cityhall3.jpgA proposal that would allow San Francisco residents to pay a fee to bypass a lottery for condominium conversions was shelved for four weeks at the conclusion of a Board of Supervisors committee hearing Monday.

The board’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee considered the proposal, which applies to buildings that are eligible to be converted from apartments or tenancies-in-common to condominiums.

Tenancies-in-common are multiple residential units that have shared ownership in a building, while condominiums are exempt from rent control regulations and are easier to finance.

A limit of 200 properties in the city can be converted to condominiums annually via a lottery. Under the proposal, there would be a fee of up to $20,000 to bypass the lottery and there would not be a limit on the number of conversions, as long as the property in question qualifies for the lottery.

The lottery bypass option would only be offered during a one-year window, on a one-time-only basis.

The legislation was strongly opposed by the San Francisco Tenants Union and other tenant groups who organized a rally outside City Hall prior to Monday’s hearing.

Ted Gullicksen of the San Francisco Tenants Union said the legislation is “an assault on the two most important laws protecting tenants — rent control and condo conversions.”

Gullicksen argued that the proposal would lead to evictions, although its proponents noted that the legislation includes a provision guaranteeing a lifetime lease for tenants whose units are converted to condos via the bypass fee.

Many owners of tenancies-in-common attended Monday’s hearing and disputed the notion that evictions would occur, saying they just want to be able to refinance at a lower interest rate and are not renting out their units.

“The vast majority are owner-occupied,” owner Bobbi Clemens said.

“No rental units are being lost.”

Supervisor Mark Farrell, who authored the legislation with Supervisor Scott Wiener as a co-sponsor, said it was “designed to benefit everyone … it isn’t designed to pit homeowners against renters.”

But board president David Chiu said he could not support the proposal in its current form, saying allowing owners of tenancies-in-common to convert their units to condos would just create a new generation of tenancy-in-common owners in the same situation in a few years.

Supervisor Jane Kim agreed and said the proposal would lead to a further reduction of the city’s rent-controlled housing, which she said has “a depleting stock every single year.”

Chiu requested postponing a vote until Feb. 25 so tenant and homeowner groups can meet and negotiate potential changes to the legislation.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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