Agent's Perspective - SF Board of Supervisors Pending ‘Conditional Use’ Renovation Legislation

SF Board of Supervisors Pending ‘Conditional Use’ Renovation Legislation: Making it impossible for meaningful home renovations of more than 10%

No one seems to question how much automobiles have changed over the past 80 years. Engines, sizes of cars as wellas their appearances have changed dramatically. Our expectations change as
society evolves. So why can’t our city  planning policies and codes allow for a similar evolution for homes? 

Our housing stock has a life which will not last forever. In San Francisco most homes over 70-80 years of age require a tremendous amount of maintenance. While older homes may appear to be affordable, first time homeowners frequently experience the hard way what the true costs actually are for maintaining an older structure. Unexpected funds are often needed to replace nob & tube wiring, updating old galvanized plumbing to copper, adding insulation missing from walls and ceilings, and for dealing with inefficient furnaces, faulty heating ducts, and leaking roofs and windows - not to mention worn out water heaters and single pane windows. And all of these hidden expenses don’t factor in desirable upgrades such as a bathroom or kitchen remodel, or an expansion. 

Many San Franciscans are unaware of legislation that is actively pending at the Board of Supervisors which erroneously claims that older homes with deferred maintenance are affordable. This same legislation would make major kitchen remodels or home expansions almost impossible. If approved, this proposal would result in a common kitchen renovation becoming a non-permitted use known as a ‘conditional use’. It would also make meaningful vertical and/or horizontal additions to homes become classified as non-permitted/conditional use as well. Worse yet, if more than 25% of a façade (6.25’ for most homes) is removed, a demolition would be triggered, again causing a non permitted/ conditional use situation. Conditional uses will make it almost impossible to get a permit for meaningful expansions of more than 10%. 

Today’s modern family wants a wide-open floor plan, 3 bedrooms on the same level, a bedroom downstairs for their guests or in-laws, and perhaps a family room to gain a little distance from the kids. If we want families to remain in the city our focus should be on making the permitting process easier rather than it becoming more complicated and highly restrictive. 

In the past residents wanting to expand their homes have had to compromise their expectations, having to deal with hostile neighbors well versed in the ‘Discretionary Review’ process, where they can force applicants to present their projects to the planning commission. This process by definition as it stands is already a long and daunting path. We have all heard the horror stories. So why are our Supervisors on a mission to make this process even harder? Supervisors Peskin, Fewer, Yee, Ronan and Mandelman, all sponsors of this draconian legislation, need to be reminded that families have a choice, and can get all of these amenities easily approved for their home in less than three months within a 20-minute radius of the city in all directions. As a city we hear constant complaints about families leaving, but at the same time we seem to ignore the fact that our housing policies continue to fail families that are trying to modernize their homes. What message are our legislators sending to those who want to expand their homes toallow for an aging parent? Clearly this detrimental pending legislation needs to be discarded and rewritten to reflect the typical three-month permit process th at our neighboring communities have in place. It is time for common sense to prevail!