Commission to reconsider granny flats, other secondary units

Although San Diego County Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) sought to simplify the accessory dwelling unit portion of the county’s Zoning Ordinance, comments at the Dec. 5 Planning Commission hearing led to a motion to send the proposed revisions back to county staff and hold another hearing Feb. 13.

“I appreciate staff’s effort to clean it up,” said Commissioner David Pallinger.  “I don’t know if we’d be able to resolve this here.”

Current regulations define four types of accessory dwellings:  second dwelling units, accessory apartments, accessory living quarters, and guest living quarters.  The proposed revisions would consolidate those into second dwelling units and guest living quarters, and limitations on the uses are also proposed.

“We’re trying to streamline the process,” said DPLU planning manager Joe Farace. “The overall overarching issues that we’re trying to address here is difficulty between zoning counter staff and public.”

Confusion often leads to code violations, he said.

Other proposed changes include reducing the requirement for a second dwelling unit from a minor use permit to an administrative permit. Both permits allow for public review, but a minor use permit request is automatically heard by the county zoning administrator while a hearing for an administrative permit takes place only if requested by a member of the public. The proposal would allow a second dwelling unit on a legal lot of at least one acre that does not meet the minimum net area for the zoning.

Proposed changes regarding guest living quarters modify maximum sizes and eliminate a footage allowance for “wet bars,” small bars with a sink and running water.

“In some respects it’s making it easier,” Commissioner Adam Day said of the changes.

Accessory apartments, also known as “granny flats,” require that they be attached to the main building.  Current regulations require an administrative permit in certain residential, agricultural, and special purpose zones, and no minimum lot size is stipulated.

Accessory apartments are designed for occupancy by elderly, handicapped, or family members of an occupant of the main dwelling, but a change in state law prohibits the restriction of such units’ occupancy by seniors, and the restriction thus must be removed from the county ordinance.  

The section on second dwelling units will cover what have been defined as accessory apartments.

Accessory living quarters are designed for occupancy by persons employed on the premises. They are allowed only in areas with rural residential zoning, may not be rented, and must meet the density regulations, and an administrative permit is required. The second dwelling unit and guest living quarters provisions will accommodate such units if their designation is eliminated from the Zoning Ordinance.

Land use attorney Bill Schwartz said the current ordinance allows for guest living quarters and accessory living quarters.  

“We would like to see the ordinance stay that way,” Schwartz said.  “We are concerned about the fact that this ordinance proposes to eliminate the accessory living quarters.”

Current regulations for second dwelling units include a requirement that the owner occupy one of the units, an allowance by right on certain lots subject to specified criteria and with a minor use permit on certain lots when other criteria are met, and a restriction to lots meeting the minimum net size of the applicable zoning.  

A second dwelling unit may be attached to or detached from the main building and may also be attached to an agricultural storage building, but it cannot be attached to any other habitable structures.

The changes would require an administrative permit rather than a minor use permit. Noticing to all property owners within 300 feet of the property would be required, and, if a legal lot is at least one acre but does not meet the minimum net area for zoning, a second dwelling unit would be allowed upon approval of an administrative permit.  

No changes are proposed to criteria for size, design, required parking, or limitations on the size of attached garages.

A second dwelling unit is allowed to have all of the accommodations of the primary structure, including kitchen and laundry facilities.

Guest living quarters are designed for temporary use by guests or persons employed on the premises.  No kitchen or laundry facilities are allowed, but a wet bar is permitted.  Guest living quarters may not be rented and are limited to 25 percent of the size of the main dwelling unit or 600 square feet, whichever is greater.  Guest living quarters are allowed by right in areas with certain residential, agricultural, and special purpose use zoning and on lots of at least one-half acre in certain residentially zoned areas.

If the lot is less than half an acre, guest living quarters are permitted in certain residential and special purpose areas with the issuance of an administrative permit.  Guest living quarters are not permitted on lots of less than 10,000 square feet.

The changes would allow guest living quarters in all residential and agricultural areas by right on lots of at least 20,000 square feet and with an administrative permit for lots less than 20,000 square feet.  The size for guest living quarters allowed by right would be changed to no more than 30 percent of the size of the main dwelling unit up to a maximum of 600 square feet, while an administrative permit would allow a unit of up to 50 percent of the size of the main dwelling if required findings are made.  

The allowance for wet bars would be eliminated.  The changes also add a stipulation that individual guests may be accommodated for no more than 30 calendar days in any calendar year.

Alice Spivey, who lives on a 2 1/2-acre parcel in Ramona, supports the changes.  

“We have a grown son and his wife and two little girls who cannot afford a house,” she said.

Since Spivey’s house is approximately 1,700 square feet, the change from a guarantee to at least 600 square feet to a maximum of that size and guarantee of 30 percent of the main dwelling size illustrated a problem.  

“That’s like 25 by 20,” said Commissioner Bryan Woods.  “I just don’t think that the square footage is big enough.”

Jack Phillips, chairman of the Valle de Oro Community Planning Group, said a kitchen should be allowed for guest living quarters.  

“When families need additional living quarters that include a kitchenette for boomerang offspring or to accommodate parents or grandparents, they should not be forced to build a permanent second dwelling unit,” he said.  “This ordinance should be modified to allow the development of an internally accessed expansion including a kitchenette.”

Phillips’ concern is that a second dwelling unit can be legally rented to non-relatives.  

“It’s a lot better for these families if you have a way to expand internally,” he said.

The county’s zoning ordinance does not allow for multiple kitchens other than for accessory dwelling units.  

The state building code classifies a structure with two kitchens as a duplex rather than a single-family dwelling unit. Current accessory apartment requirements prohibit a common entrance with the main dwelling unit.

   
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