Homeowners in Santa Barbara soon can build slightly larger and taller accessory dwelling units, the City Council decided this week.
State Street commercial property owners also will be able to build an accessory dwelling unit on the second floor of their properties, as long as they already have a primary residential unit or propose to build one.
The changes are part of a suite of revisions spurred partially by state law and local needs. Communities throughout the state are struggling to provide enough housing for the population. Coastal communities are particularly hard hit because they tend to be hubs for jobs, but the cost of housing is out of reach for most people.
The State of California has mandated that local jurisdictions find land or rezone it to build more than 2.5 million units by 2031.
While the housing mandate conversation is largely centered on large housing developments of 16 units or more, Santa Barbara city planners have recognized that their ADU program has been successful and that the program has created more housing opportunities.
“This is definitely going to produce a lot more housing in the city,” Councilwoman Alejandra Gutierrez, an Eastside resident who lives in an ADU, said during Tuesday’s meeting. “The storm reminded us that we can become an island. We have a lot of people who live outside the city who are crucial when crisis hits.”
About 15,000 people commute into Santa Barbara daily from Ventura County and north Santa Barbara County.
Many of the changes were technical and small in nature, but the more significant revisions include allowing the height of attached ADUs to rise from 18 feet to 25 feet and detached ADUs to increase from 17 feet to 18 feet.
The city also approved local changes that include allowing an extra 150 feet into the yard for ADUs proposed above two-car garages.
In addition, the revisions make it easier for homeowners to convert non-livable space, such as a basement or garage, into an ADU.
Here’s a full list of all the changes.
During the presentation, city planners touted the success of the ADU program.
Santa Barbara has received 928 applications for accessory dwelling units since 2017. Of those, 416 have been built and another 216 are in the pipeline.
Of those, about 22% are detached from the main unit, 12% attached to the main unit and 66% are conversions to the main residence. About 96% of ADU applications have been processed within 60 days.
“There aren’t many opportunities to produce the kind of housing that is consistent with the character of our community, that actually serves the people who work in our community. This is one of them,” Councilwoman Meagan Harmon said.