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Chula Vista Paves Way for More 'Granny Flats' in San Diego Region

Moves to Eliminate Fees Drop Resident Requirement Aimed at Tackling Housing Shortage

Officials in Chula Vista, California, are trying to make it easier to build accessory dwelling units on existing residential properties by waiving a development fee and an owner-occupancy requirement, as cities respond to new state laws aiming to boost production and deal with an affordable housing crisis.

The city in southern San Diego County is the region’s second taking action to simplify and encourage construction of the small backyard units, also called cottages or "granny flats" since they’re often used to house elderly family members.

The Chula Vista City Council recently voted to remove development fees associated with construction of units that are 750 square feet or smaller next to existing single-family and multifamily buildings. Those that are larger than 750 square feet will have their fees capped at a rate of $13.36 or $20.53 per square foot, depending on their location within the city.

The council also rescinded a requirement that those who build granny flats must live somewhere on the premises, essentially allowing for more landlords to make such units available as rental housing.

City officials said they had been studying such changes months before California Gov. Gavin Newsom last month signed into law Senate Bill 13, prohibiting so-called impact fees placed on most accessory units and easing other requirements. It also prohibits cities from imposing owner occupancy requirements until 2025.

SB 13 was among several housing affordability-related bills signed into law by the governor on the same day, in a bid to accelerate statewide housing production and deal with a worsening crisis that is also creating a rise in homelessness.

Chula Vista, the San Diego region’s second biggest city, followed San Diego’s recent move to put out a "how to" guide to residents to help them plan and build the backyard units, which can also be constructed by converting existing garages and other structures. San Diego and other local government entities, including the county of San Diego and the North County coastal city of Encinitas, have also taken steps to offer residents pre-approved designs for granny flats to streamline approvals.

Those join other cities doing the same in California and neighboring Oregon and Washington, including Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle. The University of California’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation reported in 2017 that development fees are among several factors preventing construction of accessory dwelling units, and fee waivers have played a big role in increasing development of those units in Portland.

A recent city analysis of San Diego’s 236,000 single-family detached homes estimated that 2,700 to 5,500 granny flats could be built during the next decade.

The latest available data shows the city of San Diego as of Oct. 7 had received 479 applications for development of granny flats and issued 323 permits this year, with construction on 148 units completed. The application count for this year is pacing well ahead of full-year counts for each of the past three years – 409 in 2018, 142 in 2017 and 19 in 2016.

Article by: CoStar | November 25, 2019 | Lou Hirsh

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