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Santa Monica Lawmaker's "Granny Flat" Law Getting Update

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

April 12, 2019 -- A 2016 law authored by Santa Monica Assemblymember Richard Bloom that makes accessory dwelling units (ADU), or "granny flats," easier to build is headed for some updates.

On Wednesday, AB 881, which clarifies key provisions of the existing law, passed out of the Assembly Local Government Committee and is headed to the Appropriations Committee.

“Accessory dwelling units are an innovative and affordable housing that can help California meet its housing needs,” Bloom said.

“Cities that have embraced ADUs have built or permitted thousands of new units, while those resistant to housing construction have pursued loopholes and erected new barriers.

"AB 881 will help ADU statute to function as intended,” said Bloom, a former Santa Monica mayor.

The bill will likely have little impact in Santa Monica, which modified its granny-flat regulations last year.

The bill clarifies the definition of public transit and an ADU’s distance from it, as well as the types of existing structures that can be converted, according to Bloom's staff.

It also removes provisions that "have given cities unreasonably broad discretion for denying ADU permits."

In addition, it removes the owner occupancy requirement in the existing statute that "unfairly subjects ADUs to a requirement not in existence for any other kind of housing," Bloom's staff said.

Passed by both houses of the legislature with bipartisan support, Bloom's law streamlined statewide regulations to make it easier to create second units, which are often used by college students, elderly parents or disabled individuals who need to live close to their families.

Since Bloom's measure was signed into law in September 2016, "thousands of units have been built around the state."

Some 2,000 applications were approved in Los Angeles within the first ten months.

"Unfortunately, barriers to construction remain," Bloom's staff said.

"In some instances, cities have rejected garages as existing, convertible structures, citing the lack of explicit reference to these structures in code.

"Other cities have imposed burdensome owner occupancy requirements that have created uncertainty for the longevity of units and made lenders leery of financing construction."

That was not the case in Santa Monica, where the City Council amended the City's zoning ordinance last May.

The change allows existing non-garage accessory buildings to be convereted to ADUs and boosts the maximum allowable size of a unit from 650 to 800 square feet for parcels greater than 6,000 square feet.

Under the ordinance, ADUs "must still be clearly subordinate to the main dwelling unit on the parcel in terms of size, location, and appearance," according to City staff.

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