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New ADU Incentives in San Diego

There should be some scrambling to purchase properties in the two highlighted areas below, but the cost for Mom & Pop to add an ADU is still a hurdle ($50,000 to $100,000 min).

San Diego further loosened rules for granny flat construction Tuesday, eliminating all parking requirements and allowing property owners to construct extra granny flats if they agree to rent restrictions on at least one of them.

Tuesday’s loosening of granny flat rules builds on recent state and city efforts to encourage construction of the homes, which city officials call the cheapest and fastest way to help solve the local housing affordability crisis.

The City Council unanimously approved the regulations as part of a package of reforms aimed at boosting housing construction.

Other updates encourage construction of more “micro” housing units, allow buildings to be three stories taller if all their units are rent-subsidized, and let housing intended for students to have more units than previously allowed.

“This isn’t the sexy, make-the-news kind of story, but at the end of the day it’s helping create more housing,” Councilman Scott Sherman said. “Hopefully we can start bringing down the cost of housing for residents.”

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has spearheaded dozens of housing revamps in recent years, said the new moves will make a difference.

“The changes we’re making now are going to speed up the development process, cut burdensome regulations, and make it easier to build units that San Diegans can actually afford,” he said.

On granny flats, which the city and state call “accessory dwelling units,” parking spaces will no longer be required.  San Diego has been requiring one parking space per new granny flat unless the unit is less than 500 square feet, in a historical area, within a residential parking district, or the granny flat is near a transit line or ride-sharing station.

On the bonus granny flats, property owners are eligible if they agree to make one of the granny flats they build rent-restricted for low-income residents for at least 15 years.

For granny flats within a half-mile of an existing or planned transit line, the number of bonus units is unlimited. For granny flats not near transit lines, a maximum of one bonus unit is allowed.

The rule change for micro housing units builds on 2018 city legislation that allowed developers to double the number of units in a project if they made the units smaller than usual – 400 square feet maximum.

The change approved Tuesday will create additional incentives based on height of the building and distance from the property line. City officials said the change would allow more projects to take advantage of the city’s micro unit incentives.

The new density bonus for projects with 100 percent rent-subsidized units builds on recent state legislation, AB 1763. That law allows a developer to double the size of a project if half the units are rent-subsidized.

San Diego will go beyond that. If all the units are rent-subsidized, the city will allow an unlimited number of units, and allow the height of the building to increase by three stories above what is allowed under current zoning. But the city’s change only applies in areas within a half-mile of an existing or planned transit line. In addition, 80 percent of the units must be for low-income or very-low-income residents, meaning a maximum 20 percent of the units can be for moderate-income residents.

On student housing, a new state law, SB 1227, allows developers to build 35 percent more units if their housing project is geared for students. The city has added two local incentives on top of that.

San Diego also increased the number of zones in the city where emergency shelters for homeless people can be located, a change required by recent state legislation.

The city will now allow shelters in all “community commercial” zones, which are essentially low-intensity commercial areas. Shelters were previously allowed only in mostly industrial areas, such as the Midway District near the sports arena.

Leaders of local development praised San Diego for being on the cutting edge of housing reforms.

“The city of San Diego continues to be the leader in our region to jumpstart affordable housing through incentivizing affordable housing at all levels,” Jeanette Temple of the Atlantis Group told the council.

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/story/2020-10-13/san-diego-further-loosens-granny-flat-rules-as-part-of-housing-reform-package

Carlsbad ADU Policy

Hat tip to Peter for sending in this article:

CARLSBAD — The city finalized its policy regarding accessory dwelling units to reflect changes in state law.

During its Sept. 1 meeting, the City Council approved amendments to the zoning and municipal codes, in addition to the Village and Barrio Master Plan and Local Coastal Program.

The changes to the city’s municipal code align with six new state laws aiming to spur construction of ADUs, or “granny flats,” and create more affordable housing options for residents.

Don Neu, Carlsbad city planner, said ADUs are secondary residential units on an existing property and the city’s recent approval is keeping in line with the new state laws.

The latest California laws (AB 68, AB 881, SB 13, AB 587, AB 670 and AB 671) allow for ADUs on any lot with single-family or multi-family dwellings to include junior ADUs — units within the walls of a single-family home with a maximum size of 500-square feet — along with ADUs, which are detached units up to 1,200-square feet.

Other changes include setbacks, heights, lot coverage allowing for 800-square-foot units and prohibiting ADUs being used as short-term rentals, Neu said. Also, homeowner’s associations must allow both types of ADUs and state-mandated Housing Elements must include incentives for ADUs, Neu said.

“The processing time to act on a permit request for an accessory unit has been reduced from 120 days to 60 days,” Neu said.

The council also approved the attached ADUs to be 50% of the main dwelling or a maximum of 1,200-square feet, whichever is less. For detached units, 1,200-square feet is the maximum, which is in line with state law, Neu said.

These new guidelines also regulate height limits, which are 16 feet for both detached and attached units, and the city will default to the height allowed by the current zoning. As for landscaping, city ADUs must apply the same requirements as applied to the development of the property, while the architecture must be consistent with the main dwelling.

As of Nov. 2019, Neu said there were 425 ADUs in the city with rent running between $1,416 for a studio and $1,618 per month for a one-bedroom unit. Of the 425, there are 184 that are deed-restricted for lower-income residents and the rest are counted as affordable to moderate-income households.

“These were accessory units that were constructed to satisfy the inclusionary ordinance,” he said.

According to the staff report, the new state law also includes a requirement for the California Department of Housing and Community Development to review the city’s accessory dwelling unit ordinance for compliance.

The city will be given 30 days to respond and indicate if it will either change the ordinance to comply with the state housing department’s findings or adopt it as-is. If no response is made within 30 days, the state may notify the attorney general the city is in violation of state law.

https://thecoastnews.com/carlsbad-updates-municipal-code-to-align-with-states-new-granny-flat-laws/

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Peter also noted this detail which should help to appease the NIMBYs:

Title 21 Zoning Chapter 21.10.030 ADUs has a unique permit requirement:

2g. An owner signed and notarized a notice of restriction, to be recorded against the property, declaring that:

  • The property owner(s) shall reside in either the primary dwelling unit or the accessory dwelling unit, unless a lessee leases both the primary dwelling and the accessory dwelling unit; and
  • The obligations and restrictions imposed on the accessory dwelling unit per the chapter are BINDING ON ALL PRESENT AND FUTURE PROPERTY OWNERS.

One-Story Plus Guest House

Our new listing in SW Carlsbad!

7206 Durango Circle, Carlsbad

4 br/3 ba, 2,699sf

10,769sf lot

No HOA

LP = $999,000 (we represent the sellers)

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Hardwood floors, stainless kitchen, massive walk-in closets, two fireplaces, central A/C, and it’s tucked away in a culdesac-like spot off the beaten path. No HOA, & no power lines. On the map it looks close to El Camino Real, but it is remarkably quiet. Master br down, & master up (in guest house). Great for multi-gen, work-at-home, distance learning, etc.

https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/7206-Durango-Cir-Carlsbad-CA-92011/16657345_zpid/

ADUs in the MLS

Granny flats will be an answer to providing more reasonably-priced housing – maybe the only answer?

One of the trends in attempts to provide more affordable housing is the growth of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) such as granny flats, garage apartments, or in-law suites. 

These aren’t a new thing – Fonzie occupied an above-garage apartment at the Cunningham home – but they have been somewhat invisible, and often illegal.

The invisibility was often linked to their illegality. Zoning laws passed during the postwar rise of suburbs often limited construction of high-density housing and because so many ADUs were built against city ordinances, without required permits, little research literature was published. Freddie Mac could account for only three or four papers in the 1980s and 1990s and they were mostly small in scale and based on limited data.

The data for the new paper was gathered from property descriptions on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) boards. It looks at the growth of these units, the various structural types of ADUs in use (both permitted and illegal) and discusses the measurable benefits of having ADUs in our communities.

(more…)

Pre-approved ADUs

From the U-T:

San Diego’s rapid increase in granny flat construction since 2018 may accelerate even further thanks to a series of new state laws that loosen a variety of regulations, city officials said this week.

The state has eliminated sewer and water fees for most granny flats — saving homeowners thousands of dollars — and it shrank approval timelines in half and waived requirements that parking spots be replaced if a garage or carport is demolished to make way for a granny flat.

The new laws also force single-family neighborhoods to lift rules prohibiting granny flats, create a five-year grace period for code violations, and expand the size of the multifamily properties that can construct granny flats on site.

In addition, the state softened regulations on “junior granny flats,” which can’t be free-standing and must be located within an existing structure. Junior units can now be built in garages, and a property owner can now have both a granny flat and a junior granny flat on the same site.

(more…)

Prefab Office Shed

Hat tip just some guy for sending in this article on smaller but cheaper alternatives:

With modern looks and efficient construction, prefab continues to be an alluring option for building a new home. But if you already have a house, adding a backyard structure made from components produced off-site can be an easy and practical way to make the most of your property.

Compact prefab sheds often won’t require a permit to install and their potential uses can go way beyond simple storage or workshop space—think a home office, yoga studio, writing retreat, guest house, music room, and so on.

Below, we’ve rounded up five rad prefab shed lines that you can order from right now. The estimated price ranges do not include costs associated with any permits, shipping, foundation, and installation, unless otherwise noted.

https://www.curbed.com/21267449/prefab-homes-shed-for-sale-backyard-office-studio

ADU State and Local Law

We’ve been long-time supporters of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans’ liberties when threatened by government overreach and abuse. My brother worked there after he and the PLF Executive Vice President, John Groen went to school at Claremont Men’s College (the three of us played on the rugby team for two seasons!).  Our good friend Larry Salzman is their director of litigation, and I appreciate him passing along the latest links to the ADU laws below.

AB68 is the state law that overrides local building and zoning codes, requiring ADUs to be permitted throughout the state subject to various conditions about health, safety, and nuisance.  It allows for one attached, and one detached ADU be added to every SFR property. Here is the law:

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB68 

The was augmented last year by AB 670, which prohibits homeowner’s associations from unreasonably withholding their permission to allow their members to develop ADUs in HOA-run communities.

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB670 

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PLF just petitioned this case to the California Supreme Court, asking it to decide whether all power to restrict ADUs is preempted by state law or whether local governments retain some discretion to deny the permit applications that meet state law standards.

The city of San Marino adopted building code restrictions that forbid homeowner Cordelia Donnelly from adding an ADU over her garage. Because state law dealing with ADUs fully preempts local restrictions, Cordelia has asked the California Supreme Court to recognize her right to create more housing. Story here:

https://pacificlegal.org/case/donnelly-v-city-of-san-marino/

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Larry has also found a ADU builder he likes who has just opened a local office:

https://www.gjgardner.com/orange-county-home-builders/granny-flats.aspx

ADU As Investment Property

A two-year-old, Culver City, California-based startup called United Dwelling aims to tackle the affordable housing problem using data, creativity, and underutilized garages and backyards.

United Dwelling plans to eventually build thousands of Accessory Dwelling Units, which are basically 369-square-foot studio homes. The company said its units benefit homeowners who are looking for ways to supplement their income as well as tenants looking for low-cost housing options.

United Dwelling uses data to identify potential lots that would be suitable for its units. It targets mostly low-and middle-income neighborhoods, with some exceptions for workforce housing. The company at first was going to just remodel garages but discovered quickly it’s much easier to tear down old ones and start fresh. So that’s what it does. It replaces those garages with small, affordable and zero net carbon homes in low-density neighborhoods with no out-of-pocket costs to property owners.

It then sets a rental price for the newly built unit and manages the property on the homeowner’s behalf, keeping a share of the rental income. Upon completion of construction, United Dwelling gives the homeowner the option to buy the unit back from the company for just under $88,000. To keep the costs of construction down, United Dwelling aims to build at least five units within a two-mile radius in the same time frame. Its initial focus is on the Los Angeles region with plans to eventually expand to the Bay Area and other locations once its solidifies its process, according to Dietz.

Specifically, the company plans to build over 150 of its detached studio homes in Southern California in 2020 and over 1,500 in 2021 (assuming construction can continue moving forward as an essential function per Los Angeles COVID-19 policy).

“Affordable housing is one of the most daunting challenges facing California and other parts of the county that is both entirely man-made and completely solvable,” Dietz said. “Here, we can do something that’s incredibly relevant. The opportunity is truly immense. Affordable housing is pretty easy. All you need is inexpensive land and construction, and capital.”

Link to Article

Upzoning

Here is a relatively-neutral look at the unaffordability problem in America’s bigger cities, and implementing the idea of upzoning to fix it. Backyard accessory homes could really help out here:

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