Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Wiener to propose
Castro in-law units


Scott Wiener(Photo: Rick Gerharter)
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San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener will introduce legislation next week to allow in-law units in the Castro in an effort to provide more affordable housing in the largely gay neighborhood.

Wiener, the gay supervisor whose District 8 includes the Castro, will introduce his proposal at the Tuesday, October 29 Board of Supervisors meeting, he told the Bay Area Reporter.

Units could potentially be created using spaces including garages, basements, or storage areas. The legislation would not allow existing building envelopes to be expanded.

"We have, in the city as a whole, a housing affordability crisis," said Wiener. "Rents are through the roof. There are a lot of people who are in unstable housing situations."

He said, "It can be very hard" for people who have to move because of evictions or other reasons to stay in the city.

The Castro has been hit particularly hard, he said.

"Rents are very, very high," said Wiener. "We've had too many evictions."

Many longtime neighborhood residents include seniors who "don't have a lot of savings" and live in rent-controlled units, he said. If they lose their housing, "they're in trouble," he said. He also expressed concern for young people and others who come to the neighborhood "trying to make a life for themselves."

For buildings that have between one and 10 units, one in-law unit could be added. If a building has more than 10 units, up to two in-law spaces could be added.

The in-law units would be approximately 300 square feet at minimum and couldn't be larger than 750 square feet. The legislation would not allow for existing dwelling units to be subdivided.

Each in-law space "has to comply with the housing code, which requires a bathroom and a kitchen, so these have to be full, complete units," said Wiener. Among other provisions, units created in rent-controlled buildings would also fall under rent control. Wiener said the city can't impose a maximum rent.

He said for this legislation, the Castro has "roughly" been defined as Hill Street to the south, Church Street to the east, 14th Street to the north, and the area around Clayton Street to the west.

"It's hard to say" how many units may become available, said Wiener. "People will obviously have to make an investment to building these," but "I hope we get quite a few."

Alan Beach-Nelson, president of the Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, called Wiener's proposal "a terrific idea."

"The Castro, as everybody knows, has a dearth of housing that's affordable" for people who are living with HIV and on disability, and others, said Beach-Nelson, who added that his organization hasn't yet taken a position on the legislation and he was speaking on a personal level.

Some of Wiener's critics said that his proposal may help people but more is needed.

"I haven't heard specifics about Supervisor Wiener's plan but I hope that in addition to this idea he will demonstrate a stronger commitment to preserving affordable housing in his district in other meaningful ways," Tom Temprano, president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, said in a Facebook message.

"In a district where long-term queer residents are being displaced at an alarming rate we are going to need a lot more than a few new in-laws," he added.

Wiener said he has done other things to increase affordable housing, including work on the housing trust fund, aid to homeless and at-risk youth, and allowing smaller efficiency apartments, known as "micro-units."

"I've been working on affordable housing since I took office," said Wiener. "This legislation is the next step in trying to create more and diverse housing options for our residents."

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