Reluctantly, the Yucaipa Planning Commission approved last week a recommendation to the city council on an ordinance amending parts of the Yucaipa Development Code regarding accessory dwelling units.

“We recognize the ordinance is necessary and that the city will have to approve this or some form of this, but we, as the commission, are not in favor of the ordinance,” said Denise Work, vice chair, in her motion that was unanimously approved 6-0 at the Jan. 15 meeting.

The ordinance was in response to state laws that went into effect Jan. 1, 2020 and give more leeway to building accessory dwelling units (ADUs), more commonly called granny flats, and streamline the approval process.

The recommendation will now go to the city council for approval.

Associate Planner Ben Matlock said the new laws are in response to the housing crisis in the state.

“As time has gone on, since our original approval (in 2017), the state has continued to recognize an issue regarding housing and a shortage,” Matlock said. “The development of ADUs and junior ADUs have been identified as one of the approaches for the state that can alleviate some of those concerns.”

The new state laws specify that all existing local ADU ordinances not in compliance with amended state law shall be null and void effective Jan. 1, 2020.

“There is nothing we can do about it because Sacramento has imposed their will on us,” said Commissioner Lloyd Rekstad, voicing his frustration.

During his presentation, Matlock noted key changes in the law that are reflected in the code amendment. They include the process for approval, the size and number of units, setback restrictions, parking requirements and renting. Development impact fees are also affected, but the city council would need to address those changes.

With the updated state law, Matlock said, there are a few different types of accessory dwellings that are no longer subject to a planning level review permit process. They simply need a building permit review.

“As part of the development code update, all the types of units as identified in the government code would then be subject to building permit only,” he said. “Then all the ones that no longer qualify or exceed that threshold would still remain subject to the land use compliance review.”

The timeline to review an ADU application is now reduced to 60 days from 120 days, and a permit cannot be withheld because of other nonconforming conditions on the property, Matlock said.

“You’re kidding,” Work said about not being able to address nonconforming conditions.

Also changing is the allowable size of an ADU, which can now be at least 800 square feet and a maximum of 1,200 square feet. Previously, ADUs could not be more than 50 percent of an existing living area.

Matlock explained the change.

“Let’s say you have a residence of 1,000 square feet or 1,200 square feet we would still have to permit an 800 square foot ADU as well,” he said.

Junior ADUs, those 500 square feet or less and created from the existing footprint of the house, are now allowed in addition to one ADU per residential lot with one existing residence. Before the new state law, it was one ADU or junior ADU.

One of the most contentious changes involves setbacks, which in Yucaipa were a minimum of five feet, depending on the residential zoning. The new law changes setbacks to four feet in all residential zoning.

“There is no protection for a homeowner now who goes out and builds a beautiful home on a lot, their dream home. Then four feet next to the property line their neighbor is building an apartment,” Work said. “It’s not right. We know why we are doing this, but it is so infuriating.”

Parking requirements also changed to one space per ADU. Before it was one parking space per bedroom. If a garage is converted into an ADU, Matlock said the existing driveway could serve as the parking space.

Chair J.R. Allgower joked there was no reason to build a garage anymore.

Matlock pointed out that new construction falls under different development codes. He did admit though that the day after a new home is built, an application can be submitted to turn that garage into an ADU.

Rekstadt was upset the new laws do not require ADUs to reimburse school districts.

“We are going to get possibly young families moving into these ADUs and populating our schools and the schools will get no more money,” he said. “We cannot require them. This is insanity.”

Finally, ADUs cannot be rented for less than 30 days and now they do not have to be homeowner occupied. There is a five-year term for that as previously either the main residence or ADU had to be owner occupied. Matlock noted that timeframe can be extended.

New Planning Commissioner Chris Markarian wanted to know what would happen if the recommendation was denied.

“Really our development code is to implement the provisions required by state law,” Matlock said, adding the city could face a levy as repercussion for not complying.

“I would say it is prudent that the planning commission have our development code meet state law,” he said.

Other agenda items

Earlier in the meeting, a conditional use permit was approved for AT&T to construct a wireless tower, resembling a Eucalyptus tree, near the Set Free Church on Calimesa Boulevard.

The annual reorganization of the commission also took place with Allgower elected as chair and Work as vice chair.

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