Thursday, March 13, 2014

Planning Commission supports proposal to legalize in-law residential units

Posted By on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 8:55 PM

click to enlarge Board of Supervisors President David Chiu
  • Board of Supervisors President David Chiu
A proposal by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu that would legalize “granny units” in The City passed through the Planning Commission on Thursday with little opposition.

The legislation, which would give landlords the option to legalize secondary residential spaces also known as in-law units, will now go to the Board of Supervisors for a vote.

Chiu’s legislation, along with a companion proposal by District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener that would make it legal in the Castro to build new granny units in certain cases, is part of a broad effort by local lawmakers to alleviate the housing crisis through creative legislation expanding and protecting the housing stock.

“I feel like this is a win, win, win legislation for San Francisco,” said Jonathan Crosby, a Sunset district resident who spoke at the hearing Thursday.

The law is specifically aimed at legalizing the units in single-family homes and would allow one conversion for any building with 10 or fewer units. Once such units are legalized, they cannot be subdivided and sold as separate living spaces.

The proposed law gives owners the option to legalize the living spaces while not incentivizing evictions due to provisions that would bar landlords from legalizing units soon after no-fault evictions, officials say.

Protections for landlords have been put in place so that property owners who want to find out if their units could be made legal will not be penalized after coming forward. To ensure the protections, a pre-screening process will be set up for such situations.

Existing planning codes will continue to apply for the in-law units, with a few exceptions centered on parking and density requirements. Legalized units would be required to be up to code.

Any units that are legalized under the law would be subject to rent control laws, which apply to city buildings built before 1978.

All but one of the seven planning commissioners supported the law.

The lone opponent, Commissioner Michael Antonini, voiced concern over the law’s citywide nature, its impacts on a property owner’s ability to sell individual units and the law’s essential amnesty for people who have been in violation of the law.

Some figures indicate that there may be between 30,000 to 50,000 in-law units in San Francisco, according to the Planning Department.

From 2000 to 2011, roughly 250 such units were removed from the housing stock. 

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About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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