Opinions Range at Accessory Dwelling Unit Town Hall Meeting Tuesday

Residents voice concerns, suggestions over revisions to “Granny Flats” Ordinance

Published : Wednesday, October 18, 2017 | 5:39 AM

City Planning and Community Development Department employees were met with a wide range of opinions and suggestions Tuesday evening during a Town Hall on the subject of accessory dwelling unit (also known as “second unit”) regulations.

The “open house”-style meeting was a follow up of meetings held in April, from which City staff gathered and then recommended several amendments to the City’s existing accessory dwelling unit regulations to the City Council. The City Council then directed staff to conduct additional research and additional community outreach and return to the City Council with a revised recommendation.

“The first thing I would like to see is consistency with the existing residential codes,” said resident David Whitehead. “For example, some of them are zoned RM-6, and RM-12, et cetera. If it’s the same size lot, and it’s designated RM-6, versus RM-12, then why are some allowed to build ADUs and some not?”

Whitehead continued, “I would also like to see a smaller lot size (allowed).”

As he explained further, “One of the proposed lots sizes is 7200 square feet, but many of the residential properties, including my own—and it is a standard-sized lot — are 7,000 square feet, so I would like to see something smaller. My property is zoned RM-12, so I am permitted to build a second dwelling unit, basically a second house on my property without the ADU restrictions, but for an ADU, there would be parking restrictions on it, so that doesn’t make sense.”

Said Arnold Siegel of Prospect Boulevard, who has maintained a second unit on his property for many years, “I’m supportive of ADUs, they are one piece of the puzzle to do something about affordable housing.”

“My problem with some of the proposed rules is that they are too narrow, like, to say it should only be 800 square feet. Well, 800 square feet on a 7,000-foot lot is one thing, but 800 square feet on a 20,000 square-foot lot, is a completely different thing,” Siegel said. “There are so many different sized lots in the city, but everything can work if the regulations are just a little bit more flexible, and the design (of these units) is crucial.”

The current municipal codes governing Accessory Dwelling Units, while extensive, state that one ADU may be constructed on any legal parcel of 15,00 square feet or more in any RS zoning district that is not part of the HIllside or Landmark Overlay Districts.

There are also a number of criteria which allow Accessory Dwelling Units in all RS zoning districts including regulations governing side and rear setbacks, building and safety codes, the existence of a single-family residence on the property, and when the ADU was constructed. In addition, there are parking regulations involved, including the requirement of an additional parking space on the property for each new ADU.

Senior Planner David Sinclair, noting the wide range of opinions on the issue, said, “What we’re seeing tonight is everything from, ‘We love it, what took you so long?’ to ‘How could you even be considering this?’ Addressing the issue of design of ADUs in Historic or Landmark districts, he said, “As we recommended to the Council back in June, you could build an ADU (of any design) in those districts, provided that the unit cannot be seen from the street, though the Council is still uneasy about that.”

Following one more Town Hall meeting on the issue, the Planning Department will gather up the suggestions, and then prepare revised Zoning Code revisions, to be presented at an upcoming City Council public hearing.

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