In an effort to comply with a batch of new state laws, the Menlo Park City Council passed a new ordinance that will make it easier for homeowners to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on their property.
ADUs are built on the lot of a larger home, and are often called granny flats or second units.
The intent of the new state laws, which became effective Jan. 1, is to help ease the housing crisis by providing more affordable living spaces in the form of ADU's.
The council passed the ordinance by a 4-0 vote on Feb. 25. Council member Ray Mueller left the meeting before the voting took place due to illness.
City staff explained in a report to the council that "cities are expected to update their local ordinances to comply with the state legislation. If cities fail to conform their local ordinances, applicants are permitted to develop under the state legislation."
Assistant City Attorney Cara Silver explained that the new state laws – AB 68, AB 881, SB 13, AB 670, AB 671, and AB 587 – implement major changes to encourage more ADUs. The most significant changes include:
● A new category of junior accessory dwelling unit (JADU) was created. These are dwellings no more than 500 square feet in size and contained entirely within an existing single-family structure.
● In single-family zones, one detached ADU plus one ADU or JADU are permitted.
● In multi-family zones (such as apartment buildings) two detached ADUs are allowed and one uninhabited space (such as laundry rooms) can be converted into an ADU.
● Cities cannot enforce a minimum lot size requirement.
● Requirements have been relaxed for ADU setbacks, which are minimum distances by which a building or other structure must be set back from the street, rear and sides of a property.
● ADU permits must be processed in 60 days, rather than the previous 120.
● No short-term rentals (such as Airbnb) are allowed for newly created ADUs and JADUs (this rule ends Jan. 1, 2025).
The council's vote approved an urgency ordinance, meaning it will not have a second reading at the next council meeting.
Silver explained that the reason it was brought before the council as a urgency ordinance is that the state laws are already in effect, and there are currently 10 pending ADU applications in Menlo Park.