Mission Local sat down recently with District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener to talk about issues affecting San Franciscans and Mission residents. This interview is part of a series of monthly conversations between Mission Local and the supervisor. Readers with questions can send them to MissionLocal@gmail.com.
Mission Local: You and Supervisor Mark Farrell recently proposed legislation to address long-standing problems faced by people who want to convert their tenancies-in-common [TIC] to full-ownership condominium units. What is the problem that you think needs to be fixed?
Scott Wiener: Right now a lot of people bought their TICs thinking that they’d be able to convert [to a condominium] within five or six years, and it’s looking like 15 or 20 years. When you’re in a TIC, you’re typically in a joint mortgage, so if one person defaults, everyone has to make up that mortgage. It’s turned into a bad situation for a lot of TIC owners having a lot of financial risk, paying double the interest rates that other people pay.
The legislation would provide one-time relief for TIC owners who are in the [annual] lottery [that allows a certain number of people to convert]. They’ll have to pay a fee that will go to affordable housing. The units are 85 percent owner-occupied, so there are very few tenants who live in these units. The small number that do [will] receive lifetime leases with rent control protections for rent and eviction.
Supervisor Chiu and Supervisor Yee proposed amendments that were adopted to the legislation, [and] I think there are some problematic aspects. The current version of legislation is not acceptable, but we’re engaging in negotiations.
ML: How much is the one-time fee for the 2,200 people who currently have TICs?
SW: It’s $20,000 per unit. When you condo convert, there are quite a few fees that you pay to the city. It’s not cheap. The $20,000 is on top of the already existing fees.
ML: What do you think about the 10-year moratorium on the lottery that allows people to condo convert, which I believe was one of the amendments proposed?
SW: I’m OK with putting a pause on the lottery for a number of years. I would prefer that the moratorium be calculated by the number of people who participate in the bypass. So that if a smaller number of people participate, it’s a shorter moratorium. Having a minimum 10 years is a bit long.
ML: Does this legislation benefit residents who are being pushed out of the city because of rising rent rates?
SW: I think it does not have any impact one way or the other. What it does is stabilize housing for several thousand TIC owners, who are largely former renters who scraped together a downpayment. I do not believe that this leads to increased rent or increased evictions. I think that is a red herring. The fact is that 85 percent of these units are owner-occupied and [the] very small number of tenants who live in these units will receive lifetime leases.
ML: Is TIC just a flawed system? Do you think that if we do have a moratorium on the lottery, in 10 years we’ll be in the same situation of TIC owners needing assistance?
SW: We’re talking about some possible changes to the lottery in the future. TICs can be a pretty good option for some people, particularly if you’re in a smaller building with people you know and trust. We’ve also seen it’s very hard to refinance a TIC. I do think it’s important for people to understand the downsides of owning a TIC, particularly in a larger building.
ML: On another topic, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr has reportedly raised the idea of installing video cameras in commercial establishments as a safety precaution in the wake of the bombings that occurred in Boston two weeks ago. You have been vocal in opposing these cameras; tell us why.
SW: My general perspective on video surveillance is very case-by-case. In terms of major public events, it can be very appropriate to have video surveillance. [At events like] Bay to Breakers and the Pride parade, everything is [already] being filmed. But I think having surveillance can be taken too far.
I’m glad that the chief is going to be coming to the Board of Supervisors to publicly outline his thoughts on it. One of the problems I had with the police department’s policy about putting requirements on bars and clubs to have surveillance was that it was not done through a public process. We just sort of happened to notice it.
ML: Have the tragic events in Boston changed the way you think about public safety in your district and in the city in general?
SW: It reminded me but did not change my perspective, because this is not the first act of domestic terrorism that we’ve had. But it was a very, very stark reminder to keep our neighborhood safe.
ML: Your birthday is coming up next week. How old will you be?
ML: When you were a kid, is this where you thought you would be around this age, a legislator in the city of San Francisco?
SW: No, not at all. When I was a kid, I was bound and determined to be a veterinarian. When I was a kid I thought I would be taking care of animals.
Supervisor Wiener is inviting people to join him for a birthday celebration on May 8, from 6 to 8 p.m., at Pisco Lounge, 1817 Market St.