Press Release: San Francisco Board of Supervisors Passes Housing Legislation to Allow New In-Law Units, Expand Rent Controlled Housing

Legislation by Supervisors Wiener and Christensen will allow for new in-law units — which are the most affordable type of non-subsidized housing and are subject to rent control if built within rent-controlled buildings — in unused spaces such as garages, large storage areas, and basements in Districts 8 and 3

San Francisco, CA — Today the Board of Supervisors passed two pieces of legislation authored by Supervisors Scott Wiener and Julie Christensen to allow the construction of new in-law units throughout Districts 8 and 3, which they represent on the Board of Supervisors. These two pieces of legislation follow on Supervisor Wiener’s Castro In-Law Unit legislation passed last year, as well as his recently passed legislation to allow for the addition of in-law units in apartment buildings undergoing seismic retrofit. New in-law units must be added within a building’s existing envelope, and new units added in rent-controlled buildings will be rent-controlled as well.

“San Francisco is experiencing a severe housing shortage, and we need to identify new ways to add housing,” said Supervisor Wiener. “These in-law units are the most sustainable, low-impact way to add housing in our neighborhoods, and they are the most affordable type of non-subsidized housing available. These units can also stem the loss of rent controlled housing by adding new rent controlled units to the market.”

“For District 3, the prospect of both creating new housing options, and expanding rent-control, is very exciting,” said Supervisor Christensen. “As one of the densest districts in the City, this is a great step in providing a wide variety of housing opportunities while retaining the character of many of our oldest neighborhoods.”

The Castro In-law legislation passed last year by the Board, allowed for new in-law units on any parcel within 1,750 feet of the Castro Neighborhood Commercial District. Supervisor Wiener’s legislation expands this allowance to any parcel within District 8, including Noe Valley, Glen Park, and Diamond Heights. Supervisor Christensen’s legislation will allow new in-law units throughout District 3, which includes North Beach, Russian Hill, Nob Hill, and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Other provisions of the legislation include: the units must be built within the envelope of the existing building (i.e., no physical expansion of the building’s height or bulk), and units cannot be created by subdividing a current unit (i.e., they must be created from non-residential space). Each unit will be required to have its own kitchen and bathroom. Additionally, the Zoning Administrator and the Department of Building Inspection will have the authority to relax certain non-life-safety zoning and Building Code provisions as necessary to authorize these units and make them feasible.

Supervisor Wiener also authored legislation previously passed by the Board of Supervisors to allow the construction of new in-law units in buildings undergoing either mandatory or voluntary soft-story seismic retrofits. Adding new in-law units to a building while it is being retrofitted is more efficient and cost-effective for property owners by combining two projects into one, adds new, more affordable housing stock, provides a financial benefit for owners who are being mandated to perform often expensive retrofits, and incentivizes owners to perform voluntary retrofits.

The San Francisco Planning and Research Association (SPUR) recently issued a report on the benefits of in-law units in addressing San Francisco’s housing crisis:

Contacts: Supervisor Scott Wiener, (415) 554–6968,
Supervisor Julie Christensen. (415) 554–7450,

CA State Senator. Urbanist. Environmentalist. Advocate for transit, housing, clean energy, criminal justice reform, health, ending poverty. Democrat. 🏳️‍🌈

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