Is this the Howe Street listing? I think the process is completely do-able. The home I'm thinking of would be better suited to a single/family. It would be worth a trip to the building department to discuss. They are really nice and helpful. Go in the morning and be ready to wait in line.
I have not been through this process myself, but again I think it can be done. Homeowners are not required to "remain in the landlord business."
Many cities, especially those like Oakland with majority tenant populations, frown upon the consolidation of units because it removes rental housing stock.
The reference below to a conversation with attorneys who say that "the paperwork to take the units off the market is not bad" sounds more like a reference to clearing the building of tenants through the use of the Ellis Act, and not the process of merging existing units. While the Ellis Act may allow you to easily clear a building of tenants, that does not mean the City of Oakland will allow the merger of units.
Jeffery P. Woo, Esq.
Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold, LLP
Complex Rental Property Group
Even installing counter tops, putting in new cabinets and replacing appliances will require permits ---- electrical and plumbing if outlets are added, plumbing is rearranged, etc.
When in doubt, just do it. It's not worth the hassle trying to second-guess what needs a permit or not. A
I was the realtor who represented the seller in Howe Street listing this past summer in July (if this IS actually the property to which you are referring?) And yes it was originally a SFR, switched to a duplex in the 60's, legally. The process to reverse is doable. My client is currently renting both units but when she returns to the States next summer. we will be re-marketing the property. If you have ANY interest, please be in touch.