Built as a single-family home, the property at 3014-3016 California Street was converted into a two-unit building prior to 1913. At some point in the recent past, the two units were merged and the building once again became a single-family home, but illegally without the benefit of permits or permission for a dwelling unit merger (DUM).
Purchased for $740,000 in 1990 and refinanced in 2007 with a $1,925,000 loan, by 2009 the Pacific Heights property was in foreclosure and sold on the courthouse steps to a third party for $1,275,100 in June of 2010, configured as a single-family home.
From the current owner of the house who purchased the property from the third party for $1,350,000 this past April and is now seeking to legalize the dwelling unit merger and 3014 California’s status as a single-family home:
The previous owner…had purchased the house in foreclosure in 2010 and had kept it vacant until it was sold to us. He tried to get a bank to help him legalize the building as is, but the banks would not loan due to the fact that the permits showed the building as two units but when inspected, only one unit appears. [The previous owner] was furthermore unable to sell the property – again because banks were unwilling to loan on it. Ultimately [the previous owner] provided financing himself so that I was able to purchase it.
We are interested in making legal what has been done without permits, so that we may live knowing that there is no violation of the law, and so that we are assured that the work done in the past to merge the units was done in a safe manner.
This week, San Francisco’s Planning Commission is scheduled to hear the request to legalize the merger, a request the Planning Department recommends be denied as it doesn’t meet the majority of Planning’s five criteria to be considered when evaluating dwelling unit merger requests:
1. Removal of the unit(s) would only eliminate owner occupied housing. (Project Meets Criterion – The subject property is entirely occupied by the property owner. The building was purchased with the configuration of a single-family house.)
2. Removal of the unit(s) and the merger with another is intended for owner occupancy. (Project Meets Criterion – According to the DR Application, the current owners bought the property with the intention of legalizing the merger and staying there.)
3. Removal of the unit(s) will bring the building closer into conformance with the prevailing density in its immediate area and the same zoning. (Project Does Not Meet Criterion – According to the Department’s records, of the 28 lots within the 150 foot 311 Noticing area that are also within the same RH-2 Zoning District, seven (25%) have one dwelling unit, 12 (43%) have two dwelling units, four (14%) have three dwelling units, and five (18%) have four or more dwelling units. The prevailing density is two or more units; therefore the proposed project does not bring the building closer into conformance with the prevailing density.)
4. Removal of the unit(s) will bring the building closer into conformance with prescribed zoning. (Project Does Not Meet Criteria – The subject property is zoned RH-2, which allows for two units. The merger will bring the legal use of the property from two units to one unit; it will not bring the building closer into conformance with prescribed zoning.)
5. Removal of the unit(s) is necessary to correct design or functional deficiencies that cannot be corrected through interior alterations. (Project Does Not Meet Criteria – There is no record or evidence of what the second unit looked like or where it was located; however, based on how other buildings of this type were divided up, the building most likely contained two flat, one on each floor. Given the lack of information, the Department cannot conclude that the removal of the unit was necessary to correct design or functional deficiencies.)
The City’s stated objective for strictly controlling unit mergers is driven by a desire to retain existing housing and is rationalized by “the fact that existing rental housing stock is virtually irreplaceable given the cost of new construction.” Pay no attention to all the construction cranes currently dotting San Francisco’s cityscape.
And of course, while the applicant’s stated interest in legalizing the merger is to “live knowing that there is no violation of the law, and so that we are assured that the work done in the past to merge the units was done in a safe manner,” it would also allow the applicant to obtain a bank loan and increase the property’s resale value.