We Take the Good with the Bad…  The Latest in San Francisco Housing Policy

​Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose district includes the Castro, Upper Market, Corona Heights, Noe Valley, and Glen Park, among other neighborhoods, is known for his interest and activity in San Francisco housing policy.  Two recent measures sponsored by Supervisor Wiener speak to this interest: one that encourages housing development and will provide some relief to the City’s housing shortfall, and one that is, shall we say, not as encouraging.

Legalization of Accessory Dwelling Units

Supervisor Wiener’s most recent proposal, introduced last week and now assigned to the Board of Supervisor’s Land Use and Transportation Committee, would broaden the geographic applicability of an existing measure facilitating the legalization of Accessory Dwelling Units (“ADUs”), also known as secondary or in-law units.  The measure is currently applicable only to parts of Supervisor Wiener’s District, but we hope it will ultimately be extended City-wide.  

Under the measure, new ADUs may be constructed or existing ADUs may be legalized, even if doing so would exceed the applicable density units.  The following restrictions would apply:

(1) an ADU cannot be constructed using space from an existing Dwelling Unit; 

(2) an ADU is not permitted in any RH-1(D) zoning district; and 

(3) only one ADU is permitted in a building with up to 10 existing Dwelling Units and two ADUs are permitted for buildings with more than 10 existing Dwelling Units (these ADUs are permitted regardless of whether the existing building is at or over the density limit).

The measure also authorizes the Zoning Administrator to grant complete or partial exceptions from the Code’s parking, rear yard, dwelling unit exposure and open space requirements of the Planning Code for ADUs.  The ADU would be subject to the City’s Rent Control Ordinance if the building containing the ADU is already subject to the Rent Control Ordinance.  The Planning Department is required to establish a system for monitoring the affordability of the ADUs.

Whereas previously this measure applied only in and near the Castro Street Neighborhood Commercial District, Supervisor Wiener’s current proposal would expand its applicability to include the 24th Street – Noe Valley Neighborhood Commercial District or within 1,750 feet of its boundaries, the Glen Park Neighborhood Commercial Transit District within Supervisor Wiener’s district boundaries, and the NC-S Zoning District within Supervisor Wiener’s district boundaries.  

This is Supervisor Wiener’s third piece of legislation encouraging construction and legalization of ADUs, clearly seeing it as one tool in increasing housing production in the city.

Limiting Residential Development in Corona Heights

Supervisor Wiener’s second recent proposal is an interim control (18 months, unless extended or until permanent controls are adopted), which now has been adopted and codified, that places limits on proposed residential development in the Corona Heights neighborhood.  (See map below)  The specific target is so-called “monster homes.”

Map - Corona Heights
Map – Corona Heights

In particular, the measure requires a Conditional Use Authorization from the Planning Commission for:

(1) any residential development that will result in total residential square footage exceeding 3,000 gross square feet on a parcel if the residential development will occur on a vacant parcel; 

(2) any residential development that will increase the existing gross square footage on a developed parcel in excess of 3,000 square feet and by (a) more than 75% without increasing the existing legal unit count or (b) more than 100% if increasing the existing legal unit count; and 

(3) any residential development that results in greater than 55% lot coverage, in which case the Planning Commission must expressly find that “unique or exceptional lot constraints would make development on the lot infeasible without exceeding 55% total lot coverage.”

Supervisor Wiener pushed this legislation in response to neighborhood outcry over a number of new housing developments that are currently going the entitlement process.  The legislation essentially shifts the burden to project sponsors to affirmatively file a conditional use application (instead of the neighborhood filing a discretionary review request) and allows for a political resolution to these cases, since a conditional use approval can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.

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 & Rose, 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.