New Legislation re Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

Ordinance No. 208-21, which became effective on December 12, 2021, amends Planning Code Section 207(c)(4) to clarify the requirements for applications to construct Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) under the City’s "Local Program". 

ADUs, also called secondary units, in-law units, or cottages, are units added to existing and new residential buildings. Although ADUs are often constructed in the common areas of a tenant-occupied building, Rent Ordinance Section 37.2(r) prohibits a landlord from removing or reducing certain common-area amenities from a tenancy, such as storage, parking, or laundry facilities, without a just cause.

The legislation requires property owners who intend to construct an ADU under the City’s Local Program to first provide the building tenants a Notice of Addition of ADU(s), which describes the proposed ADU project, along with a written Declaration under penalty of perjury stating whether or not the ADU project will result in the loss of any tenant housing services.

The Notice and Declaration must be posted in an accessible common area of the building, and mailed or delivered to each unit (including unauthorized units), at least 15 calendar days prior to submitting an application to construct the ADU. Both the Notice and the Declaration must be provided to tenants and filed with the Rent Board before the owner’s ADU permit application can be filed with the Planning Department. These documents can be filed with the Rent Board by email at rentboard@sfgov.org, by mail, or in-person at our office located at 25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 320, San Francisco, CA 94102. 

Tenants at the property may contest the information in the property owner's Declaration by filing a Tenant Objection and Request for Hearing form. The Tenant Objection form must be filed within 30 calendar days of the date the tenant was provided the property owner's Declaration and Notice of Addition of ADU(s). If the 30th day falls on a weekend or legal holiday, the Tenant Objection form may be filed on the following business day. If no Tenant Objection forms are timely filed, the Rent Board will transmit the property owner's Declaration to the Planning Department. If a Tenant Objection is timely filed, the Rent Board will endeavor to transmit the property owner's Declaration and its final written determination to the Planning Department within 90 calendar days of receipt of the Tenant Objection form. The Planning Department will not approve an application to construct an ADU under the Local Program unless (1) the Rent Board has transmitted the property owner's Declaration and final written determination and (2) the materials transmitted by the Rent Board indicate that construction of the ADU will not result in the removal or substantial reduction of any tenant housing services set forth in Administrative Code Section 37.2(r), unless the property owner demonstrates that a "just cause" exists for the removal/reduction or that the tenant supplied with that housing service has given their express written consent for the removal/reduction.

In addition, the legislation amends Rent Ordinance Sections 37.2(r) and 37.9(f) to clarify that the issuance of a permit to construct an ADU does not, on its own, constitute a just cause for the purpose of removing or substantially reducing a housing service, and to provide tenants with additional remedies (including treble damages) in the event housing services are removed by the property owner in violation of 37.2(r).