Uh Oh, Now There’s ANOTHER Lawsuit Against the City: Small Property Owners vs. the “Nonconforming Unit Ordinance”

Man, San Francisco sure seems to be getting sued a lot by property owners a lot these days.

Get used to it, 2014′s going to be a bumpy ride.

To wit:

“January 29, 2014 

SMALL PROPERTY OWNERS OF SAN FRANCISCO FILE LAWSUIT TO BLOCK LAW

New Ordinance Would Discriminate Against Families Who Move Into Their Own Buildings 

SAN FRANCISCO, Tuesday, January 28, 2014 – Today, the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute filed a lawsuit challenging Supervisor John Avalos’ Nonconforming Unit Ordinance on the grounds that the ordinance violates state law and fails to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The Nonconforming Unit Ordinance would legalize the practice of renovating and expanding “nonconforming units.” Nonconforming units are “grandfathered” residential units that exceed local zoning laws’ density limits. Controversially, the ordinance would also discriminate against nonconforming units that have been the subject of lawful “no-fault” evictions, which are allowed under state and local law. Such units would be denied building permits for up to 10 years following a lawful eviction – even for regular maintenance and minor repairs. Property owners would also be barred from rebuilding their units after a fire or earthquake.

“This legislation punishes families who move into their own buildings,” stated Noni Richen, president of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute (SPOSFI). “It could cause thousands of lawful housing units to sit vacant while the City denies permits for basic upkeep. Given the current housing shortage, this is unconscionable.”

“As we have shown again and again, we will not allow the City to violate property rights with these illegal schemes,” stated Andrew M. Zacks, SPOSFI’s attorney. “The state’s Ellis Act prohibits this kind of discrimination against lawful evictions. Moreover, cities are required to evaluate a new ordinance’s environmental impacts under CEQA. This legislation was rushed through without proper review.”

Nonconforming units are different from “in-law” units, which are generally unpermitted and illegal. For example, a permitted third unit on a parcel zoned for two units is considered a nonconforming unit. The City Planning Department’s Information and Analysis Group estimates that approximately 52,000 units in the city are nonconforming, comprising some 14% of the city’s housing stock.

A copy of the Nonconforming Unit Ordinance is available at http://zulpc.com/small-property-owners-file-suit-to-block-discriminatory-law/.

The Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute (“SPOSFI”) is a California nonprofit corporation. SPOSFI advocates for the Small Property Owners of San Francisco, a nonprofit organization that works to promote and preserve home ownership in San Francisco. Its focus is to protect the rights of small property owners and foster opportunities for first-time home buyers. SPOSFI members range from young families to the elderly on fixed incomes, and its membership cuts across all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic strata. Its members include San Francisco residents who own nonconforming residential units in San Francisco.

Zacks & Freedman, P.C. is a law firm dedicated to advocating for the rights of property owners. With experience and knowledge in rent control issues, zoning, permitting, transactional disputes and other real estate matters, Zacks & Freedman, P.C. has successfully advocated its clients’ positions before local administrative tribunals and at all levels of the State and Federal courts.

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