New law would limit housing demolitions

Demolishing or removing any housing in San Francisco without first agreeing to build replacement homes would become illegal, under a proposed new law.

After The City approved the demolition of three apartments in 18 months, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi drafted legislation requiring all demolished, merged or converted homes to be replaced with similarly affordable housing units.

Mirkarimi drafted the legislation in the wake of controversy that surrounded plans to demolish three rent-controlled apartments by the Drew School to expand its Pacific Heights neighborhood campus.

That project, which was approved earlier this year, was the only demolition project that would lead to an overall loss of housing units to have been approved since anti-demolition policies were formalized and adopted by The City in March 2008, Planning Department data shows.

Other demolition projects over the same 18-month period increased the number of homes by clearing the way for new housing projects.

Additionally, during the same 18 months, 43 housing units were consolidated into 24 units and three homes were converted for nonhousing uses, the data shows.

There are roughly 365,000 homes in San Francisco, department data shows.

City laws and policies aimed at protecting homes generally focus on the preservation of pre-1980 multiunit buildings, because those apartments are protected by The City’s rent control laws.

The Planning Commission approved the Drew School expansion after determining that the social benefits of the school’s expansion outweighed the negative impacts of losing rent-controlled apartments.

The commission’s discretion to make such rulings on similar projects would be stripped away if Mirkarimi’s proposed legislation is adopted by the Board of Supervisors.

Mirkarimi’s draft law would also affect conversions of homes into other uses and mergers of smaller housing units to create larger, family-oriented housing.

Planning commissioners during a Thursday hearing into the legislation said they would like to retain the ability to use their discretion to approve the demolition of homes in some circumstances, such as the expansion of a school.

Mirkarimi said he would like to work with the commission to finesse his proposal.

“I’m open-minded in terms of how we might want to sculpt the legislation,” Mirkarimi said.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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