SRO housing protections move forward

Legislation approved by a Board of Supervisors committee Monday will make it harder for residential hotel owners to rent out rooms to tourists and help prevent the conversion of affordable housing into boutique hotels and short-term rental units, officials said.

The legislation introduced by Supervisor Aaron Peskin stops the practice of renting out SRO rooms by the week, requiring instead a 32-day minimum stay in most cases. The legislation also increases penalties for violations and in lieu conversion fees and strengthens the reporting requirements and enforcement powers for the Department of Building Inspection, which enforces the city’s SRO ordinance.

Peskin Monday said the stock of SRO units, which often serve as affordable housing of last resort for The City’s most vulnerable residents, has dropped from 33,000 units in the 1970s to around 19,000 today despite a 35-year-old law limiting conversions to other uses.

It is threatened further by the expanding short-term rental market, which has induced many landlords to pull units off the SRO market for use as tourist lodging, Peskin said:

“We believe this will return hundreds if not thousand of vacant units that have been awaiting conversion to the SRO housing market.”

Rosemary Bosque, chief housing inspector for the Department of Building Inspection, said the legislation would give the department the tools it needs to enforce the hotel conversion law:

“The increasingly rampant practice of ‘musical rooms’ in today’s vicious housing market has made it difficult for The City to track and enforce violations.”

A number of SRO tenants spoke Monday in support of the legislation, saying they found it increasingly difficult to find a room and feared displacement and homelessness as a result.

Stephen Tennis, a member of the Central City SRO Collaborative, said:

“If it wasn’t for an SRO I wouldn’t be able to live in San Francisco and I was born here, and I would just as soon die here.”

The legislation was approved by the Land Use and Transportation Committee today and will be heard by the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 31.