In San Francisco : Granny Units Being Discussed Again

Granny units are back. Or at least the talk about those often illegal in-home apartments is elbowing its way into the headlines here again.

Discussed for several years, the legality of in-law apartments became pertinent two years ago when a state law mandated that local city guidelines be set up so that homeowners could add second units. By the extended deadline in 1984, many California cities had not conformed. San Francisco planners, like those in some other areas, are still wrestling with the idea.

Suggest Conditions

Last month, the San Francisco Planning Commission heard preliminary discussions on the city's first step toward allowing in-law units. Proposed legislation would permit single-family homeowners to add second units under these conditions:

--Units would be confined to a 600-square-foot area and comply with all zoning controls.

--Each unit must provide one off-street parking space.

--New units must conform to handicapped access requirements (as must the rest of the house).

--Homeowners setting up in-law units must be 50% owners and must live in the house; they must also register annually and pay documentation fees.

Most controversial, according to several community organizations, is the stipulation that these newly proposed units be rented only to tenants who are 62 years or older or who are disabled.

More Units Needed

A spokesman for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce said what the city really needs is a "pro-active" mother-in-law ordinance so that an extensive number--perhaps as many as 3,800--of the units could be built. Other opponents of the present restrictions feel that allowing units only for those over 62 and the handicapped is too narrow.

One local newspaper pointed out editorially that these smaller units are needed for a wider range of renters--working singles, college students, marine workers, transient sales people, etc. In the discussion, backers of the idea have included the Sierra Club, People For Open Spaces and the Bay Area Council.

Several months ago, Dean Macris, city planning director, suggested that a more comprehensive blanket of legislation for in-law units could be considered if this first proposed step proves acceptable. A Planning Commission hearing has been set for Thursday.

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