Those changes — called for by Mayor Ed Lee in a directive to ramp up housing production and preserve rental stock — are aimed at jump-starting the mayor’s plan to get more housing built in San Francisco.
The executive directive, announced in December, came before Lee’s State of the City speech in January in which he pledged that 30,000 new housing units would be built in San Francisco by 2020.
On Feb. 3, a working group headed by the Planning Department and the Department of Building Inspection released 13 recommendations on how to speed up housing production and save rental units.
Three days later, the Mayor’s Office announced the implementation of all 13 recommendations.
The recommendations, which incorporated such initiatives as putting below-market-rate housing construction at the front of the line and streamlining permitting, included several contentious points. One centered on plans to preserve rental stock — specifically, making it harder for landlords to combine units into bigger homes or remove existing rental stock.
In both cases, any permit request that could result in displacement of tenants or the loss of housing units, illegal or not, would be sent for special review to the Planning Department.
The new rules will not mean automatic denial of permits in such cases, but instead put the final call before the Planning Department.
While tenants and housing-rights groups are pleased with the changes, property owners are less than enthusiastic.
“I think that there were some good and bad recommendations from the mayor’s working group,” said spokesman Charlie Goss of the San Francisco Apartment Association.
Goss takes issue mostly with the item that will require a discretionary review for landlords with two or more units in a building if they request a permit that could result in the displacement of tenants or the reduction of rental stock.
“Any time we tell a property owner what they should do with their own property is going down a slippery slope,” Goss said.
Such rules are what make it increasingly difficult to be a landlord in San Francisco, said Goss, who added that regulations like these are counterproductive when it comes to relieving the housing crisis because they discourage landlords from working above board.
Still, Ted Gullickson of the San Francisco Tenants Union said the changes will keep more rental units in The City.
“One of the bigger ways housing is lost in San Francisco is in fact the merger of multiple units into larger units,” Gullickson said.