In residential westside neighborhoods that are dominated by single-family homes — some of them empty, large, in disrepair, and/or in need of hefty updates — San Francisco could streamline the process of building duplexes and fourplexes, says Supervisor Myrna Melgar, and create some more "gentle density" that will also provide more practical housing for seniors.
Melgar appears to be addressing a specific problem she's seen in her Ingleside Terraces neighborhood, namely big, single-family homes that are left mostly vacant after older residents age out of them or move to be closer to their adult children and grandchildren. But sometimes these people would prefer to stay in the neighborhood, just in a smaller and more practical home — and the families who own the properties could benefit financially from dividing them into multiple units.
Thus, on Tuesday, Melgar introduced legislation to create a so-called "family housing opportunity special use district" that encompasses her district, west of Twin Peaks, as well as part of District 4, which includes the Outer Sunset and Parkside. The legislation, if passed, would streamline and hasten the approval process for converting a single-family property into two, three, or four units. It would also loosen height limits.
Melgar argues that many homes are sitting empty in San Francisco in part because families can't decide the best course of action to maximize the property's value, and renovating or subdividing the home is cost-prohibitive.
"It is time to make it easier to live in this city that we all love," said Melgar in a statement to the Chronicle. "It is time for government to make it easier to adapt their properties to modern living, upgrade electrical and plumbing systems to meet safety codes and add permitted units that provide homeowners income and stability."
Melgar refers to this as making "gentle density" happen in neighborhoods where it otherwise wouldn't.
The boundaries of the proposed "special use district" are not entirely clear as of this writing, but the Chronicle says the district would include Ingleside Terraces, Forest Hill, Forest Knolls, Midtown Terrace, Mount Davidson Manor, Saint Francis Wood, West Portal, Westwood Park, and parts of Parkside and the Sunset.
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who got his own fourplex legislation passed last year, says he'd support the legislation as long as its written to preclude mega-houses from being built — tearing down smaller homes to build 6,000-square-foot monstrosities with tiny in-law units attached.
We'll see how this all shakes out, but you can expect more pushback from the westside residents who want everything to stay like the suburbs out there forever.
Photo: Daniel Abadia