Group wants condo conversion cap lifted

With city data showing that the number of tenants evicted from apartments in San Francisco is at its lowest in a decade, there are renewed calls to end or revise a citywide cap on condo conversions.

Under longstanding city rules, 200 apartments are allowed to be converted into condos every year.

A lottery scheduled for Wednesday will select those 200 units from a pool of 1,944 applications, nearly double the number received in 2003, according to figures validated by County Surveyor Bruce Storrs.

Those chosen will be allowed to convert purchased apartment units or tenancies-in-common into separate condos that can be freely owned and traded.

Real estate broker Radhi Ahern said condo ownership gives property owners freedom from others who live in their building, and makes it easier for the property owners to sell their unit for a higher price.

Ahern is a director of the nonprofit San Francisco TIC Coalition — an organization that fights to increase the number of condo conversions allowed in The City.

The coalition, in conjunction with the lobbying group Plan C, has organized a rally on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday to call for “condominium conversion reform.”

The number of households evicted from San Francisco buildings has fell from 2,291 in 1996-1997 to 1,475 in 2006-2007, according to city statistics.

“Condos no longer lead to evictions,” is written on the petition. “In the past, opponents of condo conversion reform argued that if condo conversions were easy, evictions would result. This argument no longer holds water.”

Ted Gullicksen of the San Francisco Tenants’ Union disagrees. He says the cap on condo conversions should be decreased.

A cap on condo conversion stifles the conversion of rental apartments into tenancies-in-common since it makes the conversion less lucrative for the property owners, he said.

“Every time a rental unit is converted to a TIC there’s a tenant who has lost their home,” Gullicksen said.

jupton@examiner.com

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