Temecula passes new ordinances governing ‘granny flats,’ density bonus rules

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The city of Temecula has reluctantly approved two measures that would make it easier to build accessory dwelling units and will allow higher density developments if certain conditions are met.

The two measures were both imposed on the city by the California state legislature – they’re not local decisions. But they will have local impacts.

The first of the two measures, both approved at the city’s April 28 meeting and quickly overshadowed by the council’s discussion on local public health orders, is the result of a series of bills signed into law in October by Gov. Gavin Newsom to address California’s ongoing housing crisis.

Two of the bills, Assembly Bill 881 and Assembly Bill 68, place restrictions on development standards that city can apply to junior accessory dwelling units, which are defined as units between 250 and 500 feet, and accessory dwelling units, which are anything larger than that – both of which are sometimes referred to as “granny flats.” Assembly Bill 587 authorizes cities to allow an affordable ADU built by a nonprofit to be sold separately from a primary home. Assembly Bill 670 invalidates covenants, conditions or restrictions — commonly referred to as CC&Rs — imposed by homeowners associations that prohibit or “unreasonably restrict” accessory dwelling units. And Senate Bill 13 allows an ADU owner to request a delay in enforcement of some building code violations as long as the violations don’t impact health or safety.

Those bills all became law in January, making it necessary for Temecula and other local cities to update their rules on ADUs and JADUs

What the ADU/JADU measure enacted by the city will allow for single-family lots, per a city staff report, are one attached or detached ADU and one JADU on a single-family lot with an existing or proposed single-family dwelling.

The city ordinance stipulates that ADUs and JADUs must have a setback of no less than 4 feet from side and rear property lines. It also said that existing accessory structures or garages converted for ADU/JADU use must not exceed 1,200 square feet, attached units may not exceed half the square footage of a primary structure, new detached units may not be more than 800 square feet and 16 feet in height, and all ADUs and JADUs must have their own private entrance, though JADUs may share bathroom facilities with the primary residence.

The ordinance also allows ADUs within portions of existing multi-family dwellings in spaces not currently used as livable space, like storage rooms, boiler rooms, attics and others.

Perhaps the way the ordinance will most impact local neighborhoods – and the point the council expressed the most displeasure with – is parking.

No on-site parking is required for JADUs, and no on-site parking is required for ADUs that are constructed within the existing primary structure, converted from an existing accessory structure, converted from an existing garage or within a half-mile of public transit.

Additionally, an ADU that is less than 750 square feet is not subject to the city’s development impact fee.

“Thank you, state of California,” Temecula Mayor James Stewart said, a tinge of sarcasm in his voice, in reaction to learning of the lack of parking requirements.

The second housing-related ordinance passed by the city – again, reluctantly – drastically increases the density allowed for projects with affordable housing.

Assembly Bill 1763, which also went into effect at the beginning of 2020, adds a new category of housing projects that are eligible for what’s known as a “density bonus.” Existing California law already encouraged low- and moderate-income housing by allowing higher density to be built when those units are being provided. AB 1763 now allows developments with 100% of units dedicated to low-income housing to be eligible for a density bonus of at least 80% of the number of affordable housing units – functionally allowing a development with 100 low-income units to add another 80 market rate units.

The density bonus rule change also will allow higher densities and less-stringent parking requirements for developments located near public transit, something the councilmembers decried as they acceded to state requirements and passed the ordinance.

“Again, Sacramento (is) imposing itself on all of our local land use decisions,” Councilmember Mike Naggar said, adding, “I understand what Sacramento is trying to do and there’s many ways to do it, but destroying a city by taking over our zoning is not the way to do this.”

Both ordinances passed unanimously.

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.