S.F. approves condo conversion deal despite objections 

Thousands of tenancy-in-common owners will be able to convert their units into condominiums by paying a fee under legislation approved Tuesday that ended a bitter political debate that dragged on for years.

The approval comes after complaints from tenancy-in-common owners about the higher-than-normal mortgage rates they have to pay and the years of having to wait in The City's annual lottery process. That lottery selects just 200 units for conversion each year. More than 2,000 units were in the recent lottery.

A proposal to address these concerns was introduced a year ago by Supervisor Mark Farrell. But Board of Supervisors President David Chiu then amended it while working with tenant advocates and put in provisions Farrell opposed. On Tuesday, Farrell said his proposal had "become a mess" and that he was no longer supporting it.

Exhibiting the strength tenant advocates maintain in San Francisco politics, the board approved the legislation in an 8-3 vote Tuesday, making it able to withstand a mayoral veto, which takes eight votes to override. Supervisors Farrell, Scott Wiener and Katy Tang opposed it.

Under the legislation, existing tenancy-in-common owners will pay a fee of up to $20,000 to convert into a condo in the coming years. Chiu said his "carefully balanced" version addresses the "plight of current TIC owners" while it also "appropriately protects tenants."

The main objections to Chiu's amendments were the 10-year moratorium on the condo lottery and changes to conversion eligibility rules when the lottery does resume. After the lottery resumes, the legislation will prohibit the conversions of five- and six-unit buildings while making conversions more difficult for buildings with three or four units by increasing the owner-occupancy requirements.

"I can't support a piece of legislation that tries to deny individuals the right to attain affordable homeownership in our city," Farrell said. "If we are serious about keeping families in this town this legislation shouldn't be before us today."

There was also an objection to a so-called poison pill in which all condo conversions could cease — both under the bypass fee and the lottery — until any legal challenge was resolved. Wiener called this provision "one of the most unfair pieces of public policy that I have ever seen."

The debate over TIC units also raised a broader discussion about skyrocketing housing costs fueled by the booming technology industry.

"I've never seen it as bad as it is today," said Wiener, who has lived in San Francisco for the past 16 years. "It is completely out of control and it is scary."

Supervisor David Campos said The City was not doing enough to address an affordable-housing crisis.

"I don't think that we are doing enough to really deal with the fundamental question of who gets to live in San Francisco," Campos said.

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