You are hereMaking Legal the Construction of In-Law Units in the Castro / Eureka Valley

Making Legal the Construction of In-Law Units in the Castro / Eureka Valley

sch75's picture

By sch75 - Posted on 13 November 2013

Neighborhood Survey - Click to give us your opinion!

On October 29th, Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced legislation to the Board of Supervisors to amend the Planning and Administrative Codes to allow Construction of In-Law Units in Existing Residential Buildings or Auxiliary Structures on the Same Lot. These new housing units would be under rent control if any unit in the building is currently under rent control.

These new rules would alloy to residential properties within 1750 feet of the Castro Street Neighborhood Commercial District. (roughly three blocks from the NCD - each major block is approximately 600-620 feet). There is an exception which prohibits in-laws on any parcel within 500 feet of the "Montecito" at 4096 17th Street.

Quoting Scott

"The legislation is straightforward. It allows buildings, whether single-family homes or multi-unit buildings, to go slightly above current zoning restrictions to add in-law units. Buildings of 10 or fewer units can add one in-law unit above zoning limits, and buildings of more than 10 units can add two. The units will have to be within existing habitable space – i.e., a garage, a large storage space, a large basement area – within the existing envelope of the building. Height or bulk increases will not be allowed by this legislation. The units will have to come from unused space, without chopping up existing units. The units can be as small as 220 square feet (the minimum currently allowed for apartments) and as large as 750 square feet. Each unit will have to be complete, with kitchen and bathroom. The Department of Building Inspection will be required to apply the building code flexibly, to the extent allowed by state law, to accommodate the new units. This flexible approach will require that the units comply with basic health and safety requirements while recognizing that many in-law units cannot meet all aspects of current code."

This proposed legislation would have the most significant impact on residential planning in our neighborhood since the 1960's!

The proposed legislation is fairly straight forward, however there may be some unanswered questions. The EVNA Planning and Land Use Committee (PC) has established a sub-committee to evaluate the proposed legislation and to provide any feedback that we feel would be beneficial to those to love, work and play in Eureka Valley.

See our Frequently Asked Questions:

If you would like to be part of the ENVA planning process, please contact Steve Hall ASAP. Steve is the initial head of the PC Sub-committee.

The EVNA Process

  • Stand up the PLUC Sub Committee [COMPLETED]
  • Develop easy to comprehend materials to educate our constituency, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) that we hear.
  • Conduct sample interviews with our neighbors.
  • Develop an online survey/feedback system to get informed opinions from our constituents
  • Solicit inputs from all interested.
  • Provide any feedback and recommendations to Supervisor Wiener (target completion ?)

For More Information

Read Scott's Letter to the B.A.R.

Check Status of the legislation



11/12/13 - Update

The proposed legislation was referred to the Planning Department for environmental review; Planning Commission for public hearing and recommendation; Rent Board; Mayor's Office of Housing; and Building Inspection Department for informational purposes.

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If I had the capacity to install or construct an in-law unit, I would consider renting it out on a nightly or semi-nightly/weekly basis via This choice would obviously do nothing or little at best to increase the housing stock or come to the aid of middle income renters seeking more affordable housing. It would, however, substantially increase my return on investment. Just curious whether there is there anything in the legislation discouraging or preventing people from taking this approach?

Thank you!

sch75's picture

We are just at the beginning of the process of hearing comments and concern of neighbors over this proposed legislation.

My first questioning thought is, how effective will this policy be in providing more affordable housing to people who want to live with us here in the Castro? The proposed geographical area is quite small, about the three blocks surrounding the Castro NCD. A major portion to the NorthWest is excluded. Then of existing housing stock in this small area, a residential building has to have 225-750 sq-ft of extra space in the basement or an existing outbuilding to carve out one new unit (two if the building has 6 or more units). More significantly, property owners will need to be convinced that adding another unit on their property is a "good thing" for them, or else we won't see many additional units added to our housing stock. "What's in it for me?" There must be positive incentives for property owners to provide this additional housing, or we won't realize any.

Then some holes.... Can a new construction building intentionally include 750sq-ft of storage space with the intention of later converting that space to another unit? Still unknown are the actual exemptions to the SF Building Code that will be allowed by DBI.