Planning Commission Endorses Citywide Accessory Unit Legalization

Three ordinances to legalize accessory units (also known as in-law units) citywide were approved by the Planning Commission this week. Two would allow new housing units in existing buildings citywide. The third would facilitate the legalization of existing units originally built without permits.

On Thursday June 16, the Planning Commission recommended  two ordinances that would permit new in-law units in existing buildings citywide. These ordinances are the City’s biggest step forward yet in permitting new accessory units. One is sponsored by Supervisor Peskin, and the other is from Supervisors Wiener and Farrell. Both would permit new units in existing buildings across the city, and provide necessary exceptions from density limits and from parking and private open space requirements.  The Farrell/Wiener ordinance is generally more permissive, and requires less red tape than the Peskin ordinance.  Planning Department staff had recommended a more permissive approach (their analysis and recommendations can be found here). The Planning Commission recommended a blend of the two ordinances, along with some of the staff-recommended changes. Both ordinances will move to the Board of Supervisors, and Planning Commission also urged the sponsors of the two ordinances to combine them into one.

Adding new accessory units to existing buildings was legalized last year in Supervisorial Districts 3 and 8, and citywide in buildings undergoing seismic retrofit. Since then, applications for about 140 units have been filed. The Planning Department announced it will start outreach and marketing for the accessory unit program this summer, with a goal of encouraging more eligible property owners to add new units to their buildings.

In-Law Legalization

On June 9, the Planning Commission recommended amending the Planning Code to allow legalization of more than one existing unpermitted unit per building (the recommendation can be found here). Current City law allows only one unpermitted unit per lot to be legalized. Livable City has been advocating for this change since last year, and we are pleased to see the Planning Commission endorse it. We are encouraging the Board of Supervisors to enact the Planning Commission’s recommendation.

Livable City has long advocated legalizing accessory units, and has authored or endorsed several major legislative changes that protect existing units and permit new ones. Accessory units add rent-controlled housing in existing buildings, and expands and diversifies neighborhood housing options while preserving existing residential buildings.