Woodside: SB 50 may enable conversion of single-family homes to multi-family


One of Woodside's long-term goals has been to protect the "rural character" of the community, but a new provision of the proposed SB 50, the attention-getting housing bill in the California Legislature, could work to create more housing density than currently exists.

Most provisions in the bill would not apply to Woodside, according to a staff report on the issue presented to the Town Council on May 14.

However, a provision to the bill added April 24 that would allow single-family homes to be converted to as many as four units would apply to some properties in town, the report said.

Town Manager Kevin Bryant agreed with that assessment, although he wasn't sure how many homes would qualify.

The bill's new provision could open the door to accessory dwelling units, duplexes, and four-plexes in the affected areas, according to the report.

Conversions from single-family use to multi-family houses could occur on vacant land or by converting an existing structure, so long as the work necessary to accomplish the conversion did not result in demolition of 25 percent or more of the structure’s exterior vertical walls or increase total interior square footage by more than 15 percent.

The project would also have to meet zoning and design review standards related to height, setback, floor-area ratios, and lot coverage.

Properties eligible for conversion from single- to multi-family would be entitled to a streamlined approval process and would be exempt from conditional use permit requirements.

The streamlined process would require the town to notify the developer within 60 or 90 days, depending on the size of the project if it determines the project does not meet the requirements for conversion to multi-family housing. If no notice is given, the project would be in compliance.

One limitation on a property owner's ability to convert involves San Mateo County's requirement that a lot be large enough to house an appropriate-sized septic system.

The size of the system would be determined by the number of bedrooms on a property, so that a four-plex might require a larger system than an existing single-family home.

In addition, properties in earthquake hazard zones would be excluded, which could further narrow the number that qualify.

Bryant said the town will be sending a letter to the Legislature supporting local control.

Solar panels

The the same meeting, the council also agreed to continue work on a project to install solar panels on the roof of the library and Town Hall to provide electrical power for those facilities, Bryant said.

"The council would like to look at the library and Town Hall projects separately," he said. "We'll be coming back to the council with that as the next step."

The work would include installing five electrical charging stations, with three at Town Hall and two at the library.

The project was analyzed by Sage Renewables, which reported that the cost of PG&E's bankruptcy may put significant upward pressure on the utility's rates and would increase the value of electricity produced by solar systems.

There will also be rate changes beginning in January that will decrease the value of energy produced by the solar PV systems.

Sage initially considered putting the solar panels in front of Town Hall, but the town staff directed it to drop the idea due to aesthetic concerns, according to the report.

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