Livable City Joins Broad-based Effort to Legalize Existing In-Law Units

On November 26, Livable City joined Supervisor David Chiu and a broad coalition of advocates to announce new legislation to legalize existing in-law units across San Francisco.

In-law units house thousands of San Franciscans, and are an important housing resource in an increasingly expensive city. Certain decades-old Planning Code requirements, chiefly the code’s arbitrary residential density limits and minimum parking requirements, have made in-law units illegal in most neighborhoods. Livable City has long advocated legalizing existing and new in-law units as a sustainable and affordable way to add housing by making use of space in existing buildings.


Supervisor Chiu’s proposed ordinance:

  • permits the legalization of up to one existing unit, of 750 square feet or less, per building.
  • is voluntary. The Department of Building Inspection will develop a pre-application screening process to determine whether the units have serious building deficiencies that would make them unfeasible to legalize, giving owners the option of foregoing the legalization option and maintaining the status quo.
  • requires compliance with housing and building codes. Exceptions can be granted for certain Planning Code requirements, including on-site open space and dwelling unit exposure. The existing one-unit exception from minimum parking requirements will also apply.
  • Maintains status quo on rent control: units in pre-1980 buildings will be subject to rent control, while those in new buildings would not.

The ordinance will be heard by the Planning Commission early in 2014, and will then return to the Board of Supervisors for discussion and action.