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Recalled school board member Alison Collins filed plans to fix illegally merged flats

Recalled school board member Alison Collins and her developer husband have filed plans to abate last year’s enforcement action for having illegally merged two apartments in Russian Hill by turning the former basement into one unit and keeping the merged top two floors as the second unit, The Standard has learned.

The original building consisted of two full-floor flats of about 1,000 square feet each on top of a basement. At some point, the Collinses merged the two units and refinished the basement, then listed it for sale in 2019 as a luxury single-family home for $3.25 million. It never sold.

The news about the illegal apartment merger came out last year after Collins received strong criticism for tweets about Asians that some considered racist. The tweets and apartment merger were two of the factors leading to her successful recall from the school board in February.

The architectural plans submitted to the Planning Department show that the couple would be adding a kitchen to the basement area and making it a separate, approximately 900-square-foot unit. The other two floors would remain as they are today and would be a unit of about 2,000 square feet. The Collinses first filed revisions in September 2021 and submitted these latest revisions in late February.

Alison Collins did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

The Planning Department is currently reviewing the plans to ensure they don’t violate any regulations around the removal of dwelling units, said Daniel Sider, the Planning Department’s chief of staff. Collins and her husband responded to all enforcement notices in a timely manner, Sider confirmed.

Based on what the Planning Department finds, the plans could either be approved straightaway or require approval from the Planning Commission, Sider said.

The transformation of older homes into luxury homes has been a hot-button topic in San Francisco due to increasingly expensive home prices and concerns about neighborhood character; the Board of Supervisors recently voted on legislation curbing the trend of replacing older, smaller houses with “monster” homes in certain neighborhoods. While the Collinses did not increase the overall envelope of the house, it is unclear whether the new proposed configuration would be two units in name only and if the building would remain, in essence, a single-family home.