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Proposal to reduce Granny flat regulations moves to Land Use Committee

SAN DIEGO – A proposal to reduce regulations on San Diego homeowners who want to build so-called “companion units” on their properties is scheduled to go before the City Council’s Smart Growth and Land Use Committee Wednesday.

The prospective municipal code amendments are in response to state laws that took effect recently seeking to ease California’s housing crunch. According to a city staff report, the proposal would both conform city regulations with the new state law, and go further with some extra incentives for homeowners.

The units, also termed “accessory dwelling units” or more commonly known as granny flats, could be conversions or additions to existing residences or garages, or an entirely new structure built on a property.

Supporters tout their low cost, small environmental footprint, flexibility in an era in which family members come and go, and ability to generate rental income for homeowners who could be cash-strapped or on fixed incomes.

Under the proposed rules, companion units could be up to 1,200 square feet, but no more than half the size of the existing structure if attached to it and would not be subject to additional water or sewer fees.

Additional parking would not be required if certain conditions were met, including proximity to public transportation. The city also proposes to add a junior unit category, which sets rules for structures up to 500 square feet in size.

The city’s Planning Commission gave its blessing to the regulations last month. The panel recommended a minimum 30-day rental period, that the main house be occupied by the owner and, to the extent legally possible, minimizing front yard parking, excessive hardscaping and extended curb cuts.