Wednesday, January 30, 2013

San Francisco condo conversion effort delayed after long debate

After nearly four hours of debate Monday afternoon, a vote on a proposal that would give San Francisco tenancy-in-common owners a one-time opportunity to bypass The City’s condo-conversion lottery system by paying a fee was postponed by a Board of Supervisors committee.

Emotionally charged tenant advocates and homeowners squared off against one another over the years-in-the making legislation proposed by Supervisor Mark Farrell with the backing of Supervisor Scott Wiener.

“I’m not a millionaire,” said Staci Salvi, who purchased a tenancy-in-common unit eight years ago and recently had a child. “We are middle-class families that want to stay in The City. Please help us do that. If we lose everything we will have to start again, and it won’t be and it can’t be in San Francisco.”

But Fran Taylor, a community advocate, called it “class warfare.”

“Don’t kick us out because of what the banks are doing to you,” Taylor said.

People living in such units share a percentage of a building’s ownership and do not own the units outright, unlike condo owners who have access to financing with lower mortgage rates.

Under the legislation, tenancy-in-common owners who participated and lost in the 2012 and 2013 lotteries could convert by paying a fee of up to $20,000 per unit. The City’s lottery system allows 200 units a year be converted into condos.

Board President David Chiu, who sits on the committee along with Wiener and Supervisor Jane Kim, said he opposed the legislation and requested the postponement until Feb. 25 to allow for negotiations.

“My most significant concern is that if we allow the current generation of TIC owners to convert, we will quickly replace them with a new generation of TIC owners,” Chiu said.

Kim suggested there is a need for a larger fee and a ban on the sale of converted condos for up to 10 years.

“TIC homeownership is absolutely one of the things that our city does not want to encourage,” Kim said, noting that rent control units, those built before June 1979, are “a depleting stock every single year.”

According to the Department of Public Works, which administers the conversion program, 2,393 units from 701 properties were entered into last year’s lottery. A total of 124 units had been in the lottery for seven years. Under the proposal, existing protections against tenant eviction would remain and any tenants residing in these buildings would have to be offered lifetime leases.

Earlier this month, Plan C, a homeowner advocacy group, launched a lobbying effort on supervisors London Breed, Norman Yee and Malia Cohen to secure enough support at the full board to ensure the legislation’s passage.

Legislation would take at least six votes to pass and has the support of Wiener, Farrell and Supervisor Carmen Chu.

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