Supes take aim at fires, housing, private commute shuttles 

After a string of fatal fires, a task force proposed Tuesday will study what San Francisco can better do to protect residents.

From mandating installation of sprinklers to citation of building owners for out of date alarms, the proposed emergency fire task force would meet during the next three months to recommend improvements to fire safety in buildings throughout San Francisco.

“We’ve had a number of fires in the last few months and a disproportionate number of those fires have occurred in the Mission District causing three tragic deaths in the last few months not to mention the displacement of dozens of families and small businesses,” said Supervisor David Campos, who proposed the creation of the emergency fire task force along with Supervisor Jane Kim.

The seven member task force, which would include representatives of related city departments like Building Inspection and City Attorney, would ultimately address such things as changes to city codes for improving fire safety, improvements to investigations and the resolution of complaints.

The task force will also study the feasibility of requiring installation of fire alarms and fire sprinklers in existing multi-unit buildings. “We need to do everything within our power to protect the people,” Campos said. Kim said in a statement that “sprinklers save lives, and we cannot afford to overlook this critical piece of the prevention effort.”

The Board of Supervisors housing focus during Tuesday’s meeting wasn’t just on protecting dwellings. Supervisor Julie Christensen wants to allow building owners in the neighborhoods she represents, North Beach, Nob Hill and Chinatown, to add so-called in-law units or additional apartment units.

The proposal is modeled after legislation Supervisor Scott Wiener had enacted for the Castro neighborhood. She emphasized that any new unit would likely be covered by the rent control laws since 95 percent of buildings in the district were built before 1979, the cut off date for rent controlled units. Christensen said the law would “allow us to add additional apartments in many of the 20,30, 40 unit buildings that are in the district.”

The units would have to be built within the envelope of the existing building, units will typically be a minimum of 220 square feet, and units cannot be created by subdividing a current unit and each unit will be required to have its own kitchen and bathroom. Also on Tuesday, Supervisor Mark Farrell built on his efforts to deal with the privately-operated bus shuttles like Leap by introducing legislation requiring the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority to develop a report on private commuter shuttles that provide luxury rides within the city, mostly from the Marina to downtown and SOMA, for more than double what Muni charges.

The report will explore such issues as if the city has jurisdiction to impose regulations, recommendations on managing curb spaces the shuttles use, consumer protections and accessibility of the services. “We do need to approach regulation in a thoughtful manner that allows these services to keep operating,” Farrell said.

The report is expected to take six months, and Farrell will hold a hearing on its findings.

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