Bloom says ADUs are a way to address California's housing crisis. (Creative Commons)

Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill Wednesday introduced by the state assemblymember representing Santa Monica to reduce barriers to the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

Assembly Richard Bloom said AB 881 will give homeowners and local governments more clarity on key provisions of California’s ADU law. Also called granny flats, ADUs are small freestanding or attached structures that homeowners can build and rent out. Housing experts say they are a way to add more housing to residential neighborhoods without changing their character in the same way that a new apartment building would.

“ADUs remain a key strategy for addressing the state’s housing crisis,” said Bloom said. “In order to continue the progress we have made, ADU regulations need to be relaxed in order to make ADU development easier and, thus, more likely to happen.”

Bloom passed a bill in 2016 to help ease local and statewide roadblocks to building ADUs. Thousands of units have since been built around the state. In Los Angeles, more than 10,000 applications for ADUs have been approved.

But barriers to construction remain, Bloom said.

Some cities have rejected garages as existing, convertible structures, citing the lack of explicit reference to these structures in the state law. Other cities have required those who want to build ADUs to live in the units, which has made lenders wary of financing the projects because the owner-occupancy requirement calls the longevity of the units into question, Bloom said.

Several parts of AB 881 that address those barriers will overturn local regulations.

The bill will supersede a requirement in Santa Monica that property owners who build an ADU must occupy the primary home on the property or the ADU.

In Santa Monica, converting a garage to an ADU triggers a requirement to replace the lost parking spaces somewhere else on the property. AB 881 prohibits jurisdictions from enacting such a requirement.

The bill will also prohibit jurisdictions from establishing a maximum square footage requirement for an ADU that is less than 850 square feet, or 1,000 square feet if the ADU contains more than one bedroom.

That will allow future ADUs in Santa Monica to be a few hundred feet larger. Before the bill became law, the city prevented ADUs larger than 650 square feet on lots smaller than 6,000 square feet, and ADUs larger than 800 square feet on larger lots.

Other provisions in AB 881, such as prohibiting jurisdictions from banning garage conversions, will not impact local regulations.

For example, existing law prohibits jurisdictions from imposing parking standards for an ADU if, among other conditions, the ADU is located within 1/2 mile of public transit. AB 881 makes that prohibition applicable if the accessory dwelling unit is located within 1/2 mile walking distance of public transit.

The bill also removes a provision that allows local jurisdictions to block ADUs by claiming they impact traffic flow and public safety.

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1 Comment

  1. Great! I would love to put a second story on my garage. Santa Monica has such tough regulations I haven’t even tried

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