Council to Look at ‘Urgency Ordinance’ on ADUs

Margaret Lin, manager of long-range planning and economic development for South Pasadena, discusses ADUs during a housing workshop in September at the library. Photo by Skye Hannah

At this coming Wednesday’s City Council meeting, members are expected to consider an “urgency ordinance’’ regarding accessory dwelling units (ADUs), with newly passed state laws meant to address housing needs limiting cities’ abilities to regulate such dwellings locally.

ADUs, also known as second units or granny flats, serve as secondary dwelling units on the same lot as the primary dwelling that homeowners can build and rent out. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed several bills meant to reduce barriers to the construction of ADUs and address the state’s housing crisis.

In an interview with the Review, South Pas Director of Planning and Building Joanna Hankamer and Manager of Long-Range Planning and Economic Development Margaret Lin shared insight into the bills and the effect they’ll have on the city.

“The urgency ordinance is so that we need to be compliant by having a current ordinance on the books as of Jan. 1,” said Hankamer.

“What the state legislation does is, it really restricts the city from being able to regulate ADUs,” said Lin. “Previously we could do things like restrict the amount of floor area ratio, or we could have restrictions regarding parking requirements, and a lot of that either got removed or minimized.

Hankamer said that out of several bills regarding ADUs passed in October, the three primary bills are Assembly Bills 68 and 881 and Senate Bill 13 (SB 13).

AB 68 allows for homeowners of single-family homes who apply to build ADUs to also build a second, “junior” ADU on their property. Effectively, it acts as a de facto ban statewide on single-family zoning. AB 881 prohibits owner-occupancy requirements for ADUs, such as the owner of the property being required to live in either the main home or the ADU. SB 13 is a combination of AB 68 and AB 881.

Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), who authored AB 881, said it will give homeowners and local governments more clarity on key parts of California’s ADU law. Housing experts have said they are a way to add more housing to residential neighborhoods without changing their character in the same way that a new apartment building would.

“ADUs remain a key strategy for addressing the state’s housing crisis,” said Bloom. “In order to continue the progress we have made, ADU regulations need to be relaxed in order to make ADU development easier and, thus, more likely to happen.”

But Hankamer said the bills also decrease local control.

“By prohibiting the city from regulating certain things, in essence, they take city control,” said Hankamer.