Instead of the Golden State, California could be called the Growing State. Since its population surpassed New York’s in 1970 with close to 20 million people, the numbers have kept jumping, reaching more than 39 million in 2016, but housing has not kept pace.
Just as every California city and county with a residential second unit (RSU) ordinance must, Goleta began to come to grips last week with the state’s conversion of those RSUs to Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), aka granny flats. Accompanying that fiat was that state law applies if cities don’t craft their own. Inundated with decisions to make following a late-night, three-hour hearing on a housing development, Westar/Hollister Village, the council listened to a well-prepared planning staff, gave a few pertinent directions, and asked staff to return with more information.
Staff estimated that more than 5,000 properties were ADU buildable in the city. Planning manager Lisa Prasse told the council that they got at least one question almost every day about them, but no one had yet filed for one. The fees were what seemed to put people off, she said, being about $16,000 for the largest ADU of 1,200 square feet. Prasse said an architect had ballparked that a garage conversion might run about $30,000.
A Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit was discussed briefly. As the name implies, it is a smaller dwelling, not more than 500 square feet. It must also be within the existing home on the property, and it would require a deed restriction to prevent a sale separate from the larger home
As last Tuesday night’s meeting drifted toward 10 p.m., the council also heard from several citizens, who encouraged them to think about neighborhoods and what the specifics of the state law — written with large cities in mind — could do to them. For instance, said Cecilia Brown, did Goleta want to countenance car lifts? George Relles suggested that an amnesty might make legal the many small rentals hidden away among neighborhoods, and perhaps, if small and affordable, they could count toward the state RHNA numbers. (Goleta has satisfied RHNA — or the state Regional Housing Need Allocation — for the current cycle, Mayor Pro Tem Stuart Kasdin pointed out.)
When staff returns at a yet-to-be-determined meeting, they’ll bring with them the progress toward an ADU ordinance — to be rolled into the ongoing new Zoning Ordinance once completed — including deed restrictions, junior units, owner-occupancy requirements, amnesty, and more. By that time, legislation untangling parts of the state ADU law may have also been finalized.