The City Council’s Housing Committee recently directed attorneys to draft an ordinance that would give amnesty to the owners of nearly 600 illegal residential units as part of a larger effort to retain affordable housing in the city. The ordinance would give owners of multi-family complexes a path toward making their unapproved units legal, as long as the units are kept affordable, are safe to live in and comply with other conditions. The city issued citations against the owners of 2,560 illegal units between 2010 and 2015, according to a city report, but while 201 were legalized, 1,765 were ultimately removed, leaving tenants of those units without affordable housing.
The proposed amnesty period would apply to the remaining 594 unapproved units that have not been removed. The illegal units are usually converted from non-residential spaces — such as rec rooms — into living units, and are usually livable but out of compliance with the area’s zoning laws, said Councilman Felipe Fuentes. Fuentes, who introduced a motion last year calling for an alternative way of dealing with the units, said he hopes to next tackle illegal living spaces converted from garages, which are tougher to bring into compliance. Other cities, such as San Francisco, West Hollywood and Santa Monica, have already set up ways for unapproved housing units to be brought into compliance.