Since the mid '80s San Francisco has permitted the annual conversion to condominiums of 200 units (not buildings) in two-six unit buildings. Except for two unit buildings, both of which are owner occupied, this is done by lottery. The conversion provisions are found at Article 9 of Division 1 of the Subdivision Code. Until the units are actually converted, the owners of the apartment building are typically tenants in common [TIC].
The number of tenants evicted from two-six unit buildings has grown over the years. In response, a very aggressive tenant-oriented Board of Supervisors has enacted a series of controversial ordinances, beginning in 1998, limiting the ability of buyers to evict tenants even if they wish to move into their own property. The Owner Move In [OMI] provisions are set forth at Section 37.9 of the Rent Control Ordinance. Two of the most severe restrictions are that there can be only ONE owner-move-in eviction per building; and, that no one can evict unless he/she has a 50% interest (some say 25% interest) in the building.
These Draconian measures gave some sellers no choice but to use the Ellis Act, which is State law, permitting owners to cease being landlords, ie, to take the building out of the rental market. Before the Board of Supervisors began their fierce assault on those tenants who wanted to own a home, I daresay that no one had ever heard of the Ellis Act. There is an excellent overview called Tenant Evictions in San Francisco, June 2012 by R Boyd McSparran and Jeanne Grove of the Gellman Law Office.
I do recommend that my clients consult an attorney who specializes in this field, both to clarify the concept ad the process, and to disabuse them of old wives tales still floating around.
Andrew Sirkin and David Gellman
There may be others but I am acquainted with two San Francisco Attorneys who publish extensively in this field, Andrew Sirkin and David Gellman. I recommend visiting both of their sites.
On Mr. Sirkin's site I recommend starting with Tenancy in Common with Exclusive Occupancy, which branches out into sub-topics. Andrew Sirkin can be reached at (415) 738-8545. His office is located at 235 Montgomery Street, Suite 1130, San Francisco.
On Mr. Gellman's site I recommend Condominium Conversion in San Francisco, for an interesting analysis of the "odds of winning" the condo conversion lottery. David Gellman can be reached at (415) 673-5600. His office is located at 1388 Sutter Street, Suite 1000, San Francisco.
The Lottery Page on the Department of Public Works site includes the Lottery Winner List, the Lottery Standby List, and instructions for participating in this years lottery.