Dufty Pushing Legislation to Encourage Condo Conversions

by Casey Mills on September 28, 2005

A hearing will be held today on Supervisor Bevan Dufty’s legislation to restructure the condominium conversions lottery, giving precedence to those who’ve been in the lottery the longest. The legislation would speed up the conversion process, guaranteeing that those who own Tenancies in Common (TICs) would eventually be able to make them condos. While it has little chance of passing, the proposed change could increase the desirability of TICs along with the number of evictions issued to acquire them, and represents an act of bad faith just as tenant representatives have agreed to sit down with landlords and negotiate on the Ellis Act Task Force.

The current process for those who purchase TICs – multi-unit buildings which several owners share financial responsibility for – works as follows: everyone who wants to convert their building into condos must enter into a lottery. Each year, the city chooses 200 buildings at random that will be allowed to convert. Those passed up must wait until the next year for another chance at conversion, and so on.

Over 1,500 owners applied for TIC conversion last year, and to address the backlog Dufty recently proposed legislation allowing everyone currently in the lottery to convert. It failed, and the District 8 Supervisor’s current legislation represents a second attempt to make conversion easier.

Converting to condos greatly increases the value of TICs. However, because the lottery is random, it’s possible some TIC owners would never be allowed to do so. By introducing seniority in the process, those with TICs could be assured that eventually, they would be allowed to convert, greatly increasing the desirability of these types of units.

This possible increase has caused grave concern amongst tenant advocates, who have been increasingly calling attention to the large number of evictions – particularly those in which speculators employ the Ellis Act to clear potential buildings – occurring throughout San Francisco as a direct result of people pursuing TICs. Any increase in TIC purchases, they argue, means an increase in evictions of tenants.

Such a proposal comes at a particularly bad time, as both sides of the battle over TICs recently agrees to attempt to sit down together and work out a solution. Mayor Gavin Newsom and Supervisor Aaron Peskin created the Ellis Act Task force two weeks ago, and so far tenants and landlords seem to be acting in good faith.

“Pushing this legislation is pretty much bad faith on the part Dufty,” said Ted Gullicksen, head of the Tenants Union, who will sit on the tenants’ side of the task force along with Housing Rights Committee’s Tommi Avicolli-Mecca, Asian Law Caucus’ Gen Fujioka, Tenderloin Housing Clinic’s Dean Preston, and AIDS Housing Alliance’s Brian Basinger.

Dufty’s district, which includes the Castro and Noe Valley, includes one of the highest concentration of TICs in the city.

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