SF Supervisors Approve Ordinances Protecting Residential Units


A pair of ordinances, one strengthening the Planning Code’s provisions for conversion, demolition, and merger of residential units, and the other permitting improvement and enlargement of some existing units, were unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors in December. The ordinances, were based on Livable City proposals, were sponsored by Supervisor John Avalos.

The Housing Element of the General Plan, San Francisco’s primary housing policy, calls for preservation of dwelling units, especially affordable and rent-controlled housing, and favors in-kind replacement of affordable units lost to conversion, demolition, and merger. The ordinance amended the Planning Code’s controls on residential demolition, conversion, and merger to reflect the Housing Element goals; current Planning Code policies actually encouraged the loss of certain units. The ordinance strengthens the in-kind replacement policies, and restricts mergers in buildings with a recent history of no-fault evictions. It also clarifies the legal status of dwelling units where the planning records are ambiguous, presuming them legal unless there is conclusive evidence that the units are illegal. This improves housing security for thousands of San Franciscans who dwell in older, multi-unit buildings with more units than the Planning Code currently allows.

The second ordinance permits the improvement and expansion of lawfully-existing dwelling units that exceed current density limits. Current law permits these nonconforming units, but they cannot be expanded or otherwise improved. This ordinance allows expansion of the nonconforming units, so long as they remain within the existing building envelope. This allows owners to enlarge units by converting space in existing buildings to dwelling space.  To protect tenants from speculative evictions, expansion is not permitted in buildings with a recent history of no-fault evictions.