ADU Urgency Ordinance Gets Green Light | City Makes Decision for Compliance with State Law

South Pasadena City Council approved the action to bring the city’s existing ordinance into requirements of state law

FILE PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | South Pasadena City Councilmember Diana Mahmud who pressed very hard for a November ballot measure at the Planning Commission and at an earlier City Council session, said the city had now run out of time to put together “an appropriate and tailored” proposal to put before voters later this year

Approval came from the South Pasadena City Council for an urgency ordinance on accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in compliance with the state legislature.

The website describes an ADU as a secondary housing unit on a single-family residential lot. The term “accessory dwelling unit” is a institutional-sounding name, but it’s the most commonly-used term across the country to describe this type of housing.

Assembly Bill 68, AB 881 and SB 13, according to a city report, effectively reduce local control over the approval of ADUs. “The legislation restricts cities’ abilities to regulate key development standards for ADUs including discretionary approval,” reads the report. “Specific local enhancements to the ADU ordinance beyond the new state regulations, including changes to the maximum ADU size and design guidelines, will be discussed with the city’s Planning Commission in the near future to ensure adequate community input.”

- Advertisement -

The council approved the action in order to bring the city’s existing ordinance into requirements of state law.

In addition, City Councilmember Diana Mahmud asked city staff to consider the ramifications of changing the existing ordinance, which limits the ADU to one bedroom, to consider the potential for adding two bedrooms. She also requested an FAQ, a list of frequently asked questions, helpful to explain the issue to the community.

In the city report prepared by Joanna Hankamer, director of planning and community development for the city, and Margaret Lin, manager of long range planning and economic development, the ADU discussion is part of “a comprehensive housing effort to help guide the associated policies and strategies that will be included in the city’s upcoming 2021 Housing Element Update.”

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | Joanna Hankamer, director of planning and community development for the city of South Pasadena

In October Governor Newsom signed bills, which, noted in the report, “would collectively expand a property owner or developer’s ability to build an ADU on their property and simultaneously restricts discretionary and regulatory authority over such development.”

The bills go into affect January 1, 2020.

The urgency of the council’s action Wednesday night resulted from local ordinances that fail to include or conflict with new legislation will be considered to be null and void, according to Hankamer and Lin, and are preempted by state law. A government code section authorizes the City of South Pasadena to adopt an ordinance as an urgency measure to “protect the public peace, health or safety, if the ordinance contains a declaration of facts constituting the urgency and passed by a four-fifths vote of the City Council.”

The local council was unanimous in its action.

The urgency ordinance makes the following amendments as outlined in the report:

  • Eliminates ADUs in the residential high density zoning district.
  • Permits ADUs on parcels with multi-family residences.
  • permits ADU’s on parcels with multi-family residences.
  • Shortens the ministerial review period.
  • Limits discretionary approval of ADU applications that meet the state requirements.
  • Prohibits ownership or sale of ADUs separately from the primary dwelling.
  • Amends height and setback requirements.
  • Sets a minimum floor area for ADUs.
  • Relaxes replacement parking requirements.
  • Creates ADU permit termination and revocation conditions and procedures.
  • Clarifies the fees that may be charged to ADU applicants.

During public comment on the issue, South Pasadena resident John Srebalus said, “Generally I have mixed feelings about ADUs as a solution to the affordable housing crisis. I have concerns about affordable housing in fact versus affordable housing on paper. Especially at the low end of the income scale. I want to see an ADU that allows a low-income tenant to spend 30% or less of his income on rent, and the city to count that unit toward the low-income portion of its Regional Housing Needs Assessment. However, counting that unit while its moderate-income tenant gets a bargain is a counterproductive situation. A city able to say that a unit is low-income housing just because it exists is a city less likely to invest in the actual creation of low-income units.”

In the coming weeks and months, Srebalus said he and others will propose policies for ensuring that affordable ADUs reported to the state “are affordable ADUs in fact,” he continued. “The transparency and accountability will be as good for you as it is for us.”

The affordable housing advocate added that his group will propose zoning modifications for covenants covering maximum rent and income limits. “This was done in Duarte, Santa Fe Springs and Sierra Madre. Other types of ADU covenants were mandated in a larger group of cities. It’s not pulled from thin air,” said Srebalus. “We will propose a trail of transparency that lets us all know that a unit counted toward our low-income RHNA requirement actually houses a low-income person. Homeowners will need to submit supporting documents, and you’ll be accountable to the true state of affairs. It will reflect well on our city as a place of inclusion and integrity. We will propose budget-neutral incentives to landlords, and creation of a Housing and Human Services Commission.”

For a complete list of the state requirements as they relate to the City of South Pasadena, contact Hankamer or Lin at the City of South Pasadena at (626) 403-7200.