The merger or absorption of a non-permitted apartment back into the square footage of an existing house, a tactic which has been employed to re-establish properties as single-family homes in order to circumvent rent control and effectively evict tenants by raising their rents to market rates (or more) in San Francisco, could soon require a Planning Commission hearing and vote.

Sponsored by Supervisor Avalos, the proposed legislation would require conditional use authorization for any dwelling unit merger in the city, regardless of a unit’s legality, condition or price point.

The legislation would, of course, have to be enforced in order to be effective.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by SFrentier

    If it’s unpermitted the city (obvs) has no records on it, unless there is a [Notice of Violation] on it and then you’re basically screwed. Soooo….if you have an illegal inlaw that is vacant and without an NOV, I’d say now is a good time to ditch it. Simply present existing plans to the city AND DO NOT show any kitchen. Show it as a storage room, etc. you’re basically legalizing “space” into your home.

    This legislation basically screws homeowners with existing NOV’s on their inlaws, or tenants in inlaws that don’t want to leave/get bought out, as turning yourself in to rid of tenant is basically a non starter.

    Ahhh….another kink in the SF home ownership manifesto!

  2. Posted by Medalist

    So let me get this right, you have an unpermitted unit that potentialy violates zoning in your property and when you want to remove it you’re forced to have a conditional use authorization and keep it even though you could be zoned R1? I thought owners were the only ones petitioning for conditional use permits I didn’t think the city could force them down your throat. Why don’t they just rezone it already? You can see now how planning code is getting distorted by rent control activists since they are stuck at the state level. Dangerous ground for our fellow property owners.

    • Posted by SFrentier

      Or worse, if the inlaw legalization legislation gets renewed (it up for a vote* this/ next month by BOS), the city could make you legalize it, since they won’t let you remove it. Hmmm…I smell another lawsuits!

      * editor: I’d be useful if you can dig up any ‘reading of the tea leaves’ if this program will be renewed. This is not the Castro district one, but the citywide one, which technically ran for a year and needs BOS approval to continue.

  3. Posted by Miah

    Property owners don’t seem to be faring too poorly. Amazing where your sympathies lie. Oh, wait. Greed and self-preservation aren’t sympathies.

    And I’m a property owner in SF, so don’t play that us against them card. I’m embarrassed by the self-interest on this blog.

    • Posted by SFrentier

      You’re absolutely right sir. And the Rent Control Industrial Complex(TM) which consists of the rent board, much of the board of supervisors, and a plethora of non profits have zero self interest in perpetuating a distorted housing system that reward long term occupants, irrespective of their wealth. Cause that’s different.

      Touché.

      • Posted by Miah

        If it’s so horrible, then why are people clamoring to buy property here? Why is it such a desirable market? Because of how awfully the city administration and its lower-income constituency takes advantage of buyers’ pearly-white intentions? You are delusional. And, I’m sure you only commiserate with other wealthy, delusional people. Not every renter is out to extort. Most just need a place to live. And it’s become too expensive to afford a good life in this town, unless you’re wealthy (and delusional).

        There will always be people who abuse the system. But there are way more property LLCs that are systemically abusing. Fortunately for them, we just call that business as usual.

    • Posted by Charlie

      You sound like a Shill and I highly doubt you own real property in San Francisco. In the unlikely event that you do, I’m sure it’s either inherited or you got it in a divorce settlement.

      • Posted by Miah

        Nope. I bought it when I moved here 4 years ago.

        • Posted by EcceMorons

          When you say you’re a “property owner”, does that mean you are a landlord who rents out your property?

          If so, are you willing to rent for well-below market rates? Not being willing to do so would seem, what’s the word you used…? Oh… “greedy”.

          Or do you just own your own home, and are not providing housing for others?

          • Posted by Miah

            I own a three unit building, live in one of them, rent out the other two, since 2011 on Divisadero. Master-tenant situation in both, has stayed consistent since 2011. Both 3 bedrooms, definitely below current market rate, obviously, at 3,600 and 3,850, respectively. I do OK. If it wasn’t profitable to rent a building, I wouldn’t have bought it. That’s what annoys me about the griping on this site about how landlords are being shafted. If it really is that bad, then why do they buy property?

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            When they bought property things were different.

            Say you buy property in 1985. you collect 3x$800 on your 3BRs. It covers your mortgage but you have to pay taxes and maintenance. Fair enough. Rent control had been voted a few years back, but it didn’t concern you because of the # of units.

            Fast forward in 2015. There is no way you could have predicted the law would have changed. You are collecting less than $1500 per unit, after 30 years! Your fixed costs have risen though, and the mortgage is paid off. You’re probably with $0 net every month but have to live with the sword of unforeseen repairs over your head. Basic repairs will be from your savings and your only real option out of this dead end is to sell. There are 1000s of nice guys who haven’t given up yet, but the renter attitude is an insult to their intelligence.

          • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

            This scenario would indeed be troublesome, but it is a fiction.

            First, this hypothetical 1985 purchase wasn’t even under rent control until 1994. So you had 9 years of market rent increases before rent control kicked in.

            Second, no way you have all three tenants staying for 30 years. Odds are far higher that none are still there, and you are collecting more like $10,000 – $12,000 a month (or more) rather than $4500.

            Third, with your Prop 13 taxes all but frozen, you’re paying about $6000/year in taxes – about 1.5 month’s rent collection even in your scenario, so with no mortgage you’re still doing fine.

            Finally, let’s accept it all for the sake of argument. So “your only real option out of this dead end is to sell” – at a gain of about $3 million! Not really going to end up toiling in the mines to feed yourself in your old age.

            This is why nobody is going to buy the “poor SF landlord” bit (aside from other SF landlords). Contrast that with the long-term tenant being evicted and forced to leave the city after decades. Which one is more sympathetic? I’m no fan of rent control for a host of reasons and largely agree with you on the big picture, but these fictional landlord sob stories just don’t cut it. You’re going to need to come up with a better line if you want to convince anyone that matters.

          • Posted by anon

            Bob Dobbs, “Second, no way you have all three tenants staying for 30 years. Odds are far higher that none are still there, and you are collecting more like $10,000 – $12,000 a month (or more) rather than $4500”

            This is pretty wild stuff. “No way” huh? “none” eh? you don’t have experience in these matters, clearly.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            Fiction? I have been on the market 4 years shopping around, looking for value, and I have seen these everywhere. They’re the deals with the most “meat on the bones”. Maybe you do not see many of these from your rent controlled ivory tower, but once you enter buildings, comb through leases and estoppels you see the reality of how crazy the SF rental market is. The best deals are when the landlord is the most miserable, usually with an illness, diminished capacity, a lack of competent uninterested advisors, etc…

          • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

            Heck, let’s just complete the fictional situation that is “everywhere.” The three 30-year tenants are multi-millionaires who own homes elsewhere but keep their rent-controlled apartments as pied-a-terres because it is so cheap to do so. Oh yeah, and they are pedophiles and they recruit for ISIS. Evil, evil tenants cheating those starving landlords.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            JR, I am simply telling you what I have seen.

            Some of the places I considered have actually been commented on SS. There were 2 “twin” buildings on SVN discussed 3 years ago. One of these had tenants paying from 750 to 1500 for 4 or 5 bedrooms if I recall. The places were huge, negative cash flow.

            Now you’re often bringing a lot to the conversation, but sometimes you’re blinded by your convictions.

          • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

            I’m just pointing out that this is an extreme, extreme situation that exists somewhere between not at all and a tiny percentage of cases (I understand that even one case means it is not literally a “fiction” – mea culpa). And even then, the landlord is still a millionaire from building appreciation. So this narrative is not going to move the public opinion dial at all. Contrast the evicted tenant who is literally made homeless. If you ever want to convince real numbers that rent control is a problem, this is not the argument to make.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            If it were only very few cases, there would be less resistance from the rent control crowd.

            The proof is in the pudding so to speak.

            If there were only very few tenants with obscenely low rent, there would not be a majority of voters to support the law! So many are benefitting from it, and with literally $1000 or $2000 or more saved per month. It’s ridiculous to dismiss this as “tiny”. If it’s so tiny how come so many lawyers in town make a living on the issue, and why does the sftu even exists?

            Yes, many if not most buildings will have a mix of good rent and poor rent. But the “all bad rents at every floor” is not a rare occurrence. After all more than 40% of San Franciscans are rent controlled and many log-timers. Statistically there must be 1000s of buildings with a loser situation from the landlord’s point point of view.

          • Posted by anon

            jr bob dobbs, what is your background in these matters? super low rent is not uncommon dude. where on earth did you get that idea?

          • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

            Now you’re changing the hypothetical. Before it was buildings solely occupied by 30+-year tenants with a landlord that can’t even cover costs. Now you’ve switched it to some percentage of tenants paying $1000-$2000 below market rents.

            But even with this milder version, you will never move the dial. The competing narratives:

            Tenants: paying high rents that they’ve paid reliably for a number of years; long-term resident, working class soul of the city; would be forced to leave SF and perhaps be homeless if evicted.

            Landlords: Collecting some of the highest rents in the country but mad that they are not collecting even more; sitting on hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in capital gains; paying low property taxes capped by prop 13; driven solely by money without a care for the less well-off renters that comprise the majority of residents.

            Yeah, I know, one can poke holes in both of these. But those are essentially the competing narratives as seen by the hoi polloi that you need to convince if you ever want to accomplish more than preaching to the landlords who visit socketsite. I basically agree with you philosophically. But do you think you have a chance with this argument? No – you need to come up with a better way to sell your position. And it has to be grounded in something that at least resembles a reality that people will recognize.

          • Posted by anon

            what’s funny is how you, and others like you, feel as if you can willy nilly stick prop 13 into every one of these discussions. it’s especially funny the way you just did it because you did that while simultaneously pointing out how what the other guy is saying will never work. get real for five seconds, would ya? and, yes, I think Sanfronzischeme overreached on his hypothetical. It need not be that far back in time. Late to mid 90s, early 2000s post dot com crash, especially in places like the Mission which weren’t that popular yet? Plenty of those folks are still around. Living in the same subsidized living situations, holding down low 6 figure incomes, or near that, living with roommates. You think that’s fiction?

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            Contrast the evicted tenant who is literally made homeless

            OK, there are some cases when this will happen. Say a guy decided to move to SF to start a home-based tie-dye business in 1968. The late 70s happen, disco happened, the business starts going south but a steady income stream from hard core hippies ensure his $400 rent. rent control is enacted and he can live on his small income virtually forever, provided his rent doesn’t move. In 2012 he moved to Etsy and now makes $2500/month, still enough for his $700 rent. But all these years he’s been out of the System and will not collect much in SS.

            Then in 2014 his 94-year old landlord passes away. The son wants to live the life, needs cash and sees the place is undervalued due to the tenant. He decides to Ellis and create a TIC.

            Our tenant finds himself with a paycheck 1/2 of the rent he needs to pay to keep his lifestyle. He could move to Vallejo and bunk with 2 like-minded people. But he’s a very individual person and he just can’t leave San Francisco. He’s homeless.

            Now, who’s at fault here? The owner who wanted to maximize his resale price? The tenant who didn’t save for his retirement / plan for the long term / believed Santa was real?

            It’s hyperbole, but believe me there are a lot of dreamers in SF.

          • Posted by jack

            Re: discussion between JR “Bob” Dobbs and san FronziScheme: I’m an investor, and I’ve seen what Fronzi described when I look at multi-units. One question Bob should ask himself is whether if he’s an investor (and thus likely to see such scenario).

            In addition, I have a friend who has moved in with his boyfriend but is keeping his own rent-controlled 1-BDRM apartment of 8 years ($1,500/mth) because he doesn’t want to be priced out off SF if the relationship sours.

            Finally, this is conflicting: “…no way you have [tenants] staying for 30 years” vs. “…the long-term tenant…[of decades]”.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            Not moving the dial. I try and explain that you’re denying the obvious. But you have your own reality. Good for you.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            working class soul of the city

            Meaning others are not working and have no soul? Things like these “salt of the earth” and “beautiful simple people” stereotypes are so ridiculously anachronistic. People are people and nobody deserves a special treatment simply because he’s got so much soul. Go have soul in Oakland, I guarantee you it won’t fade away.

      • Posted by SFrentier

        Sorry buster, wrong on both accounts. I’m self made, by my own volition, intelligence and deep understanding of the SF RE market. But you, and quacks like jake can carry on with your jealousies and petty hostilities.

    • Posted by Orland

      Very nicely done.

      Another SF property owner.

    • Posted by EcceMorons

      Amen, Miah. My landlord’s self-interest is insane! I live in an illegal in-law unit, and it’s been great – been here 30 years, and the super cheap rent I have has allowed me to work only part-time so I can keep trying to finish my first novel over the last 20 years.

      And now my landlord wants to move her sick mother into my unit!! It’s so greedy!! Just because my landlord can’t afford to hire a live-in caretaker for her stupid mother isn’t MY problem. You can be sure that if she tries to evict me, I’ll have free lawyers filing constant lawsuits. And loud protests outside her house (when I’m not there – that would disturb me).

      She hasn’t started any eviction proceedings yet, as I think she’s afraid of me – every time I see her around, I yell at her about this, so I think she gets the message that I will FIGHT FOR MY RIGHTS!!!!!!

      If by chance she is somehow able to throw me out of here, please give me your address so I can come live in your building. I pay $258 a month now for my little one-bedroom unit. Can you give me another one-bedroom in your property for that price? Actually if you’ll give me a 2-bedroom for that price, that would be better – I’d like more room to spread out because I have a lot of friends from out of town who like to stay with me.

      Thanks!

      • Posted by Just My Opinion

        Love it!

      • Posted by Orland

        With such a penchant for creative, fanciful writing, I can’t believe you haven’t finished that novel.

      • Posted by Miah

        Exceptions are so easy to utilize as a tool for snarky retort. We call this a logical fallacy.

        • Posted by Miah

          Specifically, an anecdotal fallacy.

        • Posted by EcceMorons

          Still waiting to hear if you’ll rent me a 1 bedroom unit for $258, because “self-preservation”, as you say…..

          • Posted by aninja

            sure, just go back 30 years and apply for it. Maybe a time travel interlude will help you finish your novel.

      • Posted by san FronziScheme

        I will always remember this long-term tenant hogging a really big place for virtually nothing who had an extensive cuckoo clock collection. Fortunately her bedroom was very far from the cuckoo room.

  4. Posted by Bib B

    If you have a single family house and have an illegal in-law with a tenant, and you claim the $7000 homeowner [exemption on property tax] as an owner/occupier, are you committing tax fraud?

    • Posted by Folder Pete

      Seems to me that as the owner-occupier, you’re entitled to the Exemption. If you rent out a room – or an entire unit – you’ll still entitled to the exemption. Just be sure to pay the taxes on that rent.

  5. Posted by Just My Opinion

    So let’s paint this picture. There is a young couple who bought a home, and while they were building their career and income rented out a small in-law unit to help make the mortgage. They are now a little older, their income has risen, and they have a couple of kids. They can carry the house without the rental income, and they need the space for their growing family. It seems like a sensible solution to try to keep the young family in the City, so they want to decommission the in-law unit and incorporate it into the main house. The lease they have with their tenant is up, and they kindly give the tenant 90 days notice and tell them what they are doing. Keep in mind that this young couple owns the house. It is their property. Are we really trying to pass an ordinance that would subject this couple to Conditional Use Authorization. Has the BoS gone insane?

    • Posted by soccermom

      Welcome to San Francisco!

      Your story breaks down in two parts. First, their house was probably built before 1979, and since it is two units, the tenant is subject to rent control and eviction control. They have to conduct an Ellis Act eviction (1.25 years) to get possession of the unit first.

      Then they have to get a permit for a unit merger. This is required even without the Conditional Use hearing proposed by the new legislation.

      Moral? Keep your unit off the market and don’t rent it out. Except on AirBnB illegally(?……)

      • Posted by Just My Opinion

        Exactly, the BoS is stepping on their own feet. They so desperately want more housing yet they pass legislation that creates disincentives for people to rent units. And NONE of this makes any meaningful difference in the housing stock. We are short THOUSANDS of units, not a few in-laws. Further there is a stated objective to keep families in the City, yet in my example the family can’t grow in their own home without getting permission. BS.

      • Posted by R

        There’s no unit merger if the in-law was illegal.. But you are right on the rent and eviction control. And Ellis Act is 60 days to 1 year depending on tenants.

        • Posted by soccermom

          One year assumes tenants move out when it is actually time for them to move out. That’s when the cases typically come onto the media radar and the landlord has to file an unlawful detainer suit. Keeping the tenants in their homes is the very aim of the strategy for defense attorneys. Drag it out. Don’t take the under on one year for an Ellis.

          • Posted by R

            A good landlord attorney handles most of this without an issue. It’s state law, properly done it’s impossible to defeat.

          • Posted by anon

            Maybe without issue in theory, but what about that Google lawyer guy?
            Hasn’t he been trying to Ellis for three some years now? And he’s a lawyer himself and presumably has plenty of money.

          • Posted by R

            He did all sorts of procedural things wrong.. He may be an attorney, but he’s not a good real estate attorney familiar with SF and California landlord/tenant law.

    • Posted by Orland

      In this very atypical situation (not the abuse the proposed legislation is meant to address) you posit, our winsome, mid-life couple should easily prevail on their request to remove the
      unit from the rental market after the years of benefiting from the added, needed income.

  6. Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

    This legislation makes sense. A Conditional Use Authorization is required to merge a legal unit. If you broke the law and had an illegal unit, it should be, if anything, more onerous to right things, not less. It is awfully perverse for the party that broke the law to be able to say, ha ha, I broke the law, so I get to sidestep this requirement that applies to those who followed the law.

    Now, one can argue that no Conditional Use Authorization should be required for any merger. But, if you’re going to require it for legal units, you should also require it for illegal units. This is consistent with a standard legal maxim that reads: “No one can take advantage of his own wrong.” (section 3517 of the civil code)

    • Posted by Just My Opinion

      I respectfully and strenuously disagree. In my hypothetical, the couple who owns that house I describe above should have complete liberty to grow into their home without asking permission, which is what a CUA essentially is. It is NOT their responsibility to solve the City’s housing issues. This is wrong, particularly for single or two family homes.

      • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

        You are arguing that nobody should need a Conditional Use Authorization to merge an in-law unit – legal or illegal. That is a different issue than what is addressed by this legislation.

        • Posted by Just My Opinion

          What’s different about it? For an illegal unit, it’s an easy decision, the house is being converted back to what it was supposed to be in the first place. The City should be happy to decommission an illegal unit – but the BoS talks out of both sides of their mouths. If the unit is legal, in a one family for sure, downzoning should be permissible without Conditional Use Authorization.

      • Posted by RobBob

        What you are suggesting would result in an additional incentive to create new illegal units that sidestep tenancy laws.

    • Posted by SFrentier

      So what do you suggest they do? There are tons of existing illegal units. Say you buy a home that has one that is vacant. Then city doesn’t give you a conditional use permit because of politics to keep affordable units. So they can’t remove/merge it, they can’t (legally) rent it out…guess the only thing they can do is use it. But wait! If they try getting conditional use permit and rejected, DBI will place an NOV on it, since it’s now exposed. So they can’t even legally use if for their own family!

      Basically, the city would box them in, where even if they were totally uptight by the book nerds, they have no legal option. So correct me if I’m wrong, but how would THAT be legal?

      The only possible way around this is if DBI “looks the other way” and doesn’t put an NOV on it; pretty much their standard operating procedure today, as they only place NOV’s if someone complains about the unit. That doesn’t sound like a legally tight procedure either! Welcome to San Fran.

  7. Posted by wsf

    Hopefully your in-law doesn’t have ceilings that is an inch too low. The city may pass another law requiring you to raise your house to accommodate those in your now R1 tenant-protected illegal in-law unit. I’m sure one more band-aid law on top of the others will straighten this whole mess out…

    I can’t see how this will incentivize any homeowner to add to the housing stock by renting out their illegal in-law. (unless you’re an airbnb customer)

    • Posted by BobN

      You can’t raise your house. Light and air!!!!!!!

      • Posted by anon

        Yeah, have to excavate down…

        • Posted by san FronziScheme

          and add a basement and a garage while you’re at it.

  8. Posted by anon

    former owner/landlord, the individual who “broke” the law for years, sells. New owner buys. Does not accept rent from illegal unit. Places said money into an escrow account. Immediately sets about to remove the unit. Offers tenant relocation money. Who is in the wrong?

    • Posted by Just My Opinion

      If the house sold (SFR with an illegal unit), and the new owner wants to make the house “legal” by discommissioning the illegal inlaw unit, he should give the tenant reasonable notice and be able to recoup the space. The tenant very likely knew that the unit was illegal and he essentially was living there on borrowed time. Remember the house was likely marketed so he has know this was going to happen for some period of time. If the tenant was under a lease, then the new owner should honor the lease and then not renew it. There should be no money offered to the tenant.

      • Posted by R

        This is all illegal.

      • Posted by GoBlueInSF

        The statement that a tenant must have know the unit was illegal is pure speculation without a lick of evidence. I would be extremely surprised that most of these tenants are aware of the legal status of their apartment unit. I highly doubt most of these landlords are going around advertising their illegal in-law units as illegal. Because whenever I check Craigslist, all I see are scads of ads sating “I have an illegal in-law unit. Rent at your own risk. You could be evicted at any time.”

        • Posted by Just My Opinion

          The first clue is likely that they did not sign a lease.

          • Posted by R

            You must be new. Leases are signed every day for legal and illegal units. They are not treated any differently by tenants, landlords, or any rent control laws.

    • Posted by Michael

      If you buy a property with an illegal unit you accept the liability. Don’t want an illegal in-law or to deal with the law? Don’t buy a property at a discount with plans to flip it into a gain.

      • Posted by Just My Opinion

        NO ONE in SF is buying a property at a discount. Period.

        • Posted by Michael

          Buildings with rent controlled tenants sell at a discount. Exclamation point.

          • Posted by Just My Opinion

            That’s a different point. That’s not a discount, it’s the market price for the income the building can generate. A discount, to me, means that you can buy low, improve and seller at market rate or higher. Since there is limited ability to raise the rent in a rent controlled building, then the market rate is likely a 5-6% cap rate on the income. That’s why you can drive down any street in SF and literally point to rent controlled buildings. There is little to no incentive for the LL to improve the building beyond just want is required to stay within the building codes.

          • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

            Fine. It’s a lower “market price” and not a discount. Toe-may-toh, Tow-mah-toh.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme

            Well, there will be a discount just like there will be a premium depending on the market condition.

            In a down market like the one we experienced in 2009-2012, people would stay clear of anything hairy, since they could afford very clean situations. This means that something that would sell for 20% under “normal” conditions would sell at 30 to 40% under. It didn’t have anything to do with math, but psychology. When everyone is fearful, they overestimate danger. That’s the DISCOUNT.

            It works the other way around. In giddy markets people will underestimate a downside of a situation. They will also overestimate the upside (new kitchen! 200K more!).

            Psychology is everywhere in the market. If it were a pure science, there would be no debate on SS!

      • Posted by anon

        who said anything about a “flip” or a gain in the scenario I described? if you want to talk to yourself there are a lot of people walking around SF doing just that. why bother using the internet.

        • Posted by Just My Opinion

          Thank you anon. I agree. People are obsessed with flippers. For every flipper there is at least one real life resident who just wants to use the house they own. Not motivated by “greed” as others put it (and BTW, profit and greed are not the same thing). My example was a really simple one, and very realistic. The couple owns the house and can’t grow into it. That is complete BS.

        • Posted by SFrentier

          Agree, that argument is total BS. Just ask all the Asian owners in sunset and Richmond about the money they made flipping. Not. Many SFH’s there have inlaw units. They are either rented out (as affordable housing mind you) or used by expended family. DBI has always looked the other way, as politically the city doesn’t want to shut down every illegal inlaw unit- guess that wouldn’t help our “housing crisis” too much. But yeah, let’s screw middle class homeowners anyways- it’s the San Francisco way!

      • Posted by Dixon Hill

        This. Same as buying a property with unpermitted renovations. You take-on the liability for having to make it right. Do your homework first!

    • Posted by R

      Landlord, this is illegal.

  9. Posted by 4th Gen SF'er

    Seems like this could go to the SCOTUS & is completely illegal. Can’t wait for Avalos, Campos & Mar to all be thrown off the board soon.

    • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

      Not a chance that the courts strike this down. It is a standard property use ordinance. “Bad policy” and “illegal” are not the same thing.

  10. Posted by soccermom

    This is largely nuisance legislation but it may help keep some accessory units intact.

    Just as planning codes become more restrictive with time, so too does building codes. If you haven’t had a project approved before, you need to understand that there are two steps:

    1. Planning Department – Can be manipulated by supervisors and crazy rules. Crazy neighbors. Governs building dimensions, aesthetics, etc.

    2. Building Department – Building safety, construction engineering and (ta-da!) Fire Safety.

    Avalos (smarting from all the attention paid to Campos lately?) can do all he wants with the legal/illegal status rules, but the Building Department doesn’t give a flip. Their job is to enforce California Building Codes and Fire Codes as adopted by the city.

    If you have an extra unit (probably on the ground floor) you get a pre-application meeting with your architect and a fire marshall, and you say, “Can I legalize this unit?” The fire inspector says, “Suppose a 75 year old woman is asleep in bed and the house catches on fire? Can she save herself? Can my fire department save her?” Is there a secondary means of egress? Is there an adequate pathway from the rear of the building to the front for the secondary egress?”

    The answer is probably “No” to one of those questions. You take that letter from the fire department to your conditional use meeting and say, “Aw shucks, we would legalize this, but it doesn’t meet code and wasn’t ever permitted, so it’s not clear it ever met any code. Too bad we have to re-absorb the space.”

    The Mark and Priscilla Zuckerbergs will pay someone to jump through these hoops. Savvy flippers will figure it out and do it on behalf of their end buyers. The Cantonese grandparents who have all added these un-permitted units will see it as another scary hurdle to selling their building, and either sell at a lower price, or just keep holding the units and letting them sink into decrepitude. Maybe at the margin some more units will be preserved or kept in service a little longer.

    Pretty much like what we have now, but more. More red tape, more 1% and everyone else solutions.

  11. Posted by Amewsed

    If you are the homeowner of the building, you live in the illegal unit yourself and rent out the upstairs.

  12. Posted by inmycountry

    I heard a law existed that if you rent out an illegal unit, you could be liable to return all of the rent money to the tenant.

  13. Posted by GoBlueInSF

    If you are knowingly renting out an illegal in-law unit that is subject to rent control, then you darn well should be estopped from being able to merge that unit back into the rest of the building to sidestep rent control. That’s what this is about. And there aren’t any innocent young buyers out there. Anyone purchasing a house with a rent controlled in-law unit who purchased said house after 1979 did so knowingly with an in-law unit subject to rent control. And for a sale prices that internalized that cost of the rent control unit and internalized the cost of it being an illegal in-law unit. If you wanted to live in a house free from rent control that you could grow into, buy a bigger house. Or buy one with a legal in-law unit. Not everyone gets to live in SF, right? RIGHT?

    Anyone attempting to sidestep rent control via merger of an illegal in-law unit was exploiting a loophole and closing that loophole is all this ordinance is about.

    • Posted by Just My Opinion

      Sorry. Not with you on this. I believe that a property owners should have rights too. And, incidentally, I think rent control is terrible policy, so we will likely never agree. The way, in my opinion, to control rent is to have policy that encourages development that keeps up with demand. In-law units will NEVER solve the housing issue in SF. Someone who owns a house with an in-law, ought to be able to take control of the in-law and turn the house into a one family (down zone), subject to what ever leases are in place. The OWN the property.

  14. Posted by BobN

    “And for a sale prices that internalized that cost of the rent control unit and internalized the cost of it being an illegal in-law unit.”

    You’re neglecting the fact that the cost of the SFH “internalized” the potential benefit of an illegal unit, which means the buyer PAID MORE for it than if the SFH hadn’t had the unit. What if the new owner, despite having paid the premium, doesn’t want an illegal owner and wants to restore the space to, say, extra bedrooms for the SFH? How is it fair to punish them? (This assumes no rental of the illegal unit during their ownership.)

    • Posted by GoBlueInSF

      As I stated, if you buy a property subject to rent control on an illegal in-law unit that is occupied by a tenant when you purchase it, then you don’t get to cry that its unfair if you have to maintain that status quo going forward. You bought an occupied rent control unit – DEAL WITH IT.

      If you buy a property with an illegal in-law unit that is VACANT when you purchase it, there is nothing stopping you from NOT renting it out and using it “as is” yourself in addition to living in the main building. You are perfectly free under existing rent control laws as a landlord to choose to NOT rent out a vacant apartment unit and instead use it to house grandma, as a pied a terre, as a home office or as a secret sex pad.

      • Posted by Amewsed

        Secret sex pad?! Interesting. Better make it extra nice then.

      • Posted by BobN

        “and using it “as is” yourself in addition to living in the main building”

        Right, but what if I don’t want to use it “as is”. What if I specifically bought the house, knowing the unit was illegal and non-conforming, and didn’t rent it out, never want to rent it out, and instead want to connect it to the main living space and create more bedrooms for my family?

        Why does the City get to tell me that all I can do is use it and have to walk outside to get there?

        • Posted by Amewsed

          You can create an opening with stairs to access lower unit. There is no need to get a permit for that. And there are plenty of buyers who are willing to pay for a beautifully finished basement space however you want to call it.

  15. Posted by anon

    JR’s right. If you want to make DUM’s easier, do it for everyone.
    The young couple story is BS. You’re talking about people who ran an illegal business for years. It shouldn’t be easier for people doing things illegally than for those doing things above board. And when you buy a property, you buy its problems as well. So the example with the sale to new owners is a red herring.

    • Posted by Just My Opinion

      Hysterical….ran an illegal business. Let’s envoke RICO.
      I love SF but it gets crazier by the day.

    • Posted by anon

      Ummm, it’s a rental business and it’s not legal. So, Yes, illegal business.
      Some people do rentals legally and it makes perfect sense that those operating illegally shouldn’t have it easier. Like I said, if you want to make DUM’s easier, do it for everyone.
      SF has plenty of crazy laws, but this isn’t one of them.

      • Posted by Just My Opinion

        I agree no illegal rentals. I’m with ya, boss. The way you put it just struck me as funny. The problem in my view is that the crazy BoS passes all of these ad hoc rules that they think spot-solve issues (and get votes) but have so many unintended consequences. Further, they create regulations that have no teeth, then look away at violations for decades. They finally realize it’s creating problems and then try to undo decades of benign neglect – like illegal in-law units.

        Our fair City, which I love, BTW, needs to learn that you can be open and embracing and still say “no”. It’s not OK to go Home Depot and buy cheap paneling and convert your basement into an illegal apartment. Problem is, that it already is not ok, but when you do not enforce it for decades, it’s hard to go back and start enforcing it. You look like an ogre who is throwing old ladies onto the street. Can’t we just start saying no to some things. No, it’s not ok to rent rooms and become an inn-keeper cause it makes you some coin, no it’s not ok to convert your basement into a unit and not follow code and zoning, no its not your god-given right to pan handle.

        • Posted by EcceMorons

          Actually, it IS a God-given right to panhandle. Constitutional right too – free speech and all.

          But aside from that, yeah, I agree with the rest of what you just said.

  16. Posted by Amewsed

    Is it me or will this November ballot be extra long with all of these measures.

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