Q&A With Scott Wiener: Condo Conversion, Video Surveillance

En Español.

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?

SW: Forty-three.

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. 

16 Comments

  1. hey scott, what happened to miguel salamanca who recieved a omi eviction so you could buy your condo?

    • Sarah

      Who cares? He got a big payout (at least $5k or more) plus months of notice.

      If I own a place and want to move in myself, and the tenant is on a m2m lease, then I should be able to. Nothing should give you the right to squat indefinitely.

      It’s one thing to evict someone just so you can rent it to someone else at a higher rate, another completely to give them a fair settlement – as determined by the city – and move into my own home.

      • weiner bought his condo after the previous owner served salamanca the omi eviction. don’t you get it? she evicted, then sold to weiner who was happy to buy the condo along with it’s dirty omi eviction history.

  2. no one broke or twisted anybodies arm to buy a tic (and often evict long time tenants). These owners, often absente – non resident landlords mistakenly listened to their real estate agents and now are left with the consequences of their bad investment decisions.
    are these owners too big to fail?

    that $20,000 fee weiner tauts is very misleading! the fee would be from $4,000-up to max $20,000, with buildings in lottery the longest enjoying the smaller amount.

    why should the citizen’s of sf pay for the real estate speculation bets gone south of so many well off enough tic owners. if tic’s can convert so easily at the city’s expense (ridiculously low fee) let’smake those units rent control forever.
    and let’s get city money involved so long time tenants can buy their units, a sort of bmr structure where tenants buy limited equity in their buildings -with the city’s and the mayor’s office on housing help, which will revert to bmr status when owners move or die!

    that $20,000fee weiner tauts is very misleading! the fee would be from $4,000-up to max $20,000, with buildings in lottery the longest enjoying the smaller amount.

    what we know is that tic owners are famous for evicting long term and elderly and hiv and disabled tenants.
    in pushing plan c, weiner has distanced himself much further from the electorate in his district. his true pro speculation colors are shinning through. he can expect much resistance next time his name appears on the ballot.

    • Freedom

      Where did you come up with the idea that “These owners, often absente – non resident landlords”

      Most TIC owners are hard working families who are trying to get their foot in the door of an expensive city. All the property owners I know have full time jobs, work hard, and are doing their best to make ends meet with expensive mortgages.

      We almost ended up being a TIC owner — my family and another family were looking for a full year to buy a two unit place so we could live together and build an awesome supportive community together. We are long term city residents, and we are not rich, but work hard. In the end we were defeated by the immensely unfair tenants rights which made it almost impossible for us to buy and move into a duplex together. It would have been very risky to put down the enormous amount of money required to buy a duplex, only to find out that we could not move into our own building due to the tenants having more rights than those of us who were taking the financial risk of purchasing the building.

      In a fair world, rights and responsibilities should always be paired. If you want the right to live somewhere for life, you should be responsible for the financial risk of owning the property. Currently tenants get all the rights, and take no responsibility. It is a completely broken and unfair system.

  3. Pamela

    Scott Wiener is a breath of fresh air on the Board of Supervisors. He looks at SF as a whole & not just as District 8. Great idea for more TIC/Condo conversions. The city needs more homes to buy. Video surveillance is an excellent idea in hard hit crime areas like public housing projects, SROs, Districts 5, 6, 9, 10 & 11. We need more supervisors like him. The supervisor of District 9 where I live is useless.

  4. Patrick Monk.RN.

    He is taking care of animals, the ravenous corporate beasts who are devouring our neighborhoods and communities. Just my 2c.

  5. Molly

    Wiener is completely disingenuous about the conversion issue.

    Overturning the lottery limits will persuade more people to buy up rental property, force out tenants and assume that they, too, will get the Supervisors to step in and turn the property into lucrative condos. They can use OMI’s and the threat of Ellis Act evictions to boot tenants and get condo status, and they will. Wiener knows that.

    Then, of course, when any part of the deal goes bad or just contrary to what the owners desire, other citizens will have to bail the owners out. That’s what this whole legislation is about.

    If the TIC owners made smart choices when they bought, they should be happy just to own property with huge tax breaks and Prop 13 protections. If they didn’t know what they were doing, why should the city “save” them by giving them more than they paid for and $100,000-plus in unearned equity?

    • i would’nt call him disingenuous, i’d say he is on the side of rampant speculation which will benefit his campaign contributors. how else, without the benefit of some deep real estate pockets, could he have moved so far, so soon up the ladder in city politics. he looks clueless, but he is a shrewd operator who knows how to pick his battles for his backers! also, he had no qualms about buying his condo after the previous omi eviction served tenent (miguel salamanca) had allready been evicted or bought out.

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  7. brian.basinger@facebook.com

    There is a troubling logical inconsistency in this proposal. At first Scott Weiner and the rest of the pro-eviction lobby said we needed TIC’s because they were allegedly affordable forms of homeownership. Converting all of them to condos strips away the so-called affordability. If maintaining a supply of per,a entry affordable homeownership was the real goal, then Supervisor Weiner would not be trying to remove 2,000 to 3,000 units of affordable homeownership from the market. I’d also like to know how many units of additional below market units Supervisor Weiner was able to negotiate with the vast wave of new buildings under construction in the Castro and Upper Market. Finally, the argument about mortgage rates is hollow. In historic contexts, a six percent rate is still low. With that said, if the interest rates were the actual problem, the answer would be to work with the banks or with a City loan program for low interest loans in exchange for some future affordability, The Supervisors argument that no one is getting displaced because of his legislation is infuriating. After I passed legislation in 2004, evictions were curbed until 2010 when Supervisor Weiner started promoting this condo giveaway on the campaign trail. Displacement is back at a frenzied pace because of Supervisor Weiner. This is not an accident. It is his policy agenda.

  8. Missionresident

    If we are going to give folks rent control, it should only be for fireman, policemen and teachers as these are the three essential jobs all cities need which don’t pay very well. Other than that, get rid of rent control and TIC’s. eventually the rates will come down on average 20-30% making this city affordable for so many middle class families that are currently priced out of the market. These housing policy’s lead to a rich vs. poor with no middle class. very sad.

    • SF Resident

      Rent control should be Means Tested. It can be justified when it provides assistance to the poor, elderly and disabled, but why do high income residents get rent control benefits?

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