Board restricts ability to convert student housing

S.F. Examiner File PhotoMore changes: The final passage of a housing law sponsored by Supervisor Scott Wiener could be delayed until September as supervisors work out details.

S.F. Examiner File PhotoMore changes: The final passage of a housing law sponsored by Supervisor Scott Wiener could be delayed until September as supervisors work out details.

Legislation to prevent the conversion of San Francisco housing to strictly student usage was approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

The ordinance encourages universities to create new student housing instead of purchasing existing buildings or blocks of units to offer just to students.

“We have a huge need to house many students,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, the legislation’s sponsor. “We need to do it in a way that does not undermine other housing needs, but encourage new student housing through incentives.”

The measure passed 9-2, with Supervisor Jane Kim hoping to stall its passage until September to allow for additional talks on creating a way to monitor student housing development and possibly grandfather in certain institutions. Under Wiener’s ordinance, not-for-profit universities such as the San Francisco Art Institute would be grandfathered in and would able to convert some housing.

“I agree with the intent,” Kim said. “I think we should encourage new construction and we shouldn’t cannibalize existing rental housing stock. I just want additional time to work on these outstanding issues.”

The approved measure culminates two years of work and addresses complaints about the Academy of Art University’s practice of converting apartment buildings to student housing.

Wiener also brought two other pieces of housing legislation to the board Tuesday. His proposal to shrink the minimum required size of housing units was successfully delayed until September to allow further discussion. The legislation would drop a unit’s minimum size from 290 to 220 square feet, which includes 150 square feet of living space, plus kitchen, bathroom and a closet.

“We have a housing affordability crisis, and we need to be flexible and nimble in creating all sorts of new housing, including larger units for families and smaller units for those who can’t afford more space or don’t need it,” Wiener said. “This legislation will set us on the path of a smart and flexible housing policy.”

Wiener’s proposal to make it easier for homeowners to access tax incentives also passed easily. Such incentives were created by the 1976 Mills Act as a way to give the owners of historic buildings breaks in the cost of restoring, repairing or rehabilitating the structures instead of demolishing them.

Academy of Art UniversityBay Area NewseducationLocalScott Wiener

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