Commission wants second-unit rules changed

Planning commissioners  recommend consolidation of the accessory dwelling unit portion of the county’s Zoning Ordinance.      

The county commission voted 7-0 to go from four types of accessory dwelling units to two and to limit uses.       

“The intent of the ordinance was to basically streamline it, clean it up,” said county Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU)  planning manager Joe Farace.     

If approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, the two accessory dwelling categories will be second dwelling units and guest living quarters.

The  accessory apartment, or “granny flat,” in the current law is 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 and it thus must be removed from the county ordinance.   

Second dwelling units would cover what are now called accessory apartments,  designed for occupancy by persons employed on the premises. 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 heard by the county’s zoning administrator while a hearing for an administrative permit takes place only if requested by a member of the public.   

Proposed changes 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.  The changes for guest living quarters would affect maximum sizes and eliminate a footage allowance for wet bars.      

“I’m glad that this moved forward,” said Martin Giuliani of Ramona.      

Giuliani was representing a Ramona couple who purchased an avocado grove in 1987. The family had three goals in the purchase of the grove:  income from the grove, a residence and the possibility of a second dwelling unit.  

The property’s zoning called for a minimum eight-acre parcel at the time of purchase, but in 2002 a lawsuit over Williamson Act Preserve property downzoned the density to a 10-acre minimum.  When three-quarters of the grove was destroyed in the October 2007 Witch Fire, the income from the second dwelling unit became a higher priority.    

“Their desire is to have a second dwelling unit and have it as a legal rental,” Giuliani said.      

The changes would allow that second dwelling unit despite not meeting the current legal minimum net area.   

“We are hopeful this initiative will go through,” Giuliani said on Feb. 13.      

Current regulations for second dwelling units include a requirement that the owner occupy one of the units.  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.

If approved, changes would require an administrative permit rather than a minor use permit, although findings would still be required.  All property owners within 300 feet of the property would have to 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 size, design, 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 currently  permitted.

The 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 currently 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 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, and the changes would add a stipulation that individual guests may stay no more than 30 days in any calendar year.

Comments made during a planning commission hearing in December led to a motion to send the revisions back to county staff and hold another hearing Feb. 13.  The majority of those comments involved the scenario of family members living in an accessory dwelling unit.   The only substantive change between the December and February hearings said garages of second dwelling units may exceed 480 feet with an administrative permit.      

Also between the two hearings, Commissioner David Kreitzer resigned and was replaced by Peder Norby.  Norby is of Danish descent and said that multiple generations often live in Danish homes.    

“The longer we live in a place, the better that community is,” he said.     

Concerns at the Feb. 13 hearing focused on the lack of permissible kitchens or wet bars for guest living quarters and the inability to collect rent in guest living quarters.

“The second dwelling unit would accommodate these two issues,” said Planning Commissioner David Pallinger.      

The debate on family members focused on children who return home in times of economic struggle and elderly parents. The limit of 30 days in a calendar year for any individual guest makes such scenarios legally inappropriate for guest living quarters.   

“It’s not intended as a permanent residence as a second dwelling unit is,” said DPLU project manager Heather Steven.  “It’s for guests, employees, whatever.”      

The proposed changes are expected to be heard by the county supervisors on April 8.

   
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