Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Politics & Govt
Published on September 09, 2015
Supervisors Approve In-Law Units To Squeeze In More HousingThe owner of 1515 Leavenworth wants to create an ADU in the building. Photos: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline

More housing units should become available in densely packed Districts 8 and 3 now that legislation introduced by their respective supervisors, Scott Wiener and Julie Christensen, unanimously passed at a Board of Supervisors vote on Tuesday, Sept. 8th.

It only needs Mayor Ed Lee's signature to become law, which is expected.

The history of the legislation is complicated, but the gist is this: landlords will now be able to create additional, separate units within their buildings out of unused spaces, such as storage rooms or garages. All health and safety standards common to all residences in the city will apply. Christensen has said these rentals will almost certainly all be rent-controlled, because they're in older buildings, and will be appealing to seniors and those who need ADA accessible units, because they're almost always on the ground floor.

The official term used in the legislation is "accessory dwelling units," although they are more colloquially (and less literally) known as "in-law units" or "granny flats."

1515 Leavenworth St. 

Two versions of the legislation were introduced: An unamended version, which passed, and a version with three amendments that was sent back to the Planning Commission on a duplicated file for further review. District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim made three amendments in committee: 

  • One would prohibit a building owner from adding an ADU if an Ellis Act has been done on a unit within less than 10 years
  • Another would prohibit short-term rentals in ADUs
  • A third would prohibit condo conversions, so the units would always be either rentals or owner-occupied

The version that passed does require the Planning Commission to monitor all ADUs for short term rentals. If large numbers of them are being used for that purpose, the law can be changed later, said Kanishka Burns, legislative aide to Christensen.

Jane Kim. Photo: Jane Kim/Facebook

Kim said, "I'm definitely supportive of ADUs in general. I just want to make sure they increase our rent controlled housing stock." She said she's willing to hear out the Planning Department on how they plan to ensure large numbers of units aren't being used for short-term rentals, but added, "I think we should question whether we should allow short-term rentals in ADUs."

Kim said she voted yes on the legislation with the hope that the version with the three amendments will pass once it comes back to the Board of Supervisors and be integrated into the legislation. "This happens a lot at the Land Use Committee," she said. "It's called 'trailing legislation.'"