Legislation will allow for previously prohibited new in-law units within residential properties in the Castro neighborhood, in order to increase affordable and accessible rental options for individuals, like LGBT seniors, who are continuing to be priced out of the neighborhood.

San Francisco, CA - At next week's Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Scott Wiener will introduce legislation allowing for construction of new in-law units (sometimes known as secondary, granny, or accessory units) within residential buildings in the Castro neighborhood. In-law units are often built in garage, basement, or storage spaces. These new units will offer an affordable and accessible housing option for individuals in the Castro, including LGBT seniors, who are being priced out of the neighborhood. The units will be rent-controlled if constructed within buildings that are currently rent-controlled.

"The Castro, like neighborhoods all over San Francisco, is experiencing a housing affordability crisis, with average rents more than $3,000 per month," said Supervisor Wiener. "Allowing the addition of in-law units will create a low impact way to create more affordable housing options in the Castro. Many neighborhood residents are being pushed out, or are at risk of being pushed out, and these units will help address this major challenge. While there is no silver bullet for housing affordability, allowing in-law units is a step in the right direction. "

A wide body of literature has examined the affordability of in-law units and has concluded that these units are significantly more affordable than other apartments, due to several factors: no new land is required, the buildings are already built, the entitlement process is shorter, and most supportive infrastructure is already in place. Many other local jurisdictions, including Santa Cruz and Portland, allow accessory units in order to provide a more affordable housing option for residents.

"Too many seniors I talk to worry every day about losing their apartment and being forced to leave San Francisco because they simply can't afford to stay," said Openhouse Executive Director. "Those who are more secure in their apartments worry what will happen when their needs change. That uncertainty is not healthy for anyone, but being forced out of their community is especially threatening for LGBT seniors. A pathway to get smaller private landlords to help grow the housing pie with more accessible and affordable units will help a lot of people getting squeezed out of the Castro rental market. We need those kinds of additive strategies. Coupled with enforcement of age non-discrimination laws, LGBT seniors will surely Members, Board of Supervisors City and County of San Francisco Districts 8 take advantage of those additional opportunities to stay here in the community they spent a lifetime to build." 

The legislation will allow for new in-law units on any parcel within 1,750 feet of the Castro Neighborhood Commercial District, which stretches, approximately, from Hill Street on the south to 14th Street on the north and Dolores Park on the east to Market Street at Clayton on the west. Within this area, any parcel currently zoned residential may add one or two in-law units beyond density limits, depending on the size of the building. A building that has 10 or fewer units can add one unit, while a building with more than 10 units can add up to two units.

Other provisions of the legislation include: the units must be built within the envelope of the existing building (ie, no physical expansion of the building's height or bulk), units cannot exceed 750 square feet and will typically be a minimum of 220 square feet, and units cannot be created by subdividing a current unit. Each unit will be required to have its own kitchen and bathroom. Additionally, the Zoning Administrator and the Department of Building Inspection will have the authority to relax certain zoning and Building Code provisions as necessary to authorize these units and make them feasible.

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