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  • David Costello - Contributing Writer - SF

SF Board of Supervisors Pending 'Conditional Use' Renovation Legislation: Making it impossib

No one seems to question how much

automobiles have changed over the past

80 years. Engines, sizes of cars as well

as their appearances have changed dra-

matically. 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 Fran-

cisco most homes over 70-80 years of

age require a tremendous amount of

maintenance. While older homes may

appear to be affordable, first time home-

owners frequently experience the hard

way what the true costs actually are for

maintaining an older structure. Unex-

pected funds are often needed to replace

nob & tube wiring, updating old gal-

vanized plumbing to copper, adding

insulation missing from walls and ceil-

ings, and for dealing with inefficient

furnaces, faulty heating ducts, and leak-

ing roofs and windows - not to mention

worn out water heaters and single

pane windows. And all of these hid-

den 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 erro-

neously 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 pro-

posal 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 trig-

gered, 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 beco

ming more compli-

cated and highly restrictive.

In the past residents wanting to

expand their homes have had to com-

promise their expectations, having to

deal with hostile neighbors well versed

in the ‘Discretionary Review’ pro-

cess, 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 daunt-

ing 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 eas-

ily 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 mes-

sage are our legislators sending to those

who want to expand their homes to

allow for an aging parent? Clearly this

detrimental pending legislation needs

to be discarded and rewritten to reflect

the typical three-month permit process

that our neighboring communities have

in place. It is time for common sense to


David Costello,

Global Real Estate Advisor


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