Lawmaker seeks easier, cheaper path to granny flat construction
A state lawmaker this year is again trying to make it easier and cheaper for homeowners to build accessory dwelling units.
The building of accessory dwelling units — also known as granny flats or in-law units — is increasingly considered one of the more sensible ways to address California’s housing shortage.
And while this housing type is cheaper and quicker to build than a single-family home, the excessive fees and regulatory hurdles associated with granny flats remains a serious deterrent to construction.
Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, who authored successful granny-flat legislation in 2016, has follow-up legislation this year that would ease granny-flat regulations and fees. Among other things, his SB 831 would:
- Eliminate all local agency, school district, special district, and water corporation fees for accessory dwelling units.
- Create an amnesty program that would ease the process of permitting a pre-existing, unpermitted accessory dwelling unit until 2026.
- Hold local agencies accountable for approving these units through existing laws such as the Housing Accountability Act, which requires local governments to make specific findings if they deny housing.
- Allow for the creation of an accessory dwelling unit on any lot that has an existing or proposed home.
- Require setbacks to be no greater than five feet.
- Deem an accessory-dwelling unit permit application automatically approved if a local agency has not acted upon the application within 120 days.
SB 831 is a follow-up to Wieckowski’s SB 1069, which the governor signed in 2016. That bill, along with a CAA-sponsored AB 2299 by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, stripped local governments of the ability to mandate additional parking for second units when the units are within one-half mile of public transportation or ride-share parking areas.
Since Wieckowski’s 2016 bill passed, applications for accessory dwelling units have increased significantly in Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and other cities across the state, his office said in a news release.
Despite that progress, hurdles for second units remain, Wieckowski said.
“While many local officials and planners have seized on [accessory dwelling units] as a tool to provide more local housing and address affordability and availability issues, there are still those who seek to delay or deny building these units,” said the senator.