South San Francisco City Council Rejects Real Estate Inspection Ordinance

samcar realestateOn January 16, the South San Francisco City Council unanimously rejected a proposed ordinance mandating private property inspections before the city would allow residents to sell their home. The city had been performing inspections for years without benefit of an ordinance, and the Council was set to study the issue of codifying these existing practices. However, the Council concluded it was best for the community to halt Point-of-Sale (POS) inspections. After the 5-0 vote to indefinitely table the matter, Mayor Pedro Gonzalez stated flatly of Point-of-Sale, “it is dead.”
Mayor Pro Tem Karyl Matsumoto moved to eliminate mandatory inspections as the public hearing opened by making a motion to “drop the concept of Point-of-Sale inspections.” The real estate industry as well as city residents filled the City Council chambers in opposition to the ‘Point-of-Sale’ (POS) proposal. “By their action, the City Council reaffirmed to South San Francisco residents that home ownership matters,” said Steve Blanton, Executive Officer of the San Mateo County Association of REALTORS® (SAMCAR). “We are extremely grateful to the South San Francisco City Council for listening to their constituents and the business community.”
Kudos to the SAMCAR members who contacted the City Council as well as the contingent that showed up to the study session along with members of the San Francisco Association of REALTORS®, the Chinese Real Estate Association of America (CREAA) and the residents of South San Francisco who all massed in opposition. SAMCAR’s contingent included 2013 President Suzan Getchell-Wallace, President-Elect Phil Houston, Immediate Past President Anne Oliva, past and present Board members Frank Vento, Karon Knox, David Zigal, Sue Vaterlaus and Marianne Osberg with SAMCAR’s formal testimony being presented by John Penna, SAMCAR Legal Counsel
Michelle Zaccone, Executive Officer Steve Blanton and Government Affairs Director Paul Stewart.

Following Mayor Pro Tem Matsumoto’s motion, comments from the remaining Councilmembers made it apparent there was little sentiment to adopt Point-of-Sale mandates. The proposal before the Council was technically to adopt a ‘new’ ordinance mandating the inspections as the city’s previous ordinance had expired.

The Fire Department has said they wanted the mandatory inspections to ensure health and safety requirements
are met in Real Estate transactions. SAMCAR noted to the Council that state law already mandates REALTORS®
provide disclosure forms to self-certify that smoke/CO detectors are operable; that water heaters are properly
strapped for earthquake preparedness; and, if applicable, that there are quick release mechanisms on window
bars, adding that this is how a home sale transaction is handled in every other city in the county. There are no
mandatory inspections.
Also as noted by SAMCAR, if the city has a true concern for the health and safety of its citizens (as does SAMCAR),
then using point of sale inspection is not an effective approach to address the problem. Only a limited number of
homes sell per year (2% to be precise). The Fire Department’s and Council’s objective is a citywide concern. The
solution should then be citywide, not piecemealed by a point of sale mandate.
In addition, the Fire Chief in his January 16 staff report, stated, “When violations were found, the most common
violations present were for unpermitted construction (illegal bedrooms and/or garage conversion). SAMCAR
stated that if this is the real crux of the Point-of-Sale issue, then as a separate matter, the Council should begin a
dialogue with all interested parties and stakeholders on how best to handle unpermitted construction violations
and remediation.
Part of that dialogue, as noted by more than one speaker, should be returning code enforcement responsibilities
to the Building Department. (The responsibility for code enforcement in South San Francisco has, for decades,
resided with the Fire Department, which has exacerbated the controversy surrounding the Point-of-Sale issue.)
Lastly, SAMCAR recommended the City Council call for an independent audit of the fines, general and home
inspection fees, penalties and forfeitures associated with the inspection requirement.
For further information, please contact SAMCAR Government Affairs Director Paul Stewart
by phone at (650) 696-8209 or by e-mail at

850 woodside way, san mateo, california 94401 • • (650) 696-8200 •

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