Fact Check: Cutting Through the Confusion, Here's What the City Council Approved for Accessory Dwelling Units

Published : Wednesday, March 14, 2018 | 6:45 PM

What exactly did the City Council approve Monday evening with regard to Accessory Dwelling Units?

Following more than three hours of intense discussion and public comment on the subject Monday, the City Council unanimously approved the original Pasadena Planning Department staff recommendations with only slight changes.

Late last year, according to David Sinclair of the Planning Department, the Council approved amendments to Accessory Dwelling Unit regulations in the Zoning Code. Planning Department staff were then asked to return last Monday evening with more details — recommendations on the maximum unit size, and the methods by which a homeowner could rent the unit out at an affordable rate in exchange for a reduced Residential Impact Fee.

Currently the City requires a substantial Residential Impact Fees ( $18,472.73 for studios and $19,494.61 for one-bedroom dwellings). Many residents testified Monday these fees stops them from ever constructing an Accessory Dwelling Units.

The impact fee, according to the staff report, applies to all new residential units in the City and is calculated based on the number of bedrooms per unit, and not by size or square footage. This fee is charged when the building permit for a new residential unit is issued.

“If I build a new apartment building in Pasadena, I have to pay $18,000 a unit,” Mayor Terry Tornek explained. “So if I’m going to add a unit just for income on my single family zone property, the fees shouldn’t be waived.”

The staff recommendation was to limit the size of all Accessory Dwelling Units to 800 square feet, or 50% of the existing residence, whichever is less. The Council amended the City staff’s recommendation to allow Accessory Dwelling Units on RM-zoned properties (multi-family residential) with one single-family residence to be larger than 50% of the size of the residence, but to be smaller than the main house, provided the ADU was rented at an affordable rate.

The Council then asked the Planning Department staff to include specifics on how to keep the ADU subordinate in the ordinance for the Council to consider, according to Sinclair.

In addition, one of the options for homeowners presented to the Council was that in exchange for a reduced Residential Impact Fee ($957.30) homeowners could sign an agreement with the City that the ADU would be rented to a family member, as defined in the City’s Tenant Protection Ordinance as a spouse, grandparents, grandchildren, brother, sister, father-in-law, mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, children, or parents.

Councilmember Tyron Hampton, who first introduced the idea of expanding the definition of families, said Tuesday, “I think the broader definition of family means that anyone who’s part of your extended family as well, like a cousin, or first cousin.”

As Sinclair noted, the City Council wanted to enlarge the definition of family members for this purpose, and staff was asked Monday to include a broader definition in the ordinance for the Council to consider.

The Planning Department Staff had also recommended a maximum rental rate that could be charged of family members, consistent with the Inclusionary Unit Rent Limit. For example, the maximum rental rate for a studio would be $566 and for a one-bedroom it would be $648. The Council was concerned, however, that this maximum would prevent family members from contributing more to the cost of the ADU and living expenses for the entire property, so the Council eliminated the maximum rental rate.

Based on the outcome of Monday evening’s meeting vote on the staff recommendations, the Council has now directed City Attorney Michele Bagneris to return within 30 days with an ordinance amending the Pasadena Municipal Code and amended lnclusionary Housing Regulations as approved by the Council.

Prior to the effective date of the Zoning Code amendments, Staff will also prepare materials for the public that summarize the regulations. Hard copy and on-line versions will be available.









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