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Planning Commission recommends accessory dwelling revisions

The county’s Planning Commission approved recommendations to change the accessory dwelling unit portion of the county’s Zoning Ordinance.

The 7-0 vote February 13 consolidates four types of accessory dwelling units into two while stipulating limitations on those uses.

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

If approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, the accessory dwelling categories of second dwelling units, accessory apartments, accessory living quarters, and guest living quarters would be consolidated into second dwelling units and guest living quarters.

Accessory apartments are also known as “granny flats” and 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 would cover what have been defined as accessory apartments.

Accessory living quarters are designed for occupancy by persons employed on the premises, although the second dwelling unit and guest living quarters provisions will accommodate such units if their designation is eliminated from the Zoning Ordinance.

Other 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’s Zoning Administrator while a hearing for an administrative permit takes place only if requested by a member of the public.

The changes would also allow a second dwelling unit on a legal lot of at least one acre but which does not meet the minimum net area for the zoning.

The changes to the ordinance section regarding guest living quarters would modify maximum sizes and eliminate a footage allowance for “wetbars.”

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, although findings would still be required.

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 wetbar 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 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 wetbars 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.

Comments made during the December 5 Planning Commission hearing on the proposed amendments led to a motion to send the revisions back to county staff and hold another hearing February 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 5 and February 13 hearings added an allowance for garages of second dwelling units to exceed 480 feet with an administrative permit.

Another change between the two hearings was the retirement of Commissioner David Kreitzer and his replacement by Peder Norby.

Norby is of Danish descent and notes that multiple generations often live in Danish homes. “The longer we live in a place, the better that community is,” he said.

Concerns raised at the February 13 hearing focused on the lack of permissible kitchen or wetbar facilities for guest living quarters and the inability to collect rent even from family members 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 Department of Planning and Land Use project manager Heather Steven. “It’s for guests, employees, whatever.”

The proposed changes are expected to be heard by the Board of Supervisors on April 8.

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