The Highland City Council approved a new ordinance on June 11 permitting and regulating accessory dwelling units (ADU) within all residential zoning districts in order to comply with state legislation aimed at easing California’s housing shortage by reducing regulatory barriers for home owners to build additional dwelling units.

The ordinance was passed 4-1 with Mayor Penny Lilburn dissenting; although, Councilman John Timmer also expressed frustration with the state legislation that forces the city to relax regulations it put in place to protect the quality of the city’s neighborhoods.

According to City Manager Joseph Hughes and City Attorney Maricela Marroquin, passing an ADU ordinance was necessary because once the state’s ADU bills SB 229 and AB 494, passed on Oct. 8, 2017, went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, they voided the city’s previous Second Dwelling Unit Ordinance.

“This state law is already in effect,” said Hughes. “Somebody could come in right now and do one of these units. What this ordinance does is where the state said, ‘May…’ we’re tightening it up.”

“Because when this law took effect it voided existing ADU ordinances that do not comply with the new state law we essentially have no regulations until we put something into effect,” Marroquin said.

According to the new ordinance and state laws, these accessory dwellings which can be attached or unattached from the primary residence or can be garage conversions can be as small as 150 square feet and as large as 1,200 square feet or 50 percent of the size of the primary dwelling, whichever is less. They are required to have a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping space and separate entrance. The addition of one parking space is required expect in cases when the unit is within half a mile from public transportation.

According to Associate City Planner Tom Thornsley, an estimated 20 percent of the city’s eligible properties fall within a half-mile of the city’s bus stops. Most properties will be obligated to provide parking.

The parking must be on an improved surface; parking on dirt or the lawn or on the public street is not permitted, added Community Development Director Lawrence Mainez.

The city ordinance included a requirement that the property owner reside on the property as an effort to combat problems that arise from absentee landlords.

The city ordinance also clarified the state’s provision that ADU may not be used for short-term rental by stating that ADUs may not be rented for less than 30 consecutive days.

The construction of ADUs is also subject to the city’s residential regulations, code enforcement and developmental impact fees.

According to Mainez, the impact fees and regulations have discouraged the construction of ADUs within the city in the past with just two built last year.

“We currently are living under the state ordinance. We are making tighter regulations to better protect our city,” Timmer said. “It’s sad we have to protect ourselves this way. We’re still doing what the state is saying but we’ve given more teeth into protecting our city’s integrity and quality of life.”

Upon passing of the ordinance, Lilburn entreated the city staff to be vigilant in enforcing the ordinance especially for the west side and those who do not have homeowners associations but rely on city code enforcement to protect their quality of life.

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