County Approves ADU Amendments

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   September 6, 2018

Next week, amendments to the County Land Use and Development Code, Montecito Land Use and Development Code, and the Coastal Zoning Ordinance to revise existing development standards for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) will go into effect; the amendments were approved by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors in August. Because the County had yet to pass its own ordinance language regarding ADUs, Montecito and other unincorporated areas had been governed by the state-mandated ADU laws, which went into effect January 1, 2017. 

California Assembly Bill 2299 and Senate Bill 1069 set out to reduce the barriers that homeowners once had when trying to gain approvals for these “granny units,” expanding the capacity to accommodate their development in order to provide additional rental housing in residential areas throughout California. Since the passing of the State laws, there have been 160 ADU applications in the County, with more than 60 approved in Montecito. 

As outlined by County planner Jessi Steele, a streamlined process has been developed at the County level, with ADUs to be approved ministerially without discretionary review if they meet certain standards. If an ADU is located within an already existing portion of a single-family or multi-family dwelling or accessory building, and has an independent exterior entrance and is within the size limits, it will be exempt from requiring a land use permit. These ADUs will not be subject to parking standards, according to Steele. If an ADU is partially within an existing building, or a new addition or separate building is being built for it, the ADU must comply with design, height, size, and parking requirements, and the Planning Director may request review of the project from the chair of Montecito Board of Architectural Review or the Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission (HLAC). All ADUs will be required to show approvals from the local sanitary district or show approved onsite wastewater treatment systems. 

Earlier this year, draft ordinance language was circulated to both the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission and Montecito Planning Commission, who both gave recommendations of added language. Staff has since removed several of those recommendations, including lot coverage, the requirement that a homeowner must live in one of the dwellings, and site preparation standards. Staff did revise the language to allow for parking lifts if additional parking is required. It was also clarified that ADUs cannot be rented out short term (fewer than 30 days) or be sold separately from the principle dwelling. Detached ADUs will also be regulated in location and size; the maximum size of an ADU is 8% of the net lot area, up to 1,200 sq ft. 

The County may soon need to revise the newly passed ordinance language, as the State is currently revising its requirements via AB 2890, which prohibits standards for lot size or lot coverage, shortens application review from 120 to 60 days, and increases the minimum size of ADUs from 150 sq ft to 800 sq ft. If approved, the law will also expand the types of ADUs that are exempt from planning permits and will allows multiple ADUs on a qualifying lot. “I think it’s good for us to have our own standards and ordinance, and if we have to come back later and make strategic changes based upon changes in the law, then we will obviously do that,” said planning director Dianne Black.

The new ordinance amendments that affect inland areas will go into effect Friday, September 14; Coastal Zone amendments will go into effect once they have been certified by the California Coastal Commission. For applicants that have an approved Land Use Permit or issued Exemption for a proposed ADU on or before August 14, the Land Use Permit or Exemption shall remain valid provided that a building permit is issued by August 14, 2019. Otherwise, the approval or issuance shall be invalid.

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