New legislation on student housing in San Francisco in the works

Students may not need to use Craigslist to find housing anymore.

Together, Supervisor Scott Wiener, the San Francisco Planning Department and the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition have been working on creating legislation that would not only define student housing in San Francisco, but would also create new student housing facilities and increase residential housing, which they say is scarce.

Tim Colen, executive director of the SFHAC, said their focus has been on the production of new student housing. They estimate that there is a shortage of more than 50,000 beds in San Francisco.

The ordinance defines student housing as living space for students of universities or higher educational institutions that must be owned, operated or controlled by those institutions. Student housing will be permitted in specified zoning districts, especially those near universities.

The new ordinance will ban conversion of residential housing into student housing but will, however, allow student housing that is no longer owned or controlled by higher educational institutions to become residential housing.

In creating a clear definition, Wiener hopes to address the shortage of student housing available while acknowledging other housing shortages as well.

“We want to create new student housing without cannibalizing existing housing stock,” Wiener said.

Those involved with the legislation know that finding housing in San Francisco for both residents and students is tough.

They want this ordinance to encourage new construction of student housing so that students are not occupying permanent residential housing.

“We hope that it will contain a lot of incentives to build new (student housing) and to help us get at this situation,” Colen said.

Amendments to the proposed legislation would allow a few exceptions to converting existing housing into student housing. Institutions would be able to convert housing previously used as religious housing such as monasteries and convents.

Also, housing that is on a lot adjacent to a postsecondary institution could be converted into student housing as long as that institution has owned that housing for at least 10 years.

In 2010, then-mayor Gavin Newsom signed an ordinance that exempts specific student housing from housing fees when the housing is provided to students who have demonstrated some financial need. That legislation prompted the planning department to create a definition of student housing, said Sophie Hayward from the planning department who has been working with Wiener on the legislation.

Students use Craigslist because it is an easy way to find housing when living in the dorms may not be an option.

Communications major Andrea Bedoy, 21, who lives in a two-bedroom apartment in the city, said students could benefit from new student housing because many have a hard time finding apartments.

Two girls she knew could not get into the dorms and had to live in a hotel until they could find a good place to live.

“I think (new student construction) would be beneficial,” said Bedoy. “I don’t know who would take advantage of it, but it would be a good back-up plan.”

Residents expressed concern about the effectiveness of the new legislation. Since housing is scarce, they want this legislation to protect that housing from being occupied by students.

Former supervisor John Bardis said neighborhood associations are concerned about the lack of housing for residents; an increase in student housing should leave more room for the residents in neighborhoods in the city, especially those overrun with students.

“Hopefully new construction of housing for students would provide and save the housing that is needed and expand the housing supply of our city,” Bardis said.

There is concern from smaller higher education institutions about the effects of this legislation.

Megann Sept, associate dean of the San Francisco Art Institute, said her institution has 650 students and the institution houses approximately 140 of those students in two leased buildings downtown. She said they support the ordinance but ask that they accommodate small schools like her institution.

Sept said the school has never been able to acquire additional property for student housing.

The buildings leased for student housing are old hotels and hostels, which do not displace permanent residents.

Written by
Latest comment