This Week In Land Use – April 20, 2012

Legitimization Program Extended to November

Mayor Lee has signed an ordinance that will extend the Eastern Neighborhoods Legitimization Program through November 12, 2012. The program, which grants “amnesty” to uses established prior to the Eastern Neighborhoods rezoning but had not received proper permits, had expired this past January.

Beyond extending the program’s deadline, the ordinance also requires that legitimization applicants, after receiving their letter of eligibility from the Zoning Administrator, must submit all materials to complete legitimization (e.g. Prop M office allocation application, building permit application) within 90 days of the letter’s issuance.

Owners of buildings in the Eastern Neighborhoods with office tenants should make sure they have the proper permits for office use. Once the program expires, buildings without proper permits could be subject to enforcement action. Legitimizing now may be the only way to maintain a legal office use into the future. You can contact our office with any questions you may have about the program.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah! Restaurant categories in the Planning Code drop from Thirteen to Three!

While everyone talks about the need to cut “red tape” to get rid of inefficient and ineffective government regulations, seldom do you see clear, successful examples of this happening. But that’s exactly what Supervisors Weiner and Olague have done with their recent amendment to the Planning Code, which, among other things, reduces the number of restaurant definitions from 13 to 3.

It’s become a public joke in the past few years how convoluted the restaurant controls are in the Planning Code (“will you be toasting bagels on-site?”). This was brilliantly captured in a video created by Aaron Starr at the Planning Department last year (for anyone who has been through the entitlement process in San Francisco, this is a must watch: The restaurant ordinance removes all of the confusing and out-dated distinctions between food uses and creates three categories: Limited-Restaurant, Restaurant, and Bar. A Limited-Restaurant is any restaurant that serves food but does not serve beer or wine for on-site consumption. A Restaurant is any restaurant that serves food, including those that serve beer, wine or liquor for on-site consumption. A Bar is, well, a bar.

The ordinance doesn’t just improve the restaurant classifications of the Planning Code though. It also amends the use controls for each Neighborhood Commercial and mixed-use district, and in many cases makes restaurants principally permitted where they were formerly permitted with a conditional use, or makes restaurants permitted with a conditional use where they were formerly not permitted. The ordinance is truly transformative in terms of simplifying the process for this critical sector of the City’s economy.

We commend Supervisors Weiner and Olague for co-sponsoring this legislation. San Francisco’s restaurant industry could really use a shot in the arm right now – especially considering neighboring Oakland’s restaurant scene has been gaining on San Francisco in the hipness category, and many chock that up to Oakland’s more permissive zoning and other governmental regulations.

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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