The Planning Commission voted against legislation that would skip the need for conditional use permits. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

Planning Commission OKs law to tighten restrictions for removing residential units

City officials must weigh in on the removal of any residential unit – including previously illegal in-law units – from San Francisco’s limited housing stock.

Such was the sentiment of the Planning Commission on Thursday, which voted 5-1 to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve a law requiring the loss of any residential unit though demolition, conversation or a merger in all zoning districts to undergo a conditional use authorization. Commissioner Michael Antonini was the dissenting vote.

The legislation, introduced by Supervisor John Avalos in May, aims to further tighten restrictions for removing residential units as The City grapples with a housing crisis.

City planners noted that housing production has not kept up with population growth. While some 7,000 new units are either under construction or have received entitlements from the Planning Department, The City has lost nearly 10,000 units since 2010 alone.

Currently, in most neighborhoods the loss of at least three residential units triggers a conditional use authorization, which is requested when development projects propose to exceed height limits, build on large lots or other special types of construction.

Interim controls requiring a conditional use authorization when residential units are lost through a merger were already implemented in July, and other protections are also in place for other types of residential unit removals.

This legislation, however, adds to recent efforts by The City to both build new homes and protect existing homes.

Maintaining The City’s in-law units – an estimated 30,000 to 50,000, which only became legal last year – is also a key part of the legislation, which seeks to protect tenants from being evicted due to the loss of their home, and preserve The City’s housing stock.

Removing residential units from the market is believed to be a major cause of tenant evictions. Eviction rates jumped by 45 percent between 2010 and 2014, and of the some 4,500 no-fault evictions between 2005 and this year, about 11 percent (500) were due to the units being demolished, according to the Planning Department.

The legislation must still be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

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