Condo conversion proposal could mean deal for San Francisco tenancy-in-common owners 

click to enlarge Supervisor David Campos, speaking at a rally Monday, is against efforts to ease The City’s condo-conversion process. - ANNA LATINO/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Anna Latino/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Supervisor David Campos, speaking at a rally Monday, is against efforts to ease The City’s condo-conversion process.

A proposal to allow for more than 200 condo conversions each year took an unusual turn Monday as tenant advocates who have long battled the idea celebrated a plan supported by key members of the Board of Supervisors.

For years, condo-conversion proposals have collapsed amid political fighting, but the board is now closer than ever to approving legislation that would allow tenancy-in-common owners to bypass The City’s lottery system by paying up to $20,000 a unit to convert into a condo.

Changes made Monday to the proposal, which was originally introduced by Supervisor Mark Farrell, include eliminating the lottery for at least 10 years while allowing the existing units to convert by paying the fee in the coming years. And when the lottery does resume, the new proposal would eliminate conversions for buildings with five or six units. It also strengthens the owner-occupancy requirements for the conversion of buildings of four units or less.

Tenancy-in-common units are a shared-ownership situations within buildings covered by San Francisco’s rent-control law. Owners of such units have complained about paying more than double the normal interest rates to finance their housing and the years of waiting in the lottery to achieve more stable home ownership. Only 200 units are permitted to convert each year under the lottery.

Tenant advocates have tirelessly fought to protect The City’s limited rent-control stock and had slammed Farrell’s proposal, saying it would open the door to evictions and encourage real estate speculation. In recent months, tense negotiations have ensued.

On Monday, tenant advocates joined forces with board President David Chiu, who announced a modified proposal.

That proposal was reflected in amendments to Farrell’s legislation at the board’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee hearing Monday that came after a rally outside City Hall with groups including the Chinatown Community Development Center and the San Francisco Housing Rights Committee.

Ted Gullickson, director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, said they had turned Farrell’s legislation into “a strong piece of tenant protection.”

Farrell declined to comment on Chiu’s amendments, saying he was still reviewing them, but emphasized that talks will continue. However, Supervisor Norman Yee, a key vote, is backing the Chiu proposal, lessening Farrell’s leverage to negotiate. The committee is scheduled to vote on the amended legislation week.

While tenant advocates are behind Chiu’s version, Supervisor David Campos said at Monday’s pre-hearing rally, “My own personal view is that we need to kill this proposal and we need to keep things as they are. In the Mission we have a situation where every day people are being displaced. The challenge is not to the owners of these kinds of units. The challenge is for the renters who are finding it very hard to stay in San Francisco.”

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