A bill to streamline construction of small backyard homes passed a key committee earlier this week.
Assemblymember Richard Bloom introduced A.B. 881, which passed out of the Assembly Local Government Committee Wednesday on a 7-0 vote, to remove barriers to constructing accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Bloom has heralded ADUs as a way to solve California’s housing crisis and passed a bill in 2016 designed to ease local and statewide roadblocks to building what are sometimes called back houses or granny flats. The bill now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“Accessory dwelling units are an innovative and affordable housing that can help California meet its housing needs,” Bloom said.
Thousands of ADUs have been built around the state since Bloom’s 2016 bill passed, but many cities have restricted construction. In some instances, cities have prevented residents from converting their garages into ADUs because the law does not explicitly reference garages or required those who want to build ADUs to live on the property.
In Santa Monica, those who convert garages to ADUs must replace required parking spaces somewhere else on the property and property owners are required to occupy the primary residence or ADU. City Council approved tweaks to the city’s ADU regulations last May that allow for bigger ADUs, however.
“Cities that have embraced ADUs have built or permitted thousands of new units, while those resistant to housing construction have pursued loopholes and erected new barriers,” he said.
Bloom’s bill would prevent local authorities from imposing owner-occupancy requirements on ADUs, which they are currently allowed to do under state law. In many cities, if someone wants to build an ADU on a property, they have to either live in the home already on the lot or in the ADU. That means a lot with a single-family home on the rental market could not house an ADU.
Owner-occupancy requirements have also made banks wary of issuing loans to construct ADUs because they call the longevity of the units into question, Bloom said. If someone buys a lot with a single-family home and an ADU, they would have to tear down the ADU to comply with such requirements.
The bill clarifies other provisions in the state’s ADU laws that govern their relationship to public transit and the types of existing structures that can be converted to ADUs. It also removes a provision that allows localities to block ADUs by claiming they impact traffic flow and public safety.
Existing law prohibits a local agency from imposing parking standards for an accessory dwelling unit if, among other conditions, the accessory dwelling unit is located within 1/2 mile of public transit. The bill would make that prohibition applicable if the accessory dwelling unit is located within 1/2 mile walking distance of public transit.
The bill would also require local agencies to approve build permits to convert garages to ADUs. Many cities have prohibited such conversions because existing state law provides for the conversion of accessory structures, but does not explicitly reference garages.
“A.B. 881 will help ADU statute to function as intended,” Bloom said.