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Plan to shrink minimum S.F. apartment size hits political snag

Posted: Aug 08, 2012

A developer-backed proposal to shrink the minimum living space of a San Francisco apartment to 150 square feet faces a delay of at least a month, while the supervisor who floated the plan scrambles to shore up support from wary colleagues.

Supervisor Scott Wiener last week delayed a vote on the legislation until at least September. Supporters of the plan say they are scrambling to line up the necessary votes on the Board of Supervisors. Wiener’s proposal first appeared before the board in June. It would redefine “efficiency” apartments, reducing the minimum allowable living space to 150 square feet from the current 220 square feet, not including the kitchen, bathroom and closet.

Since the ordinance’s introduction, it was amended to clarify that the new rules would only apply to new construction, an effort to mollify concerns that landlords could circumvent rent control by chopping up apartments and calling them new construction, which would qualify for new certificates of occupancy, thus outside of the purview of rent control. Another amendment required residency in the smallest units to be limited to two people after tenant activists expressed fears that families now living in larger efficiencies could be evicted if their living conditions became retroactively illegal.

Tim Colen, executive director of the Housing Action Coalition, a group of developers, lobbyists, lawyers, architects and a few civic organizations, proposed the idea and is its biggest supporter. Colen said that Wiener is pulling the proposal back temporarily to avoid having it voted down this summer. “We go back to the drawing board and see if we can address the concerns,” Colen said. Read more here.

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