Building a Bay Area granny flat still challenging

SAN JOSE.

Recent California reforms designed to make it easier to build granny flats — one fix to ease the housing crisis — have not gone far enough to overcome local bureaucracy and neighborhood opposition, housing advocates say.

But supporters of the small, relatively cheap rentals known as accessory dwelling units are aiming to bolster state law and nudge cities toward more permissive building codes.

“When you’re in a crisis, you have to do something,” said State Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, author of the original ADU law, which cut construction costs by lowering water and sewer hookup fees. “The bottom line is, we’re still in a crisis.”

Despite easing local restrictions on construction of granny flats, homeowners and city planners report still being flummoxed by the rules.

Steve Vallejos, CEO of Valley Home Development in Fairfield, said after an initial surge of fast-moving ADU permits in 2017, some Bay Area cities have started to slow down the process and add costs with additional environmental and design requirements. “There’s plenty of room for improvement,” Vallejos said.

Wieckowski said he plans to re-introduce legislation to simplify the process and further reduce local fees and restrictions. A reform measure last year failed to pass. “The cities are dragging their feet,” he said.

Some cities are pushing back on more changes to the law, saying they need time to adjust.

“It takes time to develop the ordinances and to update the ordinances,” said Jason Rhine, assistant legislative director for the League of California Cities. The group wants to protect impact fees that support services that would be used by ADU renters.

But other cities are embracing the changes. San Jose leaders in June endorsed a plan they hope will create thousands of new housing units in backyards.

Housing advocates and developers are also actively pushing cities to ease burdens on homeowners looking to add an ADU to their property.

The pro-housing group California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund in December sued San Francisco over zoning restrictions placed on new ADUs. The group is hoping to nudge San Francisco and other cities to clean up local regulations and encourage construction of more auxiliary units to ease the housing shortage.

The suit, filed in San Francisco County Superior Court, charges that city ordinances restrict ADU construction and effectively ban the structures in many new developments. With few exceptions, granny flats would be banned “on the vast majority of single family lots in San Francisco,” the suit said.

The group also contends ADU applications are subject to challenges by neighbors, contrary to state law requiring a simpler, administrative review without public hearings. The group wants San Francisco to amend its ordinance and streamline the approval process.

Dylan Casey, a lawyer for the renters’ group, said city planners are cooperating with them to tweak planning and zoning rules. A San Francisco supervisor working on the issue did not return a message seeking comment.

Casey said the group hopes the suit can be used as an example to encourage other municipalities to adjust zoning laws. “For the most part, localities are complying with it,” he said. “It’s an easy way to add cheap housing.”……

….More at The Mercury News

January 17, 2019.

Louis Hansen 

Louis Hansen covers housing issues for the Bay Area News Group and is based at The Mercury News. He’s won national awards for his investigations and feature stories.

 

2019-01-18T15:07:25+00:00By |2 Comments

About the Author:

YardPods helps SF Bay Area homeowners plan, design and build detached home offices and ADUs.

2 Comments

  1. Harry A. Haryanto January 18, 2019 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    Are you sure that is a picture of ADU being build? That looks way too big for an ADU.

    • Malcolm Davies January 19, 2019 at 4:39 am - Reply

      Hello Harry,
      This photograph was part of the original story published. You may be correct, but some areas allow ADUs to be built up to 1,200 sq ft. Not all are tiny.

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