Help California wildfire victims

Granny flat proposal gets unanimous support from 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 received unanimous support Wednesday from the City Council's Smart Growth and Land Use Committee.

The prospective municipal code amendments are in response to state laws aimed at easing California's housing crunch. According to a city staff report, the proposal would conform with city regulations and the new state law, and go further with some extra incentives for homeowners.

"Clearly we have a housing crisis, and what we do build we don't build enough of," said Matthew Adams, of the Building Industry Association. "What we do build doesn't meet the needs of those who need it most and that is our middle-class families, because of a variety of issues involving regulations, fees, rising construction and labor costs and the time it takes to get projects approved."

The units, also termed "accessory dwelling units" and 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.

Committee Chairman Scott Sherman said the proposal moves things in the right direction. A more detailed plan will go to the full City Council for consideration in the future.

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.