SF landlord sues city after denying plans for affordable housing in Corona Heights

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Scott Pluta, a San Francisco landlord who was thwarted in his two-year battle to fund and build affordable housing on the land where he lives in Corona Heights, sued the city and county of San Francisco after the dismissal of his plan.

Pluta’s development plan would add four homes, two of them affordable, to a corner lot at 4300 17th Street at the corner of Ord Street. The plot already contains a three-story building that Pluta planned to add, with three additional units in a second structure to be built in the side yard. A waiver would be required to divide the lot to comply with the zoning code. It is also in a special use district, which requires an additional level of approval.

“Does the need for affordable housing outweigh the strict limits of the planning code? said Pluta. “To me, it’s a no-brainer. Lack of housing is at the root of a series of civic disasters facing this city.

Pluta, a Google attorney, lives on the top floor of the existing structure with his wife, Rosalind Pluta, who also works at Google. The second floor is a rent control unit and the ground floor is a garage and laundry room. Pluta’s plan calls for the conversion of the ground floor into a second rental unit. To appease the opposition, he scaled back his original plan and sought approval to add two more units in a second structure. The converted garage and one of the new units would be affordable, permanently deeded to the mayor’s housing office with tenants selected by lottery. The other unit of the new structure would be the market rate rental.

Scott Pluta and his wife Rosalind Pluta pose for a portrait in their lot on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 in San Francisco, Calif.

Yalonda M. James/The Chronicle

To do this, Pluta needed a derogation to divide his land in two, a conditional use permit to build in his backyard and a second conditional use permit to build in the vacant land that he would create. He needed all three approvals for the project to go ahead.

Even after slashing his original plan by 40%, his request for both conditional use authorizations was denied on November 18 and the waiver request was denied on December 9.

“The Corona Height Special Use District, which is a very recent addition to the planning code, provides strict criteria for new development, including square footage maximums and backyard minimums,” Dan Sider said. , chief of staff of the town planning department. “After several public hearings, the Planning Commission, the Zoning Administrator and the Appeals Commission were unable to establish that the project met these criteria.”

Pluta appealed the waiver decision which the Appeal Board rejected by a 5-0 vote on January 12. He had 90 days to sue the city in Superior Court. Pluta, 44, represents himself.

The co-defendants are the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Department, the Planning Commission, the Zoning Administrator and the Appeals Commission. The lawsuit, dated April 8, seeks a court order voiding all actions that denied Pluta its rights to proceed with its project. He’s also asking the court to reinstate his original plan, which called for a total of six units, including two market and two affordable, plus his own residence and rent-control unit, which has a longtime tenant.

Tuesday told The Chronicle the city had not received a complaint and could not comment further.

“The City of San Francisco has a monopoly on the creation of new housing in San Francisco and is world famous for using that power to strangle new housing,” reads the lawsuit. “Due to the defendant’s unwillingness to provide adequate housing for its own citizens, San Francisco is one of the most expensive places in the world to rent or buy housing.”

In the complaint, Pluta describes the decision to refuse his project as “arbitrary, capricious, conclusive and unsupported by evidence”. He also describes it as a violation of the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution, “which prohibits the taking of private property for public purposes without just compensation.” He goes on to describe the Corona Heights Grand Residence Special Use District, which includes his property, as being exclusive and perpetuating segregation.

The district pacts are effectively “those in working-class professions such as teachers, firefighters, artists and catering staff, and disproportionately people of color,” the complaint states.

Pluta said once he receives a case number from the court, he will serve all defendants. He is asking for a jury trial, which he says will take place in more than a year.

“This is a unique case that would unlock small-scale mixed-use affordable housing across this city,” Pluta said. “The city has no plan to build affordable housing in 86% of San Francisco’s neighborhoods and this would make it possible.”

Sam Whiting is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @samwithingsf

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