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Bloom's "Granny Flat" Measure Signed Into Law

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By Lookout Staff

October 9, 2019 -- A measure by Santa Monica Assemblymenber Richard Bloom that reduces barriers to building accessory dwelling units (ADU), or "granny flats," was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday.

AB 881 -- which updates a law Bloom authored in 2016 -- 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.

“Accessory dwelling units have ignited interest from residents throughout the state due to the affordability and flexibility these units give homeowners,” Bloom said in a statement Wednesday.

“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.”

Since the passage of the 2016 law, thousands of ADUs have been built around the state, with more than 10,000 applications approved in Los Angeles alone, Bloom's office said.

But there are still barriers to building so-called "granny flats," which are often used by college students, elderly parents or disabled individuals who need to live close to their families.

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

"Other cities have imposed burdensome owner occupancy requirements that have created uncertainty, making lenders wary of approving financing."

Bloom's measure also removes provisions that have given cities "unreasonably broad discretion for denying ADU permits," as well as an owner occupancy requirement that "unfairly subjects ADUs to a requirement not in existence for any other kind of housing."

The measure signed into law Wednesday will likely have little impact in Santa Monica, which modified its granny-flat regulations last year.

The change allows existing non-garage accessory buildings to be converted 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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