Granny Flat Permits

hi lenny... put all granny flat permit related info here.

L.A. COUNTY DEPT. OF REGIONAL PLANNING ADU ( GRANNY FLATS) PAGE

L.A. CO. ADU SUMMARY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZScbktOHDw&t=415s   Converted garage as income-earning small home in exurban LA   When Chris Aune bought his home in Lancaster, California, he was looking for a place for just himself and his dogs so he didn't need all 1400 square feet. He also didn't need a "home for his car" so he converted his garage into his home. He now rents the original home for more than the cost of his mortgage and figures he can pay off his home in 4 or 5 years. Meanwhile, he parks in the driveway and lives comfortably in the 575-square-foot ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit- AKA backyard cottage, granny flat, in-law unit).

above conversion was in the city of lancaster where they require 7,000 sq ft lot min. and one of two units on lot must be owner occupied. His conversion cost 30k total.

http://www.garageconversion.org

https://welcome.point.com/

Two state laws — AB 2299 and SB 1069 — amended the rules regarding granny flats   Additionally, the new regulations allow for an accessory dwelling unit to be built up to 1,200 square feet if detached or up to half of the main house or up to 1,200 square feet if attached

https://www.independent.com/news/2017/apr/27/california-legalizes-granny-flats/

 As of the beginning of this year, a new California law went into effect that will now allow small second residential units on single-family lots.

They will be allowed to have full kitchens and bathrooms, can be attached or separated from the main house or even carved out of space inside the principal residence, and can be up to 1,200 square feet in size. These ADUs will not be required to have a utility hookup separate from that of the main house. They can be rented but cannot be sold separately from the main dwelling . new accessory dwelling units (ADUs), as they are being called,

 Height limits, lot coverage, and zoning setbacks will still apply.

However, an existing garage within the setback can be incorporated as new living space in an ADU without having to comply with the setback requirement.

For each new bedroom that is built outside the existing dwelling footprint, one additional parking space needs to be provided. This extra parking can be in tandem on an existing driveway or provided by mechanical automobile parking lifts.,

There are some interesting exceptions to this relatively easy additional parking requirement: It will be waived if the added dwelling/bedroom is (1) within a half mile of public transit, (2) located in a historic district, (3) created within the footprint of the existing residence, or (4) has a car-share parking pod within a block of the AUD (a good reason to encourage car sharing).

This new law is written in such a way that area jurisdictions and planning departments cannot impose restrictions to prohibit or make more difficult the permitting of ADUs,


San Diego County Slow to Implement Granny Flat Law

Posted by : Voice of San DiegoNovember 7, 2017

By Sara Libby.

Granny flats – small housing units that often exist in the form of converted garages or freestanding structures in homeowners’ backyards – were a fixture throughout San Diego County even before Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill last year that made them easier to build.

The law, written by Sen. Bob Wieckowski, essentially reduces the authority of local governments over the granny flat building process.

But so far only seven of the 19 jurisdictions in San Diego County have updated their granny flat ordinances, and there is still confusion about what the law means for cities, architects and homeowners.

Wieckowski and Greg Nickless of the state’s housing and community development department tried to address some of those concerns at a conference in San Diego on Monday.

One area of pushback has been parking requirements, Nickless said. For instance, some cities still want to require homeowners who convert a garage into a granny flat to construct a new parking garage as a replacement. The law tossed out such requirements.

“It has been 30 years where we deal with local jurisdictions that say, ‘You don’t understand, but we’ve got a parking problem.’ I understand. I know you have a parking problem, but we have a housing problem,” Wieckowski said.

California ranks next to last in the country in housing units per capita, according to stats provided by Wieckowski’s office. State lawmakers are treating the construction of granny flats – and lowering other local barriers to construction – as remedies to the housing crisis.

“We’ve heard time and time again that we need to decrease the cost of new housing production, and we need to create more naturally affordable homes for California—[granny flats] check both of those boxes at the same time,” said Sen. Toni Atkins, who co-wrote the granny flat bill.

While the law simplified the process of building a granny flat, onerous fees may be keeping many homeowners from actually building them.

The fees for building a granny flat in San Diego are comparable to fees required for building a 20,000 square-foot home, said Sarah Jarman, a consultant for the San Diego City Council’s Smart Growth and Land Use Committee.

On Nov. 8, the committee will vote on whether to waive some granny flat fees, which would reduce the total from more than $15,000 to about $2,000. That does not include other fees the city has no control over, such as fees from private water companies.

Though applications for granny flat permits have increased in San Diego from 12 applications in 2016 to 48 this year, the city is far from its goal of 6,000 new granny flats in the next decade.


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Granny flats are on the upswing — and they’re not just for grannies anymore
0908_nws_pas-l-granny
Ira Belgrade in front of his granny flat Friday, September 8, 2017, that he designed on Mansfield Avenue in Los Angeles. Belgrade has a website that will research, analyze, measure and photograph your property and present you with a detailed written plan for creating a granny flat.
By KEVIN SMITH | kvsmith@scng.com | San Gabriel Valley Tribune
PUBLISHED: September 10, 2017 at 12:58 pm | UPDATED: September 12, 2017 at 6:03 pm
Granny flats, their day has finally arrived.

Construction on the units — everything from a second, albeit smaller, home on a property to a converted garage that may or may not house your granny, is on the upswing. Meanwhile thousands of illegal guest houses across the Southland are eligible for proper permitting.

The activity is all part of the plan behind a new law that took effect at the beginning of the year.

And it’s working.

“People are feeling better about the equity in their homes and home values have increased. That’s normally when you see home remodeling and secondary units take off,” said Mike Balsamo, CEO of the Building Industry Association of Southern California.

The legislation signed by Gov. Brown last year was designed to encourage the construction of mother-in-law units by making it easier and cheaper — some cities were charging exorbitant fees, according to Ventura-based architect John Stewart — while simultaneously increasing affordable housing options.

California homeowners looking to build accessory dwelling units, or “granny flats,” on their properties are having an easier time of it, thanks to legislation approved late last year by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Altadena resident Bruce Tolbert plans to convert this structure behind his Roosevelt Avenue home in Altadena into a granny flat. California residents looking to convert existing structures into secondary living units or those wanting to build new ones from scratch are having an easier time of it, thanks to legislation that was approved late last year by Gov. Jerry Brown. (WALT MANCINI — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
“In terms of solving the housing crisis, it’s a drop in the bucket — but we’ll take it,” Balsamo said.

Still, if just 10 percent of California’s 6.8 million single-family homeowners added granny flats, that would contribute 600,000 new units to the state’s housing supply, according to USMondularInc, a company that specializes in the construction of secondary housing units.

“California is in a housing crisis, and allowing people to modify their existing home or build a small cottage in their backyard will increase the rental supply at no cost to taxpayers,” state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, said in a statement late last year. He authored one of two bills that led to the resurgence in granny flats.


“It will also enable people of all ages to stay in the community they like without having to move away from their family, friends, work or school,” Wieckowski said.

What the new law does

The legislation prohibits cities from requiring additional parking spaces for units located within a half-mile of public transit. It also eliminates sprinkler requirements if the primary home has them. It additionally gets rid of fees charged to connect to local water and sewer systems for existing structures and it reduces them for newly constructed units.

Partly because of the newly relaxed regulations, the construction industry is booming and craft workers are in high demand, said Guy Hazen, who owns Construction Owl, an Encino business that specializes in home remodeling services.

“Before, you could not covert your garage into a second dwelling unit and rent it out, but now you can and that’s impacted things bigtime,” Hazen said.

Kolleen Palmer, 36, who rents a granny flat on Bonnie Avenue in Pasadena along with her husband Sean, said she wouldn’t trade her living situation for an apartment.

“It’s very quiet on this block and we have one bedroom, a living room, a dining room, a laundry room and a two-car garage,” she said. “We’ve also got a nice yard in the back.

Granny flats across SoCal

There are about 50,000 unpermitted granny flats in Los Angeles, according to L.A. resident Ira Belgrade, who runs www.yimbyla.com (Yes In My Back Yard Los Angeles), which helps homeowners who want to build a granny flat — or legitimize an illegal unit — through the city’s planning process.

Meanwhile, a report that was released in June from the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group reveals that Pasadena has about 740 accessory dwelling units that are nonconforming according to the city’s 2003 law. It notes, however, that some of those units may now conform to California’s new law and some may be nonconforming duplexes rather than granny flats.

Joanne Hwang, a planner with Pasadena, said existing secondary living units in Pasadena are considered legal and won’t need to be retrofitted.

Have residents been rushing to build granny flats since the new state law took effect in January?

“We’ve had a lot of inquiries, but in terms of the actual number of permits, we’ve only had four or five applications,” Hwang said. “I think more people will consider doing this … but it’s not cheap.”

An estimated 18,836 Newport Beach homeowners are now eligible to repurpose existing space on their property into a living unit. Another 13,126 can do the same, but also have the option to construct new units on their property. In August, the Newport Beach City Council voted 7-0 to approve changes to the zoning code and local coastal program.

Monrovia Mayor Tom Adams said his city has allowed homeowners to have a guest house on their property for family members, although the units couldn’t include a full kitchen and couldn’t be rented out. That has changed under the state’s new law.

“Over the years, there have been multitudes of garages that were illegally converted and rented out, and when the city became aware of them, they had to be converted back,” he said. “With this new law they’re trying to help alleviate the lack of supply for housing.

“I think the intent is good … but we’ll have to wait and see what the outcome is.”

One homeowner’s story

Los Angeles’ Belgrade converted his garage into a granny flat in 2009, even though his lot size was slightly too small by local standards. Still, he managed to make it work and operated under the city’s radar until someone reported the unsanctioned unit four years later.

Then he was forced to change the certificate of occupancy and go through L.A.’s laborious permitting process. In March, he was finally able to get it permitted after shelling out $3,000 in permit and city fees.

That’s what prompted him to launch his website. For $1,200, his business will research, analyze, measure and photograph a homeowner’s property and present them with a detailed written plan, explaining exactly how they can convert an existing structure into a granny flat — or build one from the ground up.

Belgrade said it can help someone avoid a bureaucratic process that can be time-consuming, confusing and costly.

He initially opted to convert his garage into a granny flat after his first wife died and his talent-management business began to falter. Belgrade declined to reveal how much rental income the unit generates monthly, but he said it ultimately allowed him to keep his home.

“This saved me,” he said. “Many other people are in similar circumstances, whether it’s dealing with high bills, losing a job or medical expenses. Then you suddenly find that you have the ability to rent out space to create some income.”

Listings on Craigslist.org reveal that secondary living units can generate significant monthly income. Depending on where the unit is, prices can vary widely.

A 300-square-foot guest house in Agoura Hills, for example, is priced at $925 a month, while a 500-square-foot granny flat in Dana Point runs $1,650 a month.

More housing is needed

One fact is indisputable: Housing is in short supply — and it’s expensive.

A report released earlier this year from the California Department of Housing and Community Development found that the Golden State is woefully behind on home production. An average of 80,000 new homes have been built each year over the past decade, the study said, but that falls well below the 180,000 that are needed to keep pace with the state’s ever-growing population.

Figures from CoreLogic show that Southern California home prices remain high.

In July, the median price for a single-family home in Pasadena topped $1.3 million in some areas, while the median price in many areas of Long Beach was $636,000 or higher. Orange County prices have trended higher. Median single-family home prices in Irvine, for example, range from $722,000 to more than $2.2 million.

Overall homeownership rates are at their lowest since the 1940s.

The Housing and Community Development report further notes that most California renters — more than 3 million households — pay more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. And nearly one-third — more than 1.5 million households — pay more than half of their income toward rent.

Increased property values

Nick Angelopoulos, who owns Nicholas Construction & Development Co. Inc. in La Puente, thinks secondary housing units are a great idea.

“I recommended this to a client in Altadena who has a make-shift kind of unit behind his garage that someone built years ago that wasn’t permitted,” he said. “I told him that the value of his home would go up if he converted that into a granny flat, so we’ll be redoing it.”

Bruce Tolbert, who owns the Altadena home, said he’s not planning on renting out his unit.

“I did it more to increase my property value,” he said. “Things needed upgrading so I figured I might as well put that in now.”

Belgrade said a homeowner could conservatively retrofit an existing 400-square-foot garage or other structure into a granny flat for as little as $30,000, although some contractors will quote prices as high as $80,000 to $100,000.

“It could easily get to $50,000 or $75,000, but that’s money you’ll recoup over time,” he said. “You have to look at the value you’re adding to your home.”

Staff writer Louis Casiano contributed to this report

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The Granny Flats Are Coming

    Mimi Kirk

Jan 16, 2018

A new book argues that the U.S. is about to see more accessory dwelling units and guides homeowners on how to design and build them.

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When Kol Peterson moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2010, affordable housing was a priority, as it was for many newcomers in this city’s booming real-estate market. He looked at two frequently discussed options for high-cost cities—tiny houses on wheels and communal living—but decided on another option: accessory dwelling units, or ADUs—also known as granny flats, basement and garage apartments, and the like.

ADUs weren’t yet common in Portland—that year, the city issued only 86 permits for them—but when Peterson did the math he decided that building one was his best option. “I could buy a house, construct an ADU in the backyard, and live in the ADU while renting out the house,” he said. That’s what he did: He bought a home in the city’s King/Sabin neighborhood, built a tidy two-story mini-home in its backyard, and moved in. The experience, he says, has been life-changing. “Building an 800-foot ADU eventually eliminated my housing costs, and I’m living in my dream house.”

Eight years later, Peterson works full-time helping others build ADUs, preaching the granny-flat gospel via classes for other Portland homeowners. The number of ADU permits the city issues has risen dramatically; in 2016, it was 615. In Vancouver, Canada—an ADU pioneer—more than 2,000 ADUs have been built citywide in the last decade. But for most cities in North America, steep legal barriers are preventing this form of housing from taking off: Many cities ban them outright, and those that don’t often have severe restrictions on size, owner occupancy, and parking. Only a handful of cities have adjusted their regulations to encourage more ADUs—mostly on the West coast, where severe housing affordability is a growing problem. But Peterson and other ADU advocates are predicting that the country is on the verge of welcoming more of them.

“By 2020, ADUs will take off in tens of cities,” he said. “This doesn’t mean there will be an explosion of them overnight, but the concept will become more popular in the next couple of years.”

Peterson has now parlayed his ADU expertise into a new book, Backdoor Revolution: The Definitive Guide to ADU Development, that walks potential ADU builders through the planning and construction process, as well as tackles the social, economic, and environmental issues that relate to such housing. CityLab spoke with him recently about why ADUs are gaining traction and how to advocate for making them easy to build in your city.
A converted garage apartment in Portland (Courtesy of Kol Peterson)

Why will we see more ADUs in the U.S.?

There’s a lot of single-family zoning in the center of our cities, and urban planners, civil society, and city leaders are questioning whether these zoning rules make sense. We’re missing dwellings that can house more people and are more affordable, such as duplexes, triplexes, and ADUs.

I don’t think tiny houses on wheels will soon become a widespread form of housing, because they aren’t yet permittable. But media coverage of them has helped to spur more interest in small housing in general. These factors are positioning ADUs to become a popular movement.

What are the benefits of ADUs for residents, cities, and the environment?

ADUs allow people housing flexibility over time. You can design an ADU in which to age in place, and then rent out your main house, allowing you to stay in your neighborhood as you grow older, and at less cost. Parents, caregivers, or adult children can also live in ADUs.

ADUs use fewer resources like gas and electricity due to their size, and because they’re often built in walkable and bikeable areas, their residents generate less of an environmental impact that way as well. They also reduce the per capita residential footprint. This is important because there are a lot of one- and two-person households in cities, but not the housing to match that demographic. ADUs can help fill this need.

And ADUs generally don’t have a significant infrastructural impact on a city, in contrast to, say, a 400-unit apartment building. They bring more housing to an area organically, and the city doesn’t have to build new infrastructure to accommodate it.

Where are ADUs already taking off in the U.S.?

A city must relax their ADU codes to increase their number. In 2017, the state of California did just that. While the legislation did not address one the most problematic issues, the owner occupancy requirement, it did relax the rules on providing parking spaces for ADUs. Los Angeles’s code already didn’t require owner occupancy, so the statewide reduction in other regulations has been especially effective there. L.A. went from having 142 ADU permits issued in 2016 to roughly 2,000 in 2017.
(Courtesy of Kol Peterson)

San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Barbara, and numerous other California cities have also experienced a significant uptick, though not as extreme as L.A.; Portland and Austin, Texas, are other fairly ADU-friendly cities. Though this is a pretty limited subset of cities, the interest and demand for ADUs is growing.

What should people do if they want to build an ADU but they are illegal in their city, or the codes are too strict?

One strategy is to point to other cities that are experiencing similar affordable housing issues—basically every coastal U.S. city—and how those that allow and foster ADUs have benefited from them. As for codes, the owner occupancy requirement is perhaps the most important to overcome. A strategy to eliminate the provision would be to request the city to drop it in a certain area, and then take stock of the consequences a year or two later. Inevitably, ADUs won’t generate problems, and then advocates can push for expanding the relaxed rule to the entire city.
“When a city relaxes ADU codes, it encourages people to construct more of them—and build them better so they’re safer.”

The other argument worth noting is that cities in which ADUs aren’t legal still have many of them; people are just building them illegally. When a city relaxes ADU codes, it encourages people to construct more of them—and build them better so they’re safer.

What should one keep in mind when designing an ADU?  

Given the small size of an ADU, it’s necessary to have a “great room” that houses the living room, dining room, and kitchen in a contiguous space. Such a room with high ceilings and a visual connection to an outdoor area that’s adjacent to the ADU makes the space feel bigger than it is.

Also, ADUs are a form of urban infill housing, so it’s a best practice to be respectful of neighbors and not infringe on their privacy. This means being careful in terms of placement of doors and windows.
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One critique of ADUs is that they encourage more short-term rentals, which actually exacerbate the dearth of affordable housing. What’s your response?

My hope is that ADUs would be treated like any other house in regard to short-term rentals. By this I mean that if a city doesn’t allow short-term rentals, it shouldn’t allow them in ADUs or any other dwelling. The reason parity is important is that the rules should be the same across the board, such as regarding owner occupancy. Cities generally don’t require owner occupancy for a duplex, for instance, but do for an ADU. This rule should be equally applied, or permitted ADUs will not be viewed as a desirable housing form for homeowners.

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New State Rules on Granny Flats in California

   There is a new state law in California that has every homeowner smiling. The much welcome law gives homeowners the ability to construct an accessory dwelling unit or an extension to their property. The new law will make it easier for residents to construct extra quarters which are usually known as granny flats, in-law units or back houses.

The new state rules on granny flats in California which were approved by Governor Terry Brown came at a time when there is dire need to develop new housing units. This is timely in ensuring the ever increasing demand that has seen the skyrocketing of rental prices is met. In the recent past, there was a question over the legality of thousands of residences that had granny flats added to them. There was even a ruling to the effect that city authorities had been irregularly permitting the construction of granny flats.

The new rules on granny flats in California took effect on January 1 and eased the regulations on granny flats. Some of the things amended include; elimination of sprinkler requirements, eased parking restrictions, elimination of sewage and water hook-up fees and increasing the maximum permissible size of a granny flat. The new laws also eliminated the need for ministerial approval to convert an existing structure like a garage into a granny flat.
What are the implications of the new rules?

One thing is for sure; homeowners will take up that law with enthusiasm and will begin to construct new accessory dwellings without a fuss. The city council had ceased issuing the permits for construction of accessory dwellings even for the better part of 2016 but a memo issued by the Department of Planning on December 30 ruled out the illegality of those permits. The memo states that applicants should be able to get their permits as of January 1 on condition that their granny flats meet the required state standards. It seems however that the officials at the city council are working on a set of requirements that are rumored to be stricter than those demanded by the state.

The said city regulations will put a cap on the size of a back house to just 50 % of the main house or 640 square feet ( whichever is larger ) from 1, 200 feet. This city rule would significantly limit the scale of accessory dwellings for many homeowners. The state requirement was a general limitation of just 1, 200 square feet. Homes in hillside areas will be prevented from having a granny flat constructed to them if the city requirements see light of day.

Accessory units have long been a bone of contention between those advocating for cheaper housing and the city authorities and the debate has picked up quite some speed in the recent past. Those vouching for granny flats argue that the additional units will serve in easing congestion without necessarily changing how the neighborhood landscape looks. Opponents to the SB 1069 argue that the additional units will lead to increased traffic. The new law is estimated to create an additional 5, 000 to 10, 000 housing units in Los Angeles which will do good to address the housing crisis in the state of California. If granny flats were built on just 10 % of the existing single-family residences in Los Angeles alone, that would quickly meet half of the 100, 000 new housing units target. This would do so without changing the scale and character of the neighborhoods.

Previously home owners had to cough up to $ 60, 000 in regulatory fees alone to obtain an approval for constructing a granny flat. This is essentially the same amount of money someone building a mansion required to part with to get an approval. The bill was put together in order to address some of these challenges that red taped the building of residential houses and accessory units.

The mulled regulations from the city will of course bring a stand-off between city and state laws. California prohibits her cities from demanding a discretionary procedure to decide which granny flats are permissible but allows them to set some local standards that affect such things as granny flat sizes and placement. All in all, more residents will get permits with ease and go on to construct an accessory unity whenever they please.

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Who wins by allowing granny flats in Pasadena? We all do

By Jill Shook |
December 7, 2017 at 8:40 pm

Since a lot of factual (and some mythical) information has circulated about how ADUs (accessory dwelling units, aka granny flats) might benefit or hurt the city of Pasadena, I wrote an op-ed published in the Pasadena Star-News this summer providing evidence that ADUs would not significantly increase traffic, create parking problems, lower property values, increase crime or have any other measurable negative impacts. See: http://www.sgvtribune.com/2017/07/13/granny-flats-dont-bring-the-problems-some-cities-fear-guest-commentary/

Statistics don’t tell the whole story, so I’d like to put a human face on this issue by giving some examples of people I know who live in or benefit from ADUs.

Olga is a widowed senior citizen living on Social Security who could afford to live in Pasadena because of an ADU. Her daughter Sharon owns a home in Northwest Pasadena and lets her mother live in a legally converted garage. The main house is rented to Sharon’s daughter and son-in-law, who are also low income. Together this family covers the mortgage payments and other costs. This arrangement keeps the family together and allows them to live affordably in Pasadena.

Bert is a social worker who helps mentally challenged homeless people get housed and was able to co-purchase a home because it had a back house. A committed Christian, he and a friend co-purchased a home with a friend. Bert lives with his wife in the back house. This is a legal yet non-conforming ADU because it was built at a time when ADUs were allowed no matter your lot size, long before the existing 15,000-square-foot property-size requirement in 2003. (There are 750 legal but non-conforming units in Pasadena — all grandfathered in after Pasadena’s 2003’s Secondary Dwelling Unit Ordinance.)

Maria is an architect from Latin America who is able to make her mortgage payments because she designed and built a beautiful a second unit that she rents out.

Jochen is a nurse from Germany and his wife is an acupuncturist from Korea. They’ve lived in Pasadena for nearly 20 years and recently became U.S. citizens.  Both work in Pasadena, but can’t afford to buy a home. However, they managed to find an ADU for only $1,000 per month, which they can afford. Victor Gordo is a Latino Pasadena councilman who was able to finance his way through law school because of the second units he had and rents out.

John Kennedy is an African-American Pasadena councilman whose family of 11 could afford to live in Pasadena because they had a second unit.

A new pastor in town and his wife and three children live in an ADU in Bungalow Heaven and love the strong sense of community with neighbors and those in the larger home.

One friend had a brain tumor, and now lives in a back house with her husband and child behind her parents’ home. Grandparents love having their grandson close by!

I could cite many other similar examples.

Pasadena has a sizable lower-wage workforce to serve its higher income population (housekeepers, gardeners, car washers, restaurant workers, those working in dry cleaners and even teachers). Some say that if you can’t afford to live in Pasadena you should move, but California’s Housing Element law requires cities to plan for sufficient housing for all income levels, recognizing that a healthy city needs all income levels to make it work and help prevent long commutes. For these much needed workers to live close by, and to retain the character of the single-family neighborhoods (rather than tearing down homes to build apartment buildings) ADUs allow for gentle infill nestled behind homes throughout city.

ADUs allow people to live in our city and enable low-income homeowners and seniors on fixed incomes to keep their homes.  ADUs help families to live together and support each other. Recent studies show that the L.A. area is one of the most difficult regions in the country for a millennial to get enough money for the down payment for a house. Living with parents or grandparents in an ADU can help young people save money to purchase their first home and gain entry into the middle class.

Currently many people in Pasadena live in unpermitted ADUs. Some of these ADUs are not up to code and have safety issues. And the city is not getting the property tax income on these units.  The city needs to adopt policies to facilitate an affordable path to legalization of such units and encourage building of new ADUs to strengthen the tax base. The example of other cities, like Santa Cruz, is worth following.

What could prevent a legal path to build and legalize unpermitted ADUs are Pasadena’s excessive lot size requirement (15,000 square feet) and excessive fees that could add $50,000 to the cost of construction or renovation. The $50,000 is only the fees, not including construction costs. Arcadia, Burbank, Glendale, Monrovia, and L.A. County (Altadena) all have no minimum lot size for detached ADUs. Temple City’s fees for ADUs are only $3,000. Glendale’s total fees are between $10,000-$20,000. Pasadena’s excessive fees do not seem in compliance with the new state law, (Assembly Bill 2299 / Senate Bill 1069, effective January 1, 2017.)

It is the intent of the Legislature that an accessory dwelling unit ordinance adopted by a local agency has the effect of providing for the creation of accessory dwelling units and that provisions in this ordinance relating to matters including unit size, parking, fees, and other requirements, are not so arbitrary, excessive, or burdensome so as to unreasonably restrict the ability of homeowners to create accessory dwelling units in zones in which they are authorized by local ordinance. http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=GOV&sectionNum=65852.150

Portland saw a boom in second unit construction through fee waivers. See http://www.oregonlive.com/front-porch/index.ssf/2015/09/market_for_granny_flats_has_bo.html. Multnomah County is also launching a pilot program that provides homeowners with free tiny homes if they are rented to homeless people. This approach will actually save the city money since the cost of housing homeless people in apartments is higher than the cost of these tiny homes. See http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2017/03/multnomah_county_wants_to_ince.html

Do second units make housing more affordable? Studies concludes that ADUs definitely help homeowners to live more affordably, and to truly help renters, it depends on costs like construction and fees. See https://accessorydwellings.org/2014/08/07/do-adus-provide-affordable-housing/

This Monday, Dec. 11, if the City Council votes to again make it possible to have detached ADUs on properties throughout the city with fees that are more reasonable, it will help move our city a bit closer to its housing vision:

All Pasadena residents have an equal right to live in decent, safe and affordable housing in a suitable living environment for the long-term well-being and stability of themselves, their families, their neighborhoods, and their community. The housing vision for Pasadena is to maintain a socially and economically diverse community of homeowners and renters who are afforded this right.

Jill Shook is a Pasadena affordable-housing advocate


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Granny flats are on the upswing — and they’re not just for grannies anymore

By Kevin Smith | kvsmith@scng.com | San Gabriel Valley Tribune
PUBLISHED: September 9, 2017 at 9:21 pm | UPDATED: September 19, 2017 at 11:55 am

Granny flats, their day has finally arrived.

Construction on the units — everything from a second, albeit smaller, home on a property to a converted garage that may or may not house your granny, is on the upswing. Meanwhile thousands of illegal guest houses across the Southland are eligible for proper permitting.

The activity is all part of the plan behind a new law that took effect at the beginning of the year.

And it’s working.

“People are feeling better about the equity in their homes and home values have increased. That’s normally when you see home remodeling and secondary units take off,” said Mike Balsamo, CEO of the Building Industry Association of Southern California.

The legislation signed by Gov. Brown last year was designed to encourage the construction of mother-in-law units by making it easier and cheaper — some cities were charging exorbitant fees, according to Ventura-based architect John Stewart — while simultaneously increasing affordable housing options.

“In terms of solving the housing crisis, it’s a drop in the bucket — but we’ll take it,” Balsamo said.

Still, if just 10 percent of California’s 6.8 million single-family homeowners added granny flats, that would contribute 600,000 new units to the state’s housing supply, according to USMondularInc, a company that specializes in the construction of secondary housing units.

“California is in a housing crisis, and allowing people to modify their existing home or build a small cottage in their backyard will increase the rental supply at no cost to taxpayers,” state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, said in a statement late last year. He authored one of two bills that led to the resurgence in granny flats.

“It will also enable people of all ages to stay in the community they like without having to move away from their family, friends, work or school,” Wieckowski said.

What the new law does

The legislation prohibits cities from requiring additional parking spaces for units located within a half-mile of public transit. It also eliminates sprinkler requirements if the primary home has them. It additionally gets rid of fees charged to connect to local water and sewer systems for existing structures and it reduces them for newly constructed units.

Partly because of the newly relaxed regulations, the construction industry is booming and craft workers are in high demand, said Guy Hazen, who owns Construction Owl, an Encino business that specializes in home remodeling services.

“Before, you could not covert your garage into a second dwelling unit and rent it out, but now you can and that’s impacted things bigtime,” Hazen said.

Kolleen Palmer, 36, who rents a granny flat on Bonnie Avenue in Pasadena along with her husband Sean, said she wouldn’t trade her living situation for an apartment.

“It’s very quiet on this block and we have one bedroom, a living room, a dining room, a laundry room and a two-car garage,” she said. “We’ve also got a nice yard in the back.

Granny flats across SoCal

There are about 50,000 unpermitted granny flats in Los Angeles, according to L.A. resident Ira Belgrade, who runs www.yimbyla.com (Yes In My Back Yard Los Angeles), which helps homeowners who want to build a granny flat — or legitimize an illegal unit — through the city’s planning process.

Meanwhile, a report that was released in June from the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group reveals that Pasadena has about 740 accessory dwelling units that are nonconforming according to the city’s 2003 law. It notes, however, that some of those units may now conform to California’s new law and some may be nonconforming duplexes rather than granny flats.

Joanne Hwang, a planner with Pasadena, said existing secondary living units in Pasadena are considered legal and won’t need to be retrofitted.

Have residents been rushing to build granny flats since the new state law took effect in January?

“We’ve had a lot of inquiries, but in terms of the actual number of permits, we’ve only had four or five applications,” Hwang said. “I think more people will consider doing this … but it’s not cheap.”

An estimated 18,836 Newport Beach homeowners are now eligible to repurpose existing space on their property into a living unit. Another 13,126 can do the same, but also have the option to construct new units on their property. In August, the Newport Beach City Council voted 7-0 to approve changes to the zoning code and local coastal program.

Monrovia Mayor Tom Adams said his city has allowed homeowners to have a guest house on their property for family members, although the units couldn’t include a full kitchen and couldn’t be rented out. That has changed under the state’s new law.

“Over the years, there have been multitudes of garages that were illegally converted and rented out, and when the city became aware of them, they had to be converted back,” he said. “With this new law they’re trying to help alleviate the lack of supply for housing.

“I think the intent is good … but we’ll have to wait and see what the outcome is.”

One homeowner’s story

Los Angeles’ Belgrade converted his garage into a granny flat in 2009, even though his lot size was slightly too small by local standards. Still, he managed to make it work and operated under the city’s radar until someone reported the unsanctioned unit four years later.

Then he was forced to change the certificate of occupancy and go through L.A.’s laborious permitting process. In March, he was finally able to get it permitted after shelling out $3,000 in permit and city fees.

That’s what prompted him to launch his website. For $1,200, his business will research, analyze, measure and photograph a homeowner’s property and present them with a detailed written plan, explaining exactly how they can convert an existing structure into a granny flat — or build one from the ground up.

Belgrade said it can help someone avoid a bureaucratic process that can be time-consuming, confusing and costly.

He initially opted to convert his garage into a granny flat after his first wife died and his talent-management business began to falter. Belgrade declined to reveal how much rental income the unit generates monthly, but he said it ultimately allowed him to keep his home.

“This saved me,” he said. “Many other people are in similar circumstances, whether it’s dealing with high bills, losing a job or medical expenses. Then you suddenly find that you have the ability to rent out space to create some income.”

Listings on Craigslist.org reveal that secondary living units can generate significant monthly income. Depending on where the unit is, prices can vary widely.

A 300-square-foot guest house in Agoura Hills, for example, is priced at $925 a month, while a 500-square-foot granny flat in Dana Point runs $1,650 a month.

More housing is needed

One fact is indisputable: Housing is in short supply — and it’s expensive.

A report released earlier this year from the California Department of Housing and Community Development found that the Golden State is woefully behind on home production. An average of 80,000 new homes have been built each year over the past decade, the study said, but that falls well below the 180,000 that are needed to keep pace with the state’s ever-growing population.

Figures from CoreLogic show that Southern California home prices remain high.

In July, the median price for a single-family home in Pasadena topped $1.3 million in some areas, while the median price in many areas of Long Beach was $636,000 or higher. Orange County prices have trended higher. Median single-family home prices in Irvine, for example, range from $722,000 to more than $2.2 million.

Overall homeownership rates are at their lowest since the 1940s.

The Housing and Community Development report further notes that most California renters — more than 3 million households — pay more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. And nearly one-third — more than 1.5 million households — pay more than half of their income toward rent.

Increased property values

Nick Angelopoulos, who owns Nicholas Construction & Development Co. Inc. in La Puente, thinks secondary housing units are a great idea.

“I recommended this to a client in Altadena who has a make-shift kind of unit behind his garage that someone built years ago that wasn’t permitted,” he said. “I told him that the value of his home would go up if he converted that into a granny flat, so we’ll be redoing it.”

Bruce Tolbert, who owns the Altadena home, said he’s not planning on renting out his unit.

“I did it more to increase my property value,” he said. “Things needed upgrading so I figured I might as well put that in now.”

Belgrade said a homeowner could conservatively retrofit an existing 400-square-foot garage or other structure into a granny flat for as little as $30,000, although some contractors will quote prices as high as $80,000 to $100,000.

“It could easily get to $50,000 or $75,000, but that’s money you’ll recoup over time,” he said. “You have to look at the value you’re adding to your home.”

Staff writer Louis Casiano contributed to this report


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Granny flats: A fix for housing crisis?
By Andrew Khouri   LA times sunday 4-15-18

Law changes may ease housing crisis

Several years ago, Patsy Spitta of Altadena wanted to help her daughter afford a home — something out of reach for many teachers like her daughter.

So Spitta, still working as a paralegal in her retirement years, had an idea.

She would build a backyard house and live there, allowing her daughter and grandson to leave their $2,500-a-month apartment and move into the two-bedroom house Spitta purchased three decades ago.

The only problem? A series of municipal regulations made the project infeasible.

“Then,” Spitta said, “the rules changed.”

Specifically, a series of state laws took effect last year that seek to ease California’s housing shortage by eliminating local restrictions that made it difficult or impossible to build such small second homes, commonly known as granny flats.

Now, the 77-year-old grandmother is among a wave of Californians building second homes in their backyards, getting their previously illegal units permitted and converting their garages to rent to family or others.

“I got over 200 names on an interest list,” said John Arendsen, a veteran contractor who started marketing his Vista company as Crest Backyard Homes last year because of the eased rules. “I have changed my whole business model.”

Housing advocates say barriers to construction remain, but they are praising the changes, noting the laws opened a crack in a fiercely protected single-family zoning code that limits how many homes can be built on a lot in large swaths of the Golden State.

“It’s the first time in decades we can [really] do more than one” home on a lot, said Mark Vallianatos, policy director for advocacy group Abundant Housing L.A.

In Oakland, the planning department approved 266 so-called accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in 2017, up from 126 a year earlier.

In Long Beach, 96 applications are pending and the city has approved 15 this year, compared with 21 approved in all of 2017 and none a year earlier. Increases also have been reported in San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco.

The largest growth is in Los Angeles, where 2,342 secondary units were permitted in 2017, up from 120 in 2016.

Though many individual homeowners are jumping at the chance to add granny flats to their properties, the change hasn’t been universally welcomed by homeowner groups.

“There is a new ADU being built on every block in this neighborhood,” said Elizabeth Pollock, president of the Del Rey Residents Assn. who wants the city to crack down. “Every time you add people to a neighborhood, you add a need for city services and a need for parking and all the things that come with added density.”

It’s not clear how much of L.A.’s massive increase comes from homeowners legalizing backyard homes that were illegally built without permits, rather than from building new units that would add to the city’s housing supply.

The city issued 306 permits last year for new, free-standing secondary dwelling units. But it’s hard to tell whether the remaining permits for structure conversions or additions are for existing, residential units that are currently illegal. The question isn’t asked and homeowners aren’t particularly forthcoming with such information, a Building and Safety spokesman said.

Ira Belgrade, a backyard home advocate who for a fee helps homeowners permit secondary units, said he’s seeing a surge of people interested in legalizing their units.

“They are coming out of the woodwork,” he said.

David Garcia, policy director for the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, said that legalizations are still a step forward because they bring those living spaces out of the shadows.

“You have some individuals and families that could be living in units that could pose health and safety dangers,” Garcia said.

Granny flats have been around for decades and the state has tried to encourage them within single-family zones since the 1980s, though many cities simply passed restrictions that severely limited their construction.

That included banning them outright if authorities found the homes would unduly harm “public health, safety and welfare” — something Newport Beach did unless the unit was occupied by someone 55 or older.

Last year’s state law change took away that option, while also barring cities from requiring additional parking spaces for units near transit and charging excessive fees to connect to local water and sewer systems.

Cities can still pass ordinances that set design guidelines and require that homeowners have a minimum-sized lot to build an entirely new structure.

But that size restriction cannot be overly burdensome and municipalities must allow homeowners — no matter their lot size — the opportunity to convert an existing structure, such as a garage or portion of their house.

“It was an opportunity to say, ‘My God, let’s get government out of the way,” said Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), who along with Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) wrote the major bills that became law last year.

Because of the depths of the housing shortage — one estimate says California is more than 100,000 new units behind annually — granny flats won’t solve the affordability crisis on their own, but they are a crucial tool, Garcia said.

Adding a secondary unit to just 10% of single-family properties within Los Angeles, for example, would create 50,000 new homes. A slew of companies and nonprofits are lining up to make things easier.

Cover, a Gardena-based backyard home developer, this year launched a free online tool that lets Los Angeles homeowners search their address and see if they are allowed to build a granny flat and, if so, at what size and in what location.

“We are using technology to streamline,” Cover Chief Executive Alexis Rivas said.

The office of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is working with the nonprofit L.A. Mas and community lender Genesis LA on a pilot program aimed at increasing financing sources. And, as The Times reported this week, L.A. County has agreed to build a handful of units for people who agree to house homeless individuals.

Housing advocates are excited in part because of lower construction costs.

The typical 400- to 800-square-foot Cover unit costs a homeowner $140,000 to $300,000, including permits and appliances. A garage conversion is cheaper — $45,000 to $100,000 in Los Angeles, according to Pearl Remodeling in Van Nuys.

By comparison, in 2016, it cost an average of $425,000 to build one unit of affordable housing in California, according to the Terner Center. Garcia said an average market rate unit in the eastern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area is now costing nearly $578,000 to build.

The units also boost supply in single-family neighborhoods in a way that could be less objectionable than if a developer proposed a new apartment building or the state tried to upzone en masse — as two controversial state bills under consideration, SB 827 and SB 828, seek to do.

“A lot of development [pushback] centers on neighborhood character. An accessory dwelling unit is not a threat to that concept — that is really important,” Garcia said.

Others, of course, disagree. Some Los Angeles neighborhood groups have urged the City Council to pass an ordinance with the strictest standards allowed by the new state rules.

Pollock, of the Del Rey Residents Assn., wants the city to even lobby state legislators for a change to state law that wouldallow Los Angeles to require more parking spaces for granny flats than it currently can.

She said she fears the units will clog the streets with additional cars, while taking out backyard green space — and possibly views as well.

“I have bought a single family residence because I want to be able to walk around my house, have a garden. I did not want an apartment,” said Pollock. “I did not want to live in New York. If I did I would move there.”

Advocates, meanwhile, want to make it easier to build and are pushing for more changes at the state level, including a new bill from Wieckowski that would eliminate minimum lot sizes and all fees for accessory dwelling units, while increasing state enforcement power to ensure local rules are compliant with state law.

In Altadena, Spitta is having an easier time moving forward with her backyard home, which developer Cover will build for $250,000, permitting and appliances included.

Under the new laws, she will no longer be required to build a new covered parking structure when she demolishes her garage to make room for the modern one-bedroom.

And the project hasn’t crimped her budget much either. She is relying on the meteoric rise of the California housing market, which allowed her to take equity out of the home she purchased in 1986 for $132,000 that is now worth nearly $800,000.

“What a good idea,” Spitta said of her plan. “Who today can afford to buy a house in our area?”

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