Up in Smoke
The US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro announced at the end of last year that public housing developments must provide smoke-free environments for all residents. While the rule went into effect January of 2017, public housing agencies across the United States must implement mandatory smoke-free policies and penalties by July 30, 2018.
All lit tobacco products (including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and hookahs) will be prohibited in living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices, and outdoor areas within 25 feet of buildings. While electronic cigarettes aren’t explicitly banned, HUD is urging individual public housing agencies to consider e-cigarettes at their own discretion.
The hope for this smoke-free mandate is to protect children and non-smokers from secondhand smoke and also to reduce the damage and maintenance costs caused by smoking indoors. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the smoke-free mandate will save public housing agencies $94 million in secondhand smoke health care, $43 million in repairs and renovations of smoking-permitted units, and $16 million in smoking-related fires.
The smoking ban is receiving both praise and criticism. Those against the ban view it as government intrusion or an invasion of privacy. Audrey Silk, founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, says the new federal housing rule will force the elderly and sick people to smoke outside of their homes, even when the weather is bad. Those in favor of the ban praise the health benefits.
No Restrictions on Internet Service Providers
In an effort to ease broadband pains across the city, San Francisco has banned building owners from determining their tenants’ Internet Service Providers. The law, written by Supervisor Mark Farrell, went into effect January of this year. “San Francisco is now one step closer toward providing true competition and choice on the market,” he says of his plan. The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the ordinance.
Under the mandate, tenants in residential and commercial buildings of four or more units can choose any ISP certified by the California Public Utilities Commission to install lines and bring access. The carriers must give building owners advance notice, pay rent on the space the equipment occupies, and pay for any damage to the building through installation. ISPs will also be required to use existing building wire, if owned by the landlord.
New Building Code in Effect
As of January 1, 2017, new building codes are in effect. Read on to make sure you’re compliant with the new legislation.
Building Façade Inspection and Maintenance
The facades of certain buildings with five or more stories must be inspected periodically by a qualified and licensed architect or engineer retained by the property owner. Inspection reports must be submitted to the owner and Department of Building Inspection. Inspections will include communications equipment, pipes and ductwork, decorative elements, signs, fire escapes, flagpoles, vertical extensions such as vents, light fixtures, hanging air conditioners, and elements that could pose a safety hazard. Inspection reports must be submitted according to a tiered timeline.
Mandatory Disabled Access Improvements
The bill requires that commercial landlords state whether or not the property has been inspected by the Certified Access Specialist program on all rental agreements executed on or after January 1, 2017. Commercial landlords are also required to provide tenants with an up-to-date disability access inspection certificate and inspection report.
If the property does not have the inspection certificate, the bill requires specific language on the lease stating that CASp can inspect the property for compliance with accessibility standards. The lease must also state that while a CASp inspection is not required by law, the owner may not prohibit the tenant from obtaining a CASp inspection of the property. And, finally, the owner and tenant shall mutually agree on the terms of the CASp inspection, including time, payment of fees, and cost of any repairs deemed necessary by the inspection report.
Conditional Use Required to Remove Any Residential Unit
The removal of a dwelling by merging with another unit, demolition, or change to a non-residential space will require a Dwelling Unit Removal Application, an appointment with the Planning Department, a mandatory public hearing, and a notification to neighbors. Visit sf-planning.org for more information.
For more information on these codes, visit http://sfdbi.org/codes/.
California Announces Four New Bills
California lawmakers announced four new bills aimed at ending the housing crisis in December. AB 71, 73, and 74, introduced by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and AB 72, introduced by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) are summarized below.
AB 71—The Bring California Home Act
This bill would eliminate the state mortgage interest deduction on vacation homes. The estimated $300 million in funds gained would be used to increase the state Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, creating 3,000 affordable homes.
AB 72—Increase Enforcement of Existing State Housing Laws
This bill would give funds to the attorney general to enforce existing state housing laws, including the Housing Accountability Act. The AG already has the authority to enforce these laws, but apparently does not have the funding to do so.
AB 73—Spur Production of High-Density, Transit-Oriented Housing
This bill intends to increase housing on infill sites around public transportation. The bill would provide an incentive payment when local governments permit transit-oriented development zoned at high densities and complete an Environmental Impact Report on the location.
AB 74—Housing for a Healthy California
The introduction of a program that would pay for the cost of chronically homeless on Medi-Cal, including the costs of emergency room visits, inpatient facilities, treatment centers and nursing homes. The intent is to more effectively use public dollars to support rental assistance and prevent homelessness.
Short-Term Rental Update
Mayor Ed Lee vetoed legislation in December that would have restricted short-term rentals to 60 days a year. The current law allows hosts to rent rooms within their homes for an unlimited number of days, and restricts hosts from renting their entire homes for more than 90 days a year.
Mayor Lee defended the veto by saying the new bill would encourage more hosts to rent their properties illegally and make the current law more difficult to enforce.
Affordable Housing for Artists
The tragedy of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland on December 2, 2016 left many concerned about safe, affordable housing for artists in cities with high costs of living.
A Minneapolis-based nonprofit called ArtSpace has been in the news lately for the work it does with cities to develop affordable housing for artists. The company also helps cities find local, state, and federal funding for development.
Perhaps one of the most notable projects is the Tannery Arts Center in Santa Cruz. The Salz-Tannery closed its doors in 2001 and the city teamed with Artspace to convert the property into affordable housing for artists. The Tannery Arts Center sits on eight acres and includes 28 commercial art studios and 100 live/work studios. The vacancies filled immediately, and there are currently 300 people on a waiting list.
Potential residents must apply for the housing, and make less than half of the local median income. In Santa Cruz specifically, applicants must make 50 percent less than the area’s $67,000 median income. Eligibility guidelines are determined by HUD.
The Tannery in Santa Cruz was Artspace’s first California project, and new development is in the works in Monterey.
February with the SFAA
Please note the SFAA February member meeting will take place on February 27, which is the fourth Monday of the month. Don’t miss speaker Greg M. Kato, Gross Receipts Tax Director. Additionally, the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector will hold classes mid-February at the public library.
Look for an exciting revamp of the SFAA website by the end of the month. The SFAA has been working hard to improve members’ online access to forms, renewal fees, class and event registration, as well as overall customer service experience.