LCF City Council Reluctantly Adopts ADU Ordinance

Councilman Jonathan Curtis perhaps best encapsulated the sentiment of the City Council this week when he offered “a reluctant second” to a motion to adopt the city’s ordinance on accessory dwelling units.
All four City Council members voted in favor of the ordinance, which levies a minimum lot size for newly constructed units, commonly called accessory dwelling units, of 10,000 square feet with at least a 70-foot frontage. Already existing auxiliary structures, such as a pool house or garage, may be converted into an ADU (which will require up-to-code utility connections) regardless of lot size and are effectively grandfathered in.
“I think the feeling is, no one is really thrilled about this solution, but that, in our community, this is probably the best option,” Mayor Michael Davitt said.
That the issue came before the City Council is thanks to the state assembly, which passed three bills last year that significantly limit a local government’s ability to regulate ADUs, which are commonly created to house elderly family members or, as some municipalities worry about, to rent out to people or families who cannot afford more expensive housing.
Indeed, the bills were passed and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown with the express intent of combating the statewide shortage of affordable housing.
Resident David Haxton, the lone speaker from the audience on this matter, urged the City Council to adopt a more hands-off version of this ordinance, arguing that the lot size limitations violated both the spirit and the letter of the state’s new laws.
“Any homeowner in La Cañada Flintridge has the right to convert a pool house, a garage, a living room, into an ADU,” he said. “The legislature made findings that California faces a severe housing shortage and that ADUs will add to the state’s housing supply.
“If you don’t adopt this ordinance [as the state recommends],” Haxton added, “it’s saying you don’t want to be part of the state’s housing solution and it says you want to be part of the problem.”
Councilwoman Terry Walker said she was worried that a lot size restriction would only encourage residents on smaller lots who wanted an ADU to simply forgo their garage and convert the structure, which could result in street parking issues and generally change the makeup of homes in La Cañada Flintridge.
“Are we cutting off our nose to spite our face?” Walker asked.
Locally, Pasadena has enacted an ADU ordinance requiring a minimum lot size of 15,000 square feet and San Marino currently is considering a minimum requirement of 12,000 square feet. The state has reported that about a third of cities enacting their own ordinances (as opposed to the state’s model ordinance) have levied a minimum lot size.
City Manager Mark Alexander said he believed most residents in town would value keeping their garages. Director of Community Development Robert Stanley added that he does not believe this ordinance goes against the state’s wishes because homeowners with smaller properties would still be free to convert an existing structure.
The City Council ultimately approved the ordinance without making any changes.
“I think the minimum lot size requirement is a little bit of extra protection for us, from the new stuff,” Davitt said. “I agree it’s a frustrating solution.
“It all goes back to the battle with Sacramento on local control,” he added.

In other business, the City Council approved, among its consent items, an update to its research on residential solid waste collection services, with Curtis remarking that the City Council likely will be able to dive into a full analysis and report of the options in October or November.
La Cañada Flintridge, with three providers under contract, is the only city in Los Angeles County with more than one waste collector. Amid the argument of providing options to customers, others claim the number of trucks that use the city’s roadways are damaging the streets at a higher rate.
The City Council also awarded a $422,343 bid to Tyler Technologies for a three-year implementation of its EnerGov Permit Tracking System, which will give the city a cloud-based permit tracking system to replace the services it contracts from L.A. County.

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