Legislative package will grant the City Attorney and the Department of Building Inspection greater authority to pursue code violations, unify the code enforcement processes for all departments to create more accountability, and improve coordination across departments to improve building safety
San Francisco – (April 12, 2016) Today, the Board of Supervisors approved Supervisor Wiener’s code enforcement reform legislation to improve San Francisco’s code enforcement process, strengthen the City’s ability to crack down on serial code violators, and help code violators who want to correct their violations but cannot afford to do so. San Francisco’s current code enforcement process lacks coordination among different departments charged with inspecting and enforcing codes to keep San Francisco’s building stock safe and habitable, and creates accountability gaps that prevents the city from addressing significant violations of the Buildings, Fire, Health, and Planning Codes.
The legislation was unanimously recommended by the Planning Commission and the Building Inspection Commission.
“Making our buildings safe and habitable is good for tenants and for our neighborhoods,” said Supervisor Wiener. “We need to take clear and decisive action against serial code violators who ignore our laws. By strengthening our code enforcement process, we will empower our departments to act and improve accountability to the public, who bear the brunt of living in and among dilapidated buildings. This legislation will also provide more support for property owners to fix their properties when they cannot afford to do so.”
The legislation grants the City Attorney’s Office and the Department of Building Inspection more tools to enforce code violations, while harmonizing code inspection and enforcement processes across different city codes to ensure greater accountability and coordination among city departments. For example, the legislation allows the City Attorney’s Office to file suit against code violators without a formal referral from a city department; currently, some departments refer almost no code violations, even serious and longstanding violations, for litigation.
The legislation will also create a Code Enforcement Revolving Loan Fund, to provide low interest loans to qualifying small property owners to bring buildings up to code.
“It is the perfect time for this code enforcement reform,” said Debra Walker, who serves as the tenant representative on the Building Inspection Commission. “Our departments need to work together more effectively to make sure our buildings our safe, that our zoning is enforced. Everyone wins with this reform.”
This legislation will improve code enforcement efforts by doing the following:
1. Grants the City Attorney’s Office authority to pursue code violations without requiring departmental action.
- Currently, the City Attorney can only take action against serial code violators – like Academy of Art – if the Department refers the case to them. But Departments are at times hesitant to refer cases, or take so long to refer them that the violations are stale and thrown out by the Courts as not timely. This would allow the City Attorney to pro-actively pursue action for significant violations of the Building, Fire, Health, and Planning codes.
2. Gives DBI the clear and explicit authority to suspend all open permits on a project with a history of repeated violations of either the Building, Public Works, or Planning Codes.
- Currently, DBI typically only suspends the permit that the active violations most closely associate, leaving the contractor to continue work on other aspects of the project. This change would authorize a “stop all work” order, until all code violations have been fully investigated and resolved to the satisfaction of DBI. By freezing the project, DBI will have more leverage to enforce code violations.
3. Creates a unified code enforcement process for Building, Fire, and Health departments.
- Currently, the Building, Fire, and Health departments all have a different code enforcement process, including how these departments conduct investigations, issue notices of violations, hold administrative hearings, and assess penalties. This legislation will unify the processes that these three departments follow in enforcing violations related to buildings. This will include clear deadlines for taking action by both departments and violators to ensure code violations are corrected.
4. Creates more accountability by establishing a monthly reporting requirement for departments.
- Each report will include: for every Administrative Hearing scheduled, the departments shall report whether the issue has been resolved, along with any fees and costs paid, whether the matter has been or will be referred to the City Attorney for review, or other explanation of how the matter is being handled
5. Creates a Code Enforcement Revolving Loan Fund to provide low-interest loans to qualified property owners to bring buildings up to code.
- Supervisor Wiener worked to secure $4 million from the Department of Building Inspection’s fees for code enforcement efforts as part of last year’s Budget process. This fund will be backed by this money.