San Francisco Supervisor Ben Mandelman proposed a new ordinance at the Board of Supervisors meeting this week that would halt landlords from taking away any amenities from renters that were originally offered, such as laundry rooms and parking.
For several years, many landlords have converted garage, common areas, and other areas of apartment complexes into new rental units, often called accessory dwelling units or ADUs. The law allowing owners to build ADUs was proposed by then-Supervisor now current State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) in 2014, with it becoming law in 2016. The law was designed to help both add more units to the then near-capacity San Francisco housing market, and to help reduce rental prices during the mid to late 2010’s when housing costs skyrocketed up to average apartment costs of around $3,000 per month.
While the ADU law only permitted one ADU in buildings with four or less units, buildings with five or more had no limits, resulting in situations where entire garages had been taken over for new units and a record number of complaints from tenants around the city.
“That pushed parking out into the already crowded streets and led to a record number of people complaining about the ADUs,” said Barbara Lee, a legal assistant who helped out in some ADU cases, to the Globe on Thursday. “They lost their parking, they lost their laundry rooms, they lost their bike rooms. And this led to crowded street parking, a rise in costs for tenants, and a rise in stolen bikes.”
A new ADU proposal
Due to the increase of these citywide problems, and especially in his district, Mandelman proposed the ADU limiting ordinance on Thursday, countering Wiener’s law.
According to his proposal, landlords cannot just end listed amenities in the apartment complexes but must have just cause for removing amenities such as storage, parking, bike rooms, or laundry rooms from tenants. Essentially, it would need to follow the same guidelines that evictions currently have.
ADUs remain banned in parts of the city zoned for single-family homes, and the units may not be used as short-rentals, under the law.
“Adding a new unit or two or more to existing buildings can be a great way to increase the amount of housing in our neighborhoods, but adding new housing should not come at the expense of current tenants,” said Mandelman of his proposal. “It’s not OK to take away storage, parking, bike rooms or laundry that people have relied on for years and have the right to continue enjoying as part of their home.”
While popular, many opponents have stated that the law is quickly becoming one that can only be brought up in specific circumstances.
“The law was made to create cheaper housing during a rut. And that’s fine,” added Bud Teuer, a contractor in the Bay Area who has helped make some of those new units. “But if this is passed, it will grind this practice to a halt. Besides A few times I had to do this to sheds or other outbuildings that tenants had no business with, it’s always been fixing up parts of the apartment buildings that renters use.”
“Not only will this help cut into the number of new affordable units in the city, but landlords are going to try and find ways for just cause to remove them. If this is passed, we’re going to see a rise of city inspectors and fire inspectors having to come out to approve just cause for removal. All it really adds is an extra step essentially.”
Mandelman’s ordinance is expected to pass in a future meeting.
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