San Francisco’s condo conversion proposal author opposes amendments 

click to enlarge Supervisor Mark Farrell, right, dropped his support for condo conversion legislation after board President David Chiu, left, heavily amended it last week with the help of tenant advocates. - COURTESY PHOTOS
  • Courtesy Photos
  • Supervisor Mark Farrell, right, dropped his support for condo conversion legislation after board President David Chiu, left, heavily amended it last week with the help of tenant advocates.

A condo conversion proposal headed closer to approval Monday after tenant advocates partnered with key members of the Board of Supervisors to counter an initial version whose author now opposes the legislation as amended.

Supervisor Mark Farrell first introduced legislation to allow tenancy-in-common owners to pay a fee to bypass the lottery that allows 200 condo conversions a year. Board President David Chiu amended the proposal last week with the backing of tenant advocates.

On Monday, during a committee hearing on the matter, Farrell said he now opposes the legislation — as did Supervisor Scott Wiener — and suggested if changes weren’t made there would likely be a lawsuit or a ballot measure on the way. The full board will vote May 7 on the legislation after the board’s land-use committee approved it Monday.

Farrell said he hopes “that we continue to meet together to find common ground and find a resolution that avoids lawsuits, that avoids ballot initiatives.”

Chiu said his version properly addresses the concerns of the existing tenancy-in-common owners while protecting tenants. Owners of such units have complained about paying more than double the normal interest rates to finance their housing. There are about 2,200 existing tenancy-in-common units, most of which fall under The City’s rent-control laws.

“Let me tell you who it doesn’t help. It doesn’t help real estate speculators,” Chiu said of his amendments during a rally before the hearing.

During committee hearings, Farrell objected to several changes Chiu had made to the legislation. He said he could not support an automatic moratorium on the condo lottery for at least 10 years, but instead wanted the years of the lottery cancelation to be based on the actual number of people who choose to pay the bypass fee — one year for every 200 people who pay the fee.

Farrell also was critical of the proposal for changing conversion eligibility requirements for some of the existing tenancy-in-common owners.

Currently, only buildings of six units or fewer can convert to condos. Should the lottery resume, Chiu’s proposal would eliminate all five- and six-unit buildings from future conversions and increase owner-occupancy requirements for buildings of four units or less. But Farrell said requiring three owner-occupants in four-unit buildings was just a “back-door way” to also exclude these buildings from the lottery.

Ted Gullickson of the San Francisco Tenants Union praised the new version and said he hopes that during the proposed 10-year lottery suspension, tenant advocates can work to ensure “condo conversions never start up again.”

At the same meeting Monday, a 10-year-old effort to change the rules of the local appeals process under the California Environmental Quality Act appears heading toward a resolution. Legislation introduced by Wiener was amended Monday by the committee, and a dueling piece of legislation submitted by Supervisor Jane Kim is going through a public hearing process before the Planning Commission on Thursday. The committee is scheduled to vote on the proposal May 6.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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