Call it granny unit, granny flat, mother-in-law quarters, in-law quarters, casita, secondary suite, guest quarters, guest house, accessory apartment, or simply bootleg rental. They are here and they are legal.
Last year the California legislature made that final term obsolete and took a dramatically firmer stance on one solution to the state’s housing shortage. Local government can no longer outlaw accessory dwelling units (ADUs). For years municipalities have thrown roadblocks in front of legislative attempts to allow secondary homes in neighborhoods currently zoned for a single residence on a single lot (R1). Typically parking has been the ‘escape clause’ in that building codes required multiple off street parking spaces for the additional unit, whether granny owned a car or not. Because most single family residences (SFRs) can’t reasonably accommodate a second garage, the ploy worked and second units were not built.
In 2017 the legislature tackled the problem by clarifying existing law (AB 2299) to forbid a string of local rules designed to foil what local residents perceived as increased density. These changes were numerous and included reorganizing existing law to apply one standard for the ADU permit review process regardless of whether a local government has adopted an ordinance or not, changing specified ADU building and parking standards, and placing limitations on utility
connection fees and capacity charges and requirements.
This law makes several changes to ADU law, which include the following key items, among others:
- requires that a local agency’s ADU ordinance include that the
ADU may be rented separate from the primary residence, but may not
be sold or otherwise conveyed from the primary residence;
- specifies that parking requirements for ADUs may not exceed one parking
space per unit or per bedroom, whichever is less;
- removes the option for local agencies to prohibit off street parking in
setback areas or through tandem parking whether or not that parking is
allowed anywhere else in the jurisdiction;
- defines “tandem parking” as two or more automobiles that are parked
on a driveway or in any other location on a lot, lined up behind one
- provides that no setback shall be required for an existing garage that
is converted to a portion of an ADU.
Undoubtedly these new laws will result in court battles between state government, which is desperately trying to increase housing throughout the state, and local governments and citizen groups who are trying to maintain the status quo with equal fervor.
While many owners fall in the “Not In My Back Yard” category, there are others who see this as an opportunity. Along the beach, where housing is incredibly scarce, and rental rates are sky high, dollar signs are dancing before many eyes. Homeowners who have rented a converted garage for years, and watched out for city inspectors the whole time, can now stand tall knowing they are helping avert the housing crisis. Not to mention making a positive addition to their bank account.
What are the positives and negatives? Clearly, anything that helps remedy the shortage of homes is positive, as is the opportunity for increased income.
Beyond that, for many families, the most important benefit is the ability to house an aging family member, while according them the privacy of a separate living space. Equally desirable is providing cost-effective housing for young adults who have been priced out of the real estate market where they grew up and their families still live.
On the flip side, there are added costs to having a second house on your property. Maintenance comes to mind immediately, as does the increased load on utilities. Less obvious is the loss of outdoor living space. SoCal beach communities are known for outdoor living and on tiny lots yard space is limited. Then there’s the increase in traffic, and the neighbor who objects to anything that looks like increased density.
For follow-up reading and greater detail, see:
Assembly Bill 494 (https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB494); and
Senate Bill 229 (https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB229); which have been codified as;
Government Code § 65852.2 (https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=65852.2.&lawCode=GOV) effective January 1, 2018.
For personalized information regarding the cost of constructing/maintaining/leasing an ADU on your site, please call Carl at 310-963-4788. We can help you evaluate the increase in your property value for adding a guest facility to your existing home. Alternatively, we can help you locate a ‘trade-up’ from your home to another with secondary living quarters. We look forward to hearing from you.