Proposal to legalize in-law units in the Castro moves forward

Pilot legislation aimed at increasing the rental stock in the Castro by allowing the creation of new rent-controlled in-law units moved one step closer to a vote after passing through the gauntlet of the Planning Commission last week.

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who presented the proposal Thursday, said his legislation is meant to alleviate housing pressures by using existing stock without changing the character of the neighborhood, which is part of his supervisorial distinct.

“We do have a housing shortage in Castro,” said Wiener, adding that “we can add units by using what we already have in the existing fabric of our neighborhood.”

Wiener's proposal, as recommend by the commission's vote, would allow the creation of new units in an area of the neighborhood centered on the intersection of Castro and Market streets.

Any new units would be constrained within existing buildings and would be subject to building and planning codes, with some exceptions.

The recommendations would allow buildings with 10 units or less one additional in-law; larger buildings would be allowed two. The commission also voted to recommend monitoring the rents of any new units so as to ascertain whether or not their creation resulted in new affordable rentals.

In all, the Planning Department estimates that about 390 additional units could be created if the ordinance is passed.

While there were some minor worries about the proposal, most at the meeting supported the bill.

“This is a modest, sensible response to an extremely expensive housing market,” Tim Colen with the San Francisco Housing Action Commission said during Thursday's hearing.

The Planning Commission recommendations on the law, which passed unanimously, must ultimately go before the Board of Supervisors.

Board of Supervisors President and District 3 representative David Chiu is also working on an in-law bill, but his would work to legalize illegal in-law units citywide instead of allow the creation of new units in one particular neighborhood as Wiener's bill would.

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