Condo conversion plan gains renewed interest 

Property owners tired of waiting for years for the right to convert their multiunit buildings into condominiums will rally Wednesday at City Hall in support of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposal to reform San Francisco’s waitlist system.

A 1982 law capped condo conversions at 200 units a year, a limit that forces thousands of applicants to vie for the right via a lottery system. The City’s next lottery draw is Wednesday.

Newsom proposes ending the lottery system on a one-time basis, allowing 2,000-plus building owners to convert for a higher fee. The move, he said, could generate tens of millions of dollars for The City, which is facing a $500 million deficit next fiscal year. The money could be spent on health, homeless and public safety services, the mayor said.

The City’s current service fee for condo conversions runs $9,099 a unit. Newsom’s proposed fee has not been set, although several sources indicate that it could exceed $15,000 a unit.

“We’re looking for different sources of revenue, and this is one that won’t increase taxes on people,” mayoral spokesman Tony Winnicker said.

Newsom failed to gain political traction on the proposal last year. It appears the idea will again face opposition from the Board of Supervisors.

The conversion limit is intended to protect renters, Supervisor John Avalos said. An influx of conversions would increase evictions and reduce the rental stock, making it costlier for tenants who are struggling in the recession, he said.

Avalos reiterated Friday that he would reject any legislation Newsom presents on the matter. Winnicker said the mayor will introduce legislation in the coming months, and will consider the option of putting the measure on the November ballot should supervisors block it.

In support of Newsom’s measure, the civic group Plan C has scheduled a rally on City Hall steps before the start of today’s lottery. Though the group has fought this battle before, co-founder Mike Sullivan said he’s optimistic the current fiscal climate will change minds.

“If this doesn’t get through the board, there’s a good chance it could be on the ballot [in November],” Sullivan said.


Converting buildings to condos

200 Number of annual conversion approvals, by city law
2,100 Number of units applying for conversions this year, accounting for 665 buildings
$9,099 Per unit fee collected by The City
24 years How long it will take an applicant in 2010 to be approved under current system

Source: Department of Public Works


Reform rally

Where: City Hall steps
When: 8:15 a.m. today, before 9 a.m. lottery draw

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