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Planning Commission Votes in Favor of Zoning Code Amendment

Published on Thursday, May 13, 2021 | 9:13 am

The Planning Commission voted to recommend a zoning code amendment that would remove the requirement to provide two covered parking spaces when building an accessory dwelling unit exceeding 150 square feet to an existing single-family residence.

“The code amendment the commission recommended tonight is largely a technical revision to make the zoning code better conform to state law,” said Commissioner Jason Lyon. “In addition, the parking requirement has functioned as a barrier to home improvement, particularly on smaller lots in the city, so this creates a more equitable opportunity for property improvement citywide without the cost burden of providing additional covered spaces.”

The discrepancy created by state law, which exempts Accessory Dwelling Units, ADUs, from the requirement to build covered parking altogether, and allows the use of driveways to satisfy off-street parking requirements.

“With these regulations in place, a homeowner would be able to build an ADU of up to 1,200 square feet without any enclosed parking, but if they instead chose to build a 200 square-foot addition for a home office, they would need to also need to provide two covered parking spaces at significant additional cost,” according to a city staff report.

While state law was established with the goal of incentivizing the construction of new housing units, it also creates an inequity for homeowners seeking to build additions that often do not generate any additional parking demand.

The city’s zoning code currently regulates parking requirements for newly constructed single-family residential dwellings as well as additions to existing single-family dwellings. Recent state laws also limit the types of parking requirements that local agencies can impose on ADU’s, whether they are detached or converted from existing structures.

The zoning code requires two covered parking spaces within a garage or carport. 

A specific provision allows additions with a maximum aggregate total of 150 square feet to be made without requiring the two-car covered parking requirement.

As a result, any addition to an existing residence, including construction of an accessory structure such as a pool house or workshop, of over 150 square feet, triggers a requirement to provide two covered spaces within a garage or carport.

The code provides an exception for designated historic resources, wherein a homeowner may request a waiver of the covered parking requirement when adding floor area if an existing, one-car garage contributes to the significance of the property and/or district and is in good condition or will be returned to good condition as part of the work to add floor area to the dwelling.

“In regards to the current zoning requirement to provide two covered parking spaces when building an addition that exceeds 150 square feet.” wrote Bernadette Cole. “This is a very regressive zoning practice and makes additions to many small houses in Pasadena too expensive. Houses in the older parts of Pasadena usually have a single car garage, a medium size yard and two bedrooms with one bathroom. So those who are not in a historical district, which gives exemption to this zoning requirement, must rebuild the garage in order to do a simple addition of a bedroom and bathroom. So a simple addition becomes a major construction project.”

The parking requirement would still apply to such additions in the hillside areas, as well as to new construction. 

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