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What’s Really at Stake in SF’s Proposed Condo Conversion Plan

Randy Shawbyline‚ Feb. 04‚ 2013

Over thirty years ago, San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein signed legislation limiting the conversion of rental units to condominiums to 200 per year. Feinstein was hardly a zealous tenant advocate, yet she and the Board of Supervisors recognized that eliminating rent-controlled apartments is the wrong approach to San Francisco’s housing problems. City officials also recognized that the neighborhoods where conversions of 3-6 unit buildings were most likely to occur---such as North Beach, Noe Valley, the Castro, and Haight-Ashbury---offer little space for new rental housing to be built.

Limiting condo conversions was seen as an essential tool for maintaining neighborhood economic diversity. That’s why voters and the Board have consistently refused to increase the condo conversion limit despite huge campaign spending by realtors. Now Supervisor Scott Wiener claims that the foreclosure crisis justifies circumventing the longtime 200 limit by allowing over 2000 units to “bypass” existing law; but his legislation---and the facts--- undermine this argument.