Student Housing Gains Momentum At Planning Commission

On November 10, 2011 the Planning Commission approved proposed Planning Code amendments regarding student housing and sent the proposed ordinance to the Board of Supervisors for further action. The next procedural step will be a hearing at the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee, which should be scheduled within approximately thirty days. The proposed ordinance would amend the following sections of the Planning Code:

Section 102.36 would create a city-wide land use definition of “Student Housing”. “Student Housing” must be owned, operated or controlled by an accredited post-secondary educational institution, and may take the form of dwelling units, group housing, or single room occupancy building (“SRO”). Student Housing will be permitted wherever a dwelling unit, group housing or SRO is permitted in the zoning district in which the property is located. Usable open space requirements will be reduced by 1/3 the amount normally required for a dwelling unit.

The required minimum dwelling unit mix in Eastern Neighborhoods districts will not apply to Student Housing buildings. Conversion of existing residential units to Student Housing is strictly prohibited by Section 317.

Conversions from Student Housing to any form of residential use that is permitted by the underlying zoning district would be approvable by the Zoning Administrator, provided that all Planning Code requirements have been met or appropriately modified for the form of residential unit desired.  Dwelling units that are less than 350 square feet plus a bathroom, including Student Housing, would have the same reduced open space requirements (1/3 that of regular dwelling units) as group housing and SROs, pursuant to proposed amendments to Section 135(b)(2).  A change in use to group housing within a Neighborhood Commercial District would require a neighborhood notice pursuant to Section 312. Section 401 would be amended to allow a Student Housing project to consist of all or part of a building.  Most Student Housing will be exempt from the Inclusionary Housing Program requirements pursuant to Planning Code Section 415.3(c)(5)(C)(iii).

The purpose of the proposed ordinance is to encourage the production of new Student Housing, while prohibiting the conversion from any form of existing housing to Student Housing. The incentives provided in the ordinance to construct new Student Housing include the exemption from unit mix requirements within RTO, NCD, DTR, and Eastern Neighborhoods mixed-use districts. In addition, open space requirements for small dwelling units are reduced by 1/3, and an exception is provided from the Affordable Housing requirements.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient. Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein. Reuben & Junius, LLP is a full service real estate law firm. We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law. We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

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