Sue Lempert falls short of her usual standard in her column “A second look at second units” (Monday, July 19). It is Assembly Bill 68, not local zoning, that is “out of whack.”

AB 68 prohibits local restrictions on the construction of detached “accessory dwelling units” in single-family neighborhoods if the ADU is less than 850 square feet in size. It also prohibits lot coverage standards that do not allow for an 800 square foot ADU “at least 16 feet in height with 4-foot side and rear yard setbacks.” 

If your neighbor decides to build one of these things next to your home, there is no appeal to a planning commission. City staff must approve it unless the municipality can demonstrate that existing water or sewer service will be inadequate or that public safety (including “traffic flow”) is threatened.

Sue mentions neighborhood parking standards as a constraint on the construction of ADUs, but the authors of AB 68 anticipated that ploy. Section 1(c)(2)C says that a local agency cannot impose parking standards for ADUs if the ADU is within half a mile of public transit (most of San Mateo).

The Accessory Dwelling Unit Handbook (from the California Department of Housing) clarifies much of the small print, like that covering the suspension of owner occupancy requirements for properties with ADUs and a five-year delay in building code enforcement for “substandard” ADUs.

The new zoning regulations may be gratifying to the folks in Sacramento and San Francisco who wrote them (and reward owners who build ADUs) but the price will be extracted from average homeowners who no longer enjoy the peace and order they paid for.

Mike Reitsma


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