ADU Ordinances in SM Open to Future Amendments

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Looking to adopt the final ordinance by the end of the year, the City Council seems to have accepted the inevitability of having to make later amendments to its long-discussed ordinance regarding accessory dwelling units.
“For now, it is limited in the ways described, but from a staff level, we’re not averse to amendments down the road addressing these situations,” said City Attorney Steven Flower, speaking on the current structure of the ordinance. “This is not the end of it. It will be an ongoing process as we face the practical realities.”
Cities statewide have found themselves scrambling to protect their planning and zoning norms after a series of laws were pushed through Sacramento last year requiring municipal and county governments to loosen the floodgates regarding ADUs. The urgency to adopt is so the city isn’t forced to adhere to the state’s less restrictive rules regarding the controversial structures.
“We wouldn’t want that,” said Dennis Kneier, a former city councilman, during public comment at Friday’s City Council meeting. “I do think appropriate ADUs are a good thing.”
That evaluation represents the middle ground between San Marino’s faction of residents — including many City Council members — who see the state laws as another example of Sacramento overreach and those who have rejected the bulk of the city’s rhetoric as a violation of those laws.
Despite opposition from some residents, the city remains confident that the regulations it has settled on square with the state’s laws.
“Pursuant to state law, ADUs may be developed in one form or another on every home in the city,” said Flower, referencing this proposed ordinance.
The ordinance as written requires a 12,000-square-foot minimum lot size for newly constructed ADUs, but allows part of an existing structure to be converted into one regardless of lot size. There are height restrictions for new ADUs based on the height of the primary home, in addition to setback requirements.
The ordinance also prohibits unique addresses, balconies and new curb cuts for ADUs. It also sets ministerial review for ADUs, similar to how construction projects are evaluated by the Design Review Committee or Planning Commission.
Flower defended the regulations against claims they went against the state’s wishes.
“HCD (Housing and Community Development) has issued guidance on this issue and has expressly stated it in a memorandum published by the state,” he said. “It is a reasonable extension of the authority we have to regulate these matters.”
The Planning Commission helped to craft this ordinance after a series of meetings beginning in May and the City Council had requested some changes and clarifications at an earlier October meeting. Those who oppose ADUs largely argue that they will blur San Marino’s distinction of being a single family residential community, while proponents argue they are a preferable alternative to meeting the state’s affordable housing requirement without bringing in mixed-use development or apartments.
One new issue addressed last week was how the state’s regulation on whether an ADU should include a parking spot would conflict with the city’s ordinance against overnight parking. If the ADU is within a half-mile of public transportation, the property owner does not have to provide a parking space on-site.
“It doesn’t affirmatively require street parking,” Flower explained, emphasizing that ADUs are generally targeted at low-income tenants. “The state’s idea was, ‘People who would be using it for those purposes (as low-income housing) are going to be people who require access to public transportation, so let’s not overburden the construction requirements.’ They might not be using (a parking space).”
The City Council is set to approve this ordinance as a consent calendar item at its Nov. 8 meeting, although it may pull the item for further discussion and a separate vote. If it does not approve the ordinance, it will not take effect before the state’s law does.

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