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Improves lottery luck for those waiting longest

Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Pat Murphy

November 30, 2005

Odds for winning San Francisco's condominium conversion lottery may soon improve for 100 of the 1512 property owners who have applied, through unanimous recommendation yesterday by the city's Land Use Committee.

The legislation sponsored by Supervisor Bevan Dufty would guarantee approval to those applicants who have waited the longest number of years without winning, if their total number is 100 or less.

Under legislation in place since former Mayor Dianne Feinstein's administration, only 200 condominium conversions are granted annually. It was enacted to slow the loss of rental stock. At that time, the number of conversion requests was roughly equal to the 200 cap.

Over the years, applicant numbers grew to frustrating result that many applicants who waited years without winning were seeing first time applicants win by luck of the draw.

If the Dufty ordinance is approved by the full Board of Supervisors, it will be the second attempt in lottery history to redress indifference of blind luck.

The first effort was in 1994, sponsored by then Supervisor Carole Migden.

This current law breaks the drawing into two groups of 100 each - with the first 100 winners drawn from a pool of applicants who lost three previous years. If those senior applicants are more than 100, those not chosen for inclusion become the first included in a final drawing for the remaining 100 openings. Newer applicants fill out remainder, if any, of the second 100 slots.

Additionally, the current Migden law attempted to balance fairness by giving each loser one ticket for each lottery they lost up to a total of five tickets.

In 1994, Migden explained rationale for boosting luck of senior applicants.

"This legislation is designed to assist owner-occupants who have repeatedly been unsuccessful in the condo conversion lottery," said Migden.

"It will provide for splitting the current lottery into two groups - those who have tried before and those who have not - and will give participants one ticket for every year (up to five) in which they have tried but been unsuccessfully in the lottery."

However, that legislation did not lift the 200 cap on annual conversions, despite applications having soared.

"The proposed legislation will not change the amount of condominium conversion units allowed annually or ease the rules for condominium conversions," Migden noted.

By contrast, the Dufty proposal still requires participants in the first drawing to have lost for three years -- but breaks that group into additional classes based on total number of losing years.

And it denies lottery participation to owners who issued certain evictions to elderly, disabled, or catastrophically ill tenants since July 1, 2000. Dufty legislation does not lift the 200 cap.

Tenants rights advocates, led by Tenants Union director Ted Gullicksen, first opposed the measure until an amendment by Supervisor Jake McGoldrick protecting vulnerable tenants was adopted.

Another successful McGoldrick amendment moved effective date back to one month before elderly tenant Lola McKay was evicted under the California Ellis Act in February 1999.

McKay, evicted in her mid-80s and now deceased, became a cause celebre for opponents to the Ellis Act which permits evictions for owner move-in.

Committee members were pleased by the successful compromise.

"I'm pleased to support these amendments," stated McGoldrick, who noted he may develop a further amendment including families with school age children as a protected class.

"We are stewards of the earth…we've got a lot of work to do in the next year," McGoldrick explained.

Dufty thanked tenant advocates for developing renter protections.

"I support the amendment, and I appreciate the tenant advocates bringing forward the significant date of January 1, 1999," said Dufty.

"There is a way to find balance in this small geographically restrained city…and I am grateful that Supervisor McGoldrick has given us the vehicle…for fairness of the lottery."

Maxwell lauded cooperation in shaping new legislation.

"I want to thank all of you who have been here, and have been really, really committed to the issue - but you've done it in a very fair, and I want to say in a great, way," Maxwell acknowledged.

"I remember a time when we had a lot of hostility, and that certainly has not shown itself today.

Tickets for the 2006 lottery went on sale for $150 per building on November 28, with sales terminating at 4:45 p.m. January 26, 2005.

New ticket purchasers for the 2006 lottery will add to the 1512 applicants now waiting.




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