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*ACCESSORY DWELLING UNIT ORDINANCE BACKGROUND & FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONSOn September 27, 2016, Governor Brown signed two accessory dwelling unit (ADU) bills into State law, Assembly Bill 2299 and Senate Bill 1069, amending the State’s existing second unit law (Government Code Section 65852.2). Effective January 1, 2017, the new State standards stipulate that local ordinances that do not align with State law will be “null and void,” unless a local agency adopts an ordinance in accordance with the specified State provisions in Section 65852.2. In response to State law, the Department of City Planning (Department) issued a Zoning Administrator Interpretation (ZAI) on November 2, 2016. It provided the City with stop-gap regulations through the end of 2016, while the Department developed an ordinance in compliance with the new State provisions. That ordinance was considered before the City Planning Commission on December 15, 2016 and subsequently transmitted to City Council prior to the end of the calendar year. It is awaiting Council consideration.
ADUs have been identified by the State as an important housing option for renters and homeowners, given the under-supply of housing. To construct, ADUs typically cost less than other types of housing, largely because they do not necessitate paying for land or purchasing major new infrastructure. As a form of infill development, ADUs provides housing for family members, students, elderly, in-home health care providers, the disabled and others at below market prices within existing neighborhoods. Pursuant to State law, the units cannot be intended for sale separate from the primary residence. Generally speaking, ADUs can take one of three forms:
Detached: Unit is separated from the primary structure Attached: Unit is attached to the primary structure Re-purposed Existing: Space within a primary residence that is converted into an independent living unit Local governments may apply development standards and make findings to designate where the new construction of ADUs are permitted. Designating where ADUs are allowed should be based primarily on health and safety issues. Unreasonably restricting the ability of homeowners to create ADUs is contrary to the intent of State law and may subject local agencies to legal scrutiny. The California Department of Housing & Community Development has provided guidance stating that limiting the overall square footage of ADUs to unreasonably restrict its creation is inconsistent with the intent of Section 65852.2. Under State law, the review and approval of an application for an ADU within an existing residence or accessory structure must be ministerial in nature.
Detached or attached ADUs are also subject to the ministerial building permit requirements, provided there is independent exterior access to the ADU and rear setbacks sufficient for fire safety.