City looking to attain more local control of accessory dwelling units

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal
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The city of Santa Clarita is seeking to attain more local control of the development of accessory dwelling units through a proposed update of its development code and an ordinance. 

Santa Clarita planning commissioners are expected Tuesday to hold a public hearing and consider whether to recommend the City Council approve the updates and adopt an accessory dwelling unit ordinance that would allow the city to enforce certain local standards for said dwellings. 

“Under these existing regulations, the city has limited or no local ability to regulate the development of ADUs (accessory dwelling units), including the location of ADUs, design, height, architecture, parking, and more unless the city has adopted an ADU ordinance,” read a city agenda report. 

California defines an ADU, commonly known as granny flats, as “an attached or a detached residential dwelling unit that provides complete independent living facilities for one or more persons and is located on a lot with a proposed or existing primary residence,” and “shall include permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation on the same parcel as the single-family or multifamily dwelling is or will be situated.”

The proposed ADU amendments are text amendments only and would not change the city’s zoning map or development densities. Changes reflect updated dwelling-related terminology and establish that ADUs are subject to a new permit process. Amendments also suggested include development standards, such as size restrictions, parking and setback requirements — metrics the state currently sets limits on but would give the city the “maximum amount of local control possible” while complying with state law, according to the city agenda report. 

Under an ordinance, ADUs would be allowed to be rented separately from the primary residence but prohibited from being sold or conveyed separately from the main residence, according to the city. 

The proposed changes come after a series of laws passed over the past four years, including Assembly Bill 68 and Senate Bill 13 that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in 2019. The laws require the city to approve up to three units on single-family lots and permit dwellings within existing structures, such as attics or garages. Council members formally opposed these, saying they “weaken” local land use control and eliminate the city’s ability to “properly plan and develop residential zoning of single-family and multi-family homes,” according to a city analysis on the bills.

Should the Planning Commission approve the proposed changes, the City Council would conduct a public hearing on Jan. 12, according to city officials. The state would then have to review the amendments if council members adopt them. 

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