Sup. Wiener Proposes Waiving Restrictions on Castro ‘In Law’ Units
There’s little doubt it’s an ugly rental market in the Castro right now. Evictions are way up and new rental units offered within freshly minted builds are priced well above a lot of citizen’s reach. To help alleviate some housing stress Dist. 8 Supervisor Wiener is sponsoring an amendment to SF’s Planning Code around Castro ‘In Law’ units waiving existing density restrictions and Code requirements. He believes this will create more affordable housing units in the Castro.
The change would allow property owners who have the space, or a existing garage, basement, or out building (shed) on their plot of land to construct or convert it into a In Law unit. These units must be fully functioning with a bathroom and kitchen, be no smaller than 300 and no larger than 750 square feet. To qualify the property must fall within the confines of the Castro Street Neighborhood Commercial District or within 1,750 feet of the District boundaries.
Basically if your lot meets the parameters -and- you can make it legal, to code and squeeze in another unit on your property go for it. The Supervisor believes this idea will create more affordable, secondary units in the Castro and get in need renters in to new homes. He’s also proposing that if the building is rent controlled and the owners construct or convert space for a new In-Law unit that rent control policy would be extended to these rental units as well.
This idea of changing the Code and allowing in-law units to be added to existing property isn’t new. It’s been suggested and shot down before, but, these desperate rental times being what they are it might make it through all of City Hall hoops this go around.
The City is on track to hit 300 Ellis Act evictions this year – many targeting our neighborhood’s vulnerable seniors – City officials are scrambling to help, create new solutions and find affordable housing for those on limited incomes who are being displaced. For many seniors facing eviction is tantamount to a death sentence. The daunting task of finding new housing anywhere in the Castro (or greater Bay Area) proves to be next to impossible for most.
The Supervisors critics aren’t convinced. Commenters on recent posts on the In-Law subject have wondered how these new units will affect property values in an already skyrocketing real estate market? Will these new in-law units be an economical boon for some greedy and unscrupulous property owners? Will property now be reassessed for tax purposes once units are built, converted or illegal ones brought up to code and approved? And what’s to stop landlords from evicting people from these units using the Ellis Act provisions as well? How does the new in-law units effect density issues in a neighborhood currently experiencing such rapid new building growth along the Octavia Market corridor?
“There’s no silver bullet in improving affordability, but this is one piece of the puzzle – creating an option that is more affordable than most other options”, Mr. Wiener recently posted on his Facebook page.