EVNA skeptical of Wiener In-Law legislation; survey asks for feedback
Last October, Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced legislation to the Board of Supervisors to amend the Planning and Administrative codes to allow construction of in-law units in existing residential buildings or auxiliary structures on the same lot as a response to the now acute housing crisis in San Francisco. The legislation does not extend the planning and administrative code exemption to the entire city, only to the residential properties within 1750 feet of the Castro Street Neighborhood Commercial District and also prohibits any construction of in-law units within 500 feet of the Montecito North building at 4096 17th Street (UPDATE: 7:50PM — Supervisor Wiener owns a condo in the complex and California law prohibits him from legislating a rezoning within 500 feet of property he owns).
- In-law units can be 220 to 750 square feet complete with kitchen and bathroom.
- Units will have to be within the building’s existing space, e.g., a garage, a large storage space, a large basement area within the existing envelope of the building or within the envelope of an existing accessory building on the same lot, e.g., a studio in the rear yard.
- Buildings of 10 or fewer units can add one in-law unit above existing zoning limits and buildings of more than 10 units can add two.
District 3 Supervisor David Chiu has also introduced in-law unit legislation which seeks to legalize existing illegal in-law units. The legislation does not increase housing availability, but it does protect existing tenants from eviction or harassment.
The Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association is concerned about the actual impact Supervisor Wiener’s legislation will have on increasing the availability of housing stock in the Castro area. They are conducting a study on the legislation and have put together a survey on their website that allows the community to provide their feedback. The EVNA board will be doing a formal vote after conducting interviews with neighbors, collecting the data from the survey, and working with Supervisor Wiener to provide feedback and recommendations. The survey will close Monday, March 3rd.
The EVNA is mainly concerned that the legislation will be changing the planning code too dramatically and in too fine a geographic area for very little return. On their website they mention,
…how effective will this policy be in providing more affordable housing to people who want to live with us here in the Castro? The proposed geographical area is quite small, about the three blocks surrounding the Castro NCD. A major portion to the NorthWest is excluded. Then of existing housing stock in this small area, a residential building has to have 225-750 sq-ft of extra space in the basement or an existing outbuilding to carve out one new unit (two if the building has 6 or more units). More significantly,property owners will need to be convinced that adding another unit on their property is a “good thing” for them, or else we won’t see many additional units added to our housing stock. “What’s in it for me?” There must be positive incentives for property owners to provide this additional housing, or we won’t realize any.
It’s an election year cycle and Supervisor Wiener (so far running largely unopposed) and City Hall are facing pressure from housing rights advocates to do SOMETHING about housing availability and evictions in the city. Many people see Wiener’s legislation as political grandstanding and others see it as a step in the right direction to solve a complicated housing crisis.
In an op-ed in the BAR in November, Supervisor Wiener said that the legislation is by no means a solution to the city’s housing problems, but rather one piece in a puzzle of action that can be taken now, “In-law units are by no means a global solution, but they are one piece of the puzzle, one that will allow people to stay in the neighborhood when they otherwise would have no realistic option to do so. It’s time to take a serious stab at addressing our community’s housing needs by implementing realistic solutions.”
The legislation will be heard by the Planning Commission tentatively on March 6, 2014, and then it will go before the Board of Supervisors Planning and Land Use Committee sometime in March with Board of Supervisors vote the following week.