860-fell-street
Image taken from Google Street View, 860 Fell Street

On Tuesday, the Planning Department issued a notice of enforcement to a community home that caters to millennials. 

Chateau Ubuntu, dubbed as “millennial commune,” is located at 860 Fell Street and is home to some 38 people. The home is considered a three-family dwelling by the Planning Department and was told that it was operating illegally and must obtain a permit. 

The community home describes itself  as: “A community of folks from all walks of life, who believe in a lifestyle grounded in sharing and common values. We host food and music gatherings, explore the vast and beautiful terrain of the Bay Area and beyond, and work together on all sorts of community projects. And we do it all from a French Victorian Mansion in the heart of San Francisco.” 

The 14-room Victorian circa 1894 charges between $1,000 and $1,400 that includes boarding, food and utilities. It’s an impossibly good deal given the soaring rents in the city. 

A report published by the SFCurbed in July last year noted that the commune was dividing ten bedrooms and 11.5 baths between nearly 40 people. According to Planning Department records the commune houses 38-40 people –- more than the permitted number –- and charges rent between $650 and $1050.   

The planners say the house maybe occupied by families with no more than three people sharing a room or a group of no more than five unrelated people. 

The notice was prompted by a complaint of Planning Code violation. Records on the Planning website reveal that a complaint was filed in May, tipping the department of  possible use of the property as a short-term rental or hotel conversion. The records show that an inspection of the premises was done in August 2016 and the owner assured the inspector that all of the units have individual leases and that there was no apparent hotel conversion, hence the case was closed. 

However, the building came under review again in September 12th 2016. According to a report in the Examiner, the notice of enforcement issued on Tuesday said that despite being located in a zoning district that allows group housing the commune still needs to file the change with the city. 

The enforcement letter reads: “The Planning Department requires that you immediately proceed to abate the violation by restoring the subject property to its authorized use as three dwelling units, each occupied by an individual family. If you wish to legalize the use of the subject property as a Group Housing site, a Building Permit Application must be filed for the change of use.”

14 COMMENTS

  1. Yeah?!? And if they are paying half million bucks a year in rent how about figuring out how to buy a place/land and set up more sustainable community?

  2. People don’t move because of “greed and demand to be accommodated,” they move for jobs and for the hope of a better life.

    Did it every cross your mind that your desire to maintain the architectural vernacular and limit density for your own benefit is also a form of greed? Especially when the result is housing costs spiraling out of control? Especially when you’re shielded from those costs by prop 13 or rent control?

    There are two parts to the supply and demand equation:

    1. People pouring into California, looking for jobs or for whatever reason (demand)

    2. Land use restriction (supply)

    You can blame the outsiders moving here, but you’re also complicit in creating the housing crisis and reducing the diversity and affordability of the bay area.

    It takes two to tango.

  3. Millions of people move to the SF Bay Area mostly driven by greed and demand to be accommodated and if it destroys the quality of life, the standard of living, the culture and the landscapes, urban, suburban and rural, the local indigenous population should just shut up because they’re entitled to wreck our home and if we object we’re NIMBYs or Nazis or whatever filth they decide to hurl. The Bay Area used to be a beautiful place with a culture, a society, and an economy that accommodated a wide range of people of all ethnicities and many lifestyles (even artists! even teachers!) with remarkable equanimity. Even a janitor could afford to own a home. Now everyone who is not prepared to the line and meet the pace set by these single-minded wageslave greedheads with their eyes on the dollar and their elbow in the next person’s face is being forced out. And who profits? The predatory investor absentee owner elite and their hireling boss enforcers. And these freshly arrived entitled ******** want to dictate policy and make our home over in the image of their ruinous desires. A good policy would be to ship them all back over the state line. And that would be a kind way to do it. But this is America and King Pig Money will rule and is already well on the way to destroying a home millions of us grew up loving. But we’d better shut our mouths because these ******** say so.

  4. Not sure why the discrepancy, but 1200 x 40 = $48,000 rent per month. Even if it’s 850 x 40, it’s still $34,000.

    Good deal indeed… for the landlord. What’s the difference between that and a tenement? They’re paying a thousand bucks a month for a bed in a dormitory. Why not stay in a hostel instead?

  5. People are paying 1.4k to sleep in a room with 6 other people and there is still debate over building new housing here…

  6. Quite correct!

    All they need to do is “demonstrate that the residents (in each dwelling) have control over the membership/composition of the household”.

    To do so, the “master tenant” of the overall property should be changed to a master tenant for each (single-family) dwelling, i.e., 3 total.

    They would then be in compliance with the Planning Code and, by law, there would no limit on the number of persons that could be considered a “family”.

    (They still, however, will need to make sure that, based upon (bedroom) size(s) that with regard to the number of persons per bedroom that they are in compliance with the SF Housing Code.)

    No problem; slam dunk.

    It’ll be interesting to follow developments on this one and see how the City handles this.

  7. The planners say the house maybe occupied by families with no more than three people sharing a room or a group of no more than five unrelated people.

    This is not all that the law allows, because a law in California that said only this would be an unconstitutional invasion of privacy according to Santa Barbara v Adamson. The actual law also allows any “family” that is a “group [that] has the attributes of a family in that it (a) has control over its membership and composition; (b) purchases its food and prepares and consumes its meals collectively; and (c) determines its own rules or organization and utilization of the residential space it occupies.” If the commune satisfies these conditions, then it would be legal as far as residential use is concerned.

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