constraints to housing production.

Government regulations affect housing costs, standards and allowable densities for development, and exacting fees impact the use of land or the construction of homes.

02High land and construction costs make housing development difficult.

For the Bay Area, market-related conditions such as land and construction costs are significant factors influencing housing production. Unless building housing for the upper end of the market, it is difficult if not impossible to build more affordable housing without some form of subsidy, which may include increases in density, public land, and/or financial support. Additionally, the competition for scarce land favors the office/life sciences sector that is well-capitalized with high office rental rates compared with residential development.

03Mixed Use Zoning only works if Residential is required.

The competition for land between residential developers and the office/life sciences sector will favor the strongest market. In this case, office/life science developers can pay much higher land costs and still profit relative to market and affordable rate housing producers. Zoning that allows both but does not require housing have only developed with office/life sciences buildings.

04Displacement pressures require continued attention.

As land values have increased and market-rate housing developments are constructed, there are concerns that lower income residents and naturally occurring affordable housing (i.e., non-subsidized housing) are being displaced. The General Plan update paid particular attention to this equity and displacement issue and has informed the updated Housing Element programs and policies.

05Areas adjacent to the airport remain challenging.

Due to land use and height restrictions under the SFO Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan, parts of the City adjacent to mass transit are prohibited from constructing new housing. Market dynamics are shifting attitudes and local override procedures may unlock critical opportunity sites for new housing development.


01Implementing “Form Based Code” as a tool.

Form Based Codes can help articulate community expectations for new development so that new proposals have a better sense of how to design their building. They help support a faster review and approval process because decisions about building size, setbacks and other factors have already been made. The updated General Plan includes new transect form-based code districts as part of the overall companion zoning that will streamline reviews and reduce uncertainty for housing developments.

02Creating objective design standards.

These are standards that anyone could read and know how to interpret and apply. So instead of “design a beautiful building” (which people might interpret in different ways) the standards will provide clear, measurable guidance. The City has refined and adopted further objective design standards as part of the overall General Plan update and companion zoning.

03Clarifying “community benefit” expectations.

Commercial office and life science projects will pay a community benefit fee to reach maximum floor area ratios. Residential projects will not – maximum density and floor area ratio are now permitted by right. This approach is formalized in the recent companion zoning as part of the General Plan.

Rectangle 187

04Creating housing in new locations.

With a comprehensive look at future growth of our community through the General Plan, we can create new housing opportunities in areas such as East of 101, in the transitioning Lindenville industrial area, and in the El Camino Real corridor between the South San Francisco BART Station to the north and the San Bruno BART station to the south. The City kicked off a Lindenville Specific Plan process to help guide this transition in May 2022.

05Exploring the City’s ability to develop social housing.

The City Council has requested the consideration of a ballot measure under Article 34 of the California Constitution to allow the City the ability to construct and operate low-income housing.

06Maximize available funding and resources.

Consistent with the City’s long-term commitment to supporting high-quality, affordable residential development, South San Francisco continues to make resources available for housing production.


The Housing Plan is structured as a series of goals and related implementing policies and programs. Accompanying each implementing policy are one or more programs that the City will implement over the 2023 to 2031 planning period. These programs are presented together with implementing agencies, funding sources and time frames for implementation.

Rectangle 83

City of South San Francisco Housing Program Goals

Create equitable opportunity for people of all ages, races/ethnicities, abilities, socio-economic status, genders, and family types regardless of income level.
Promote the provision and/or access of housing by both the private and public sectors for all income groups in the community.
Support housing development by eliminating unnecessary and/or costly barriers in the housing development process and facilitating collaboration with private and public partners to develop housing options affordable to everyone.
Strive to maintain and preserve existing housing resources, including both affordable and market-rate units.
Promote residential neighborhoods designed for a high quality of life for neighborhood residents and visitors.
Enhance the quality of existing affordable housing and expand housing opportunities and services for special needs populations and residents experiencing housing insecurity.
Green buildings are the standard for new construction and major renovations and the performance of existing buildings is improved.
People attending Community Advisory Committee meeting


  • The housing element prioritizes capital improvement programs for vulnerable populations and involves approaches that are focused on conserving and improving assets in areas of lower opportunity and concentrated poverty.  
  • This Housing Element proposes policies to help provide housing for the City’s workforce, including developing a workforce housing program, facilitating live/work housing, and programs to make it easier for the City’s workforce to buy and maintain their home such as participation in a regional down payment assistance program. 
  • The Housing Element also sets numerical goals for achieving affordable housing milestones for lower income households that make less than $75,000 annually.   
  • Preventing displacement of existing residents is an important equity goal in this housing element and the City will conserve and improve assets in areas of lower opportunity and concentrated poverty and support residents who are at-risk of being displaced.
Some programs include:
  • Creating an anti-displacement plan, 
  • Creating a rental task force that will make recommendations about a rental registry, 
  • Mediation programs and rental assistance, and 
  • The consideration of a local just cause for eviction ordinance. 
  • A Workforce Development Strategy that aims to support and strengthen the local workforce, encourage local hiring and prevent the displacement of existing residents.  

Project Documents

Documents related to the Lindenvile Specific Plan will be posted here as they are available.