APA CALIFORNIA SUPPORTS STANDARDS THAT ENCOURAGE ACCESSORY DWELLING UNIT (ADU) DEVELOPMENT BUT DOESN’T SUPPORT ANNUAL CHANGES

APA California Supports ADUs
APA California supports ADUs as an important source of housing to help combat the housing crisis our communities are facing. APA also supports standards that encourage the development of ADUs. APA’s opposition to AB 2890 and SB 831 are not to the permitting of ADUs. Instead, our concerns are that these new ADU requirements are not functional and will create unintended consequences. In addition, APA objects to another round of substantial changes proposed in two bills that, yet again, set specific standards that will not work in all jurisdictions throughout the state.

Local governments have been working very hard to comply with major changes in ADU regulations over the past few years and that effort has already been shown to have had a positive effect on the state’s housing supply. However, it is critical that cities and counties, and the state, have time – before another set of new requirements are imposed – to assess the impact that the resulting increased density in existing neighborhoods has on tangible community capacity for services, such as sewer and water capacity, roads, transit, schools and other important community facilities. A “build first, plan later” approach can have major impacts on our communities. These bills don’t take a holistic approach to achieve both the goals of providing more housing and well-planned communities – these goals can and should be achieved simultaneously.

General Workability
Local governments have been working very hard to comply with changes from SB 1069 (Wieckowski)/AB 2299 (Bloom) signed into law in 2016 and SB 229 (Wieckowski)/AB 494 (Bloom) signed into law in 2017. The new 2018 bills propose another extensive round of changes to ADU law – for the third year in a row. They confusingly share both similar and conflicting language. As has been stated many times by the Legislature and HCD, there have already been substantial increases in permits for ADUs in 2017 without these new requirements. There is no need for two, new and separate ADU bills. APA California would appreciate the Legislature allowing cities and counties time to focus on implementation of existing ADU laws, adding only clarifications or clean up where needed.

The Most Troubling Changes

Elimination of Lot Size and Coverage Standards

Floor area ratio (FAR), minimum lot size, and lot coverage are tools that serve important planning purposes. Mainly, they ensure that large mansions aren’t developed on tiny lots, otherwise known as “mansionization.” In many instances, these requirements also ensure the inclusion of green space in dense, urban areas. SB 831 eliminates those requirements for ADUs. AB 2890 also eliminate these standards for ADUs in certain situations. These changes could allow a property owner to construct a massive house and one or more full-sized ADUs on the same lot, which encourages larger, less affordable
units. RECOMMENDED AMENDMENT: Allow ADUs entirely within existing structures even where the FAR exceeds current local standards. And establish minimum lot coverage standards that must be allowed for new
detached ADU units.

Mandatory JADUs and ADUs on the Same Lot and Multiple Multifamily ADUs

Both AB 2890 and SB 831 require ministerial approval of both JADUs and ADUs within existing space on any lot with a single-family home. The bills also require approval of multiple ADUs within a multifamily building. Multiple ADUs or JADUs on one lot or within multifamily buildings could substantially increase the density in areas built with infrastructure designed to handle only single-family homes and fewer overall units, negatively impacting infrastructure capacity and services as noted above. Taking into account the requirement that no parking can be required for these potentially large and
multiple ADUs, there likely will be substantial impacts on many neighborhoods. While this may work in some jurisdictions, such as San Francisco, that doesn’t mean it will work throughout the state. RECOMMENDED AMENDMENT: These requirements should be optional, not mandated.

Impact Fees

SB 831 eliminates impact fees even though these ADUs will still have an impact on the infrastructure and services in the community. For example, a 1200 square foot ADU could be a 3-bedroom, 1-2 bath dwelling — the same as a small house. Certainly, these units will have an impact on services. The bill appears to assume that residents of ADUs will be single, or that ADUS will serves as homes to only a couple of people. That may or may not be the case. But, local governments need to plan for all types of residents, whether a single person or many more, that could live in an ADU. RECOMMENDED AMENDMENT: A better approach would be to allow for reduced impact
fees on new ADU structures where feasible, such as limiting ADU fees to 50% of the current impact fees imposed on single-family residences.

Restrictions or Removal of Owner Occupancy Requirements and No Affordability Requirements
None of the three bills contain any affordability requirements. While the discussion of these bills has been that ADUs are a source of affordable housing, most will likely be rented at market rate and nothing in these bills prevents that, or expressly allows cities to impose affordability restrictions on ADUs. SB 831 removes owner occupancy requirements altogether, allowing for-profit developers to rent out both the main dwelling and the accessory dwelling at whatever rent they choose. RECOMMENDED AMENDMENT: Owner-occupancy requirements should be optional, not mandated.

Substandard ADUs
SB 831 puts building officials in the conflicting position of finding an existing, nonpermitted ADU as an “imminent risk to health and safety” to the ADU resident, but if the homeowner requests it, requiring the building official to delay enforcement of the building code because it’s “not necessary to protect the public health and safety.” It could also create unintended consequences of encouraging residents to illegally build an ADU and then get that unit permitted after the fact, rather than complying with existing law. RECOMMENDED AMENDMENT: Work with Building Officials to find an appropriate solution to permitting existing illegal units.

Timeframe for Permits
All three bills provide for a deemed-approved provision for a permit application not acted on within 60 days. RECOMMENDED AMENDMENT: Any deemed-approved clause should be based upon a complete application and allow for mutual time extensions. Otherwise, applicants that are
not timely in responding to review comments will face automatic denial.


For Questions or Comments, please contact lauren@stefangeorge.com.