HAYWARD — The City Council is on the brink of tweaking its condo conversion ordinance, slashing some tenant protections that landlords consider unreasonable but also strengthening building-safety standards.

After a lengthy public hearing on Tuesday night, the council unanimously agreed to wait another 30 days to re-examine some of the details of the complicated, controversial law change.

But all appeared ready to support the bulk of the amendment, which will make it easier — but not too much easier — for apartment building owners to convert. Proponents say more owner-occupied housing will help make the schools and city more stable.

Although there has been increased demand to convert some of the city's big multifamily apartment complexes, the proposed amendment also will regulate conversions of properties that are as small as just three or four units.

The changes, as proposed, will weaken some tenant benefits.

Today, if an apartment complex owner in Hayward wants to convert units into condominiums, senior citizens and disabled residents living in the complex must be offered a "lifetime lease."

In other words, city law states that they can live in the rental unit for as long as they want to without fear of eviction. Landlords say that provision has made it virtually impossible for them to do condo conversions. San Leandro has a similar provision.


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But in Hayward's proposed amendment, that lifetime lease would be reduced to either a five-year minimum lease, or one year for every year a disabled person or 65-or-older resident has lived in the unit. So if a senior already has lived in the apartment for 25 years, they'd get another 25 years if they saw fit to stay put after the building is converted.

While the amendment, if passed, will weaken some provisions, it will make others more strict.

In particular, so-called "soft-story" apartment buildings, which usually have garages on the ground floor and are in danger of collapsing in a severe earthquake, would have to be made safer upon conversion.

Alameda developer and Realtor Kirk Knight, who is seeking to convert a small apartment property on Spring Drive below California State University, East Bay, told council members that the cost of doing a seismic upgrade on a four-unit building can be exorbitant — potentially as much as $50,000 per unit.

But most council members appeared intent on adding the seismic safety provision. Although the city lies along the dangerous Hayward Fault, there are no laws requiring soft-story buildings to be fixed up.

"This is our chance to really upgrade the community," said Councilman Kevin Dowling.

Unresolved issues that city officials must address in the next 30 days have to do with how much relocation assistance tenants will received, energy-efficiency standards and whether property owners will have to provide for more parking spaces when they convert to condominiums.

Matt O'Brien can be reached at (510) 293-2473 or mattobrien@dailyreviewonline.com.