This Week:  Student Housing; Hospital Master Plans; New Energy Audit Requirements

Student Housing Reform Nears The Finish Line….

After being approved by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee, student housing reform legislation just needs a vote at the full Board and a signature by the Mayor. As we’ve reported before, the reform legislation would recognize “student housing” projects and would exempt them from the Planning Code’s affordable housing requirements. The current policy of applying affordable housing requirements on student housing projects has come under scrutiny lately, due to the fact that student housing is inherently different than traditional housing, and that student housing in many cases is already affordable, due to student financial aid and other factors.

The Housing Action Coalition has been a key force behind this important legislation. Its passage would mean that student housing would be easier to build in the city – and more affordable.

City to Develop Standards for New Medical Use Development

Last Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors passed on second reading an ordinance that seeks to guide future medical use development in the City. As has been reported in the press recently, the may become a major additional hurdle for the proposed CMPC campus. The ordinance directs the Planning Department and the Department of Public Health to develop a Health Care Services Master Plan over the next year. The plan must analyze a number of aspects of medical services in the City, including the capacity of existing health care providers, the geographical distribution of those providers and the difficulty of access to health care services from different areas of the City. The plan will also make recommendations to promote the equitable and efficient distribution of health care services in the City.

Once the Health Care Master Plan is adopted, future projects consisting of changes of use to medical use occupying at least 10,000 square feet and expansions of existing medical uses of at least 5,000 square feet would be required to file an application with the Planning Department to confirm consistency with the plan. The Planning Department would administratively issue a determination of consistency or inconsistency. If a determination of inconsistency is issued, or a determination of consistency is issued and appealed within 15 days, the Health Commission will hold an informational public hearing and the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing where it must hold a vote on whether to approve or disapprove a determination.

During the legislative process, the applicability of the consistency requirement was narrowed from all medical institutions seeking land use approvals to projects meeting the thresholds discussed above. The ordinance leaves broad discretion to the Planning Department to apply these new requirements. It is unclear at this point how much information a health care provider would need to provide in its application for consistency. In addition, it is unclear if “expansion” includes only physical expansions of existing buildings, or if it also includes an expansion of an existing health care provider to a different building in the City.

Consistency determinations will not be required until January 2, 2013 at the earliest. The Mayor still may veto the ordinance by next Monday. We’ll let you know if he does.

New Legislation Would Create Annual Energy Audit Requirement for Non-Residential Buildings

Under legislation that was introduced at the Board of Supervisors last week by the Mayor and Supervisor Bevan Dufty, non-residential buildings of at least 10,000 square feet would be required to conduct a comprehensive energy efficiency audit at least once every five years. In addition, owners of these properties would also have to file an annual report with the City’s Department of the Environment, detailing certain energy benchmark information for the past year. Under the legislation, the Department of the Environment would also be required to publish an annual report, that would include, among other things, information provided in the annual energy reports of individual buildings.

If enacted, the legislation would require buildings of greater than 50,000 square feet of non-residential use to submit their first report by October 2011, buildings with 25,000 to 49,999 square feet of non-residential use to submit their first report by April 2012, and buildings with 10,000 to 24,999 square feet of non-residential use to submit their first report by April 2013. Some buildings would be exempted from the energy audit and reporting requirements, including buildings less than five years old, buildings receiving the EPA ENERGY STAR label from the US Environmental Protection Agency and buildings that are LEED certified under the Existing Buildings Operation and Maintenance system.

The legislation is at the Land Use Committee now, and will likely not be considered before the new year. Email us if you’d like a copy of the legislation.

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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