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Tuesday, March 26 , 2019, 1:49 am | Fair 50º


Santa Barbara County, City Jurisdictions Start Over on ‘Granny Flat’ Regulations After New State Law

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission, shown at Wednesday’s meeting, will soon consider new regulations addressing the state’s accessory dwelling unit laws. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission, shown at Wednesday’s meeting, will soon consider new regulations addressing the state’s accessory dwelling unit laws. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

Last year, state lawmakers declared accessory dwelling units — colloquially known as granny flats — a vital part of the state’s effort to meet its housing needs and signed legislation intended to streamline approval for the units.

Legislation that went into effect Jan. 1 and voided cities’ and counties’ own ADU rules if they didn’t meet the state’s new requirements.

Local rules only remain in effect in the coastal zone — oceanside land subject to extra regulation and protection.

The city and county of Santa Barbara and the Montecito Planning Commission are prioritizing the development of new ordinances that incorporate state standards, but are tweaked to fit their communities’ needs and officials’ priorities.

Until that process is complete, ADUs have to be approved or denied based on the new laws, which treat ADUs as entirely independent living facilities with a place to sleep, cook and use the toilet. They can be attached to the primary residence like a converted garage or be a detached secondary unit.

As part of its housing development goal, the state has barred ADUs from being counted toward any residential growth-management ordinance — something some Santa Barbara officials are inching the city toward for certain classes of housing.

At the county level, the Planning Commission may consider language for a new ADU ordinance in June.

On Wednesday, commissioners Cecilia Brown and Marell Brooks said the new state laws could effectively end single-family zoning in the state.

Though county planning staff have said that the legislation contains considerable gray areas, it still provides room for local jurisdictions to customize ADU rules.

Parking, as always, is a top land-use consideration for local planners. Officials will also have the power to bar ADUs from being turned into short-term vacation rentals, and require as a condition for approval that ADU applicants live in the primary residence.

Another housing issue increasingly on officials’ radar is supportive and transitional housing: the former a longer-term type of housing linked to social services that promote stable and better lives, and the latter, shorter-term housing that’s a stepping stone to permanent housing for homeless.

County housing guidelines require the county’s zoning ordinance to line up with state laws addressing supportive and transitional housing, and bar restrictions on those forms of housing that other residential developments wouldn’t otherwise be subject to.

Heading to the Board of Supervisors’ desk at the behest of the Planning Commission are new ordinances clarifying that.

A recent survey by the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness and Common Ground Santa Barbara County found that there are nearly 1,500 homeless people countywide. Thirty-seven percent reported that they were in shelters or transitional housing.

According to Frank Thompson, a local affordable-housing consultant, the ordinances should increase the county’s supply of supportive and transitional housing.

He told county planners Wednesday that the zoning-code clarifications mean developers see less risk attached to those types of housing, and make the application process easier.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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