Hey! Now Grandma Can Move In!

 

In 2002, the California legislature passed a law requiring cities to allow construction of “granny flats,” small apartments built as attached or detached additions to single-family homes.

The idea was to promote more affordable rental housing in existing residential neighborhoods and allow more room for extended families that wanted to stay together.

But then-Mayor Dick Murphy, concerned about neighborhoods becoming too dense, disliked the idea and led the San Diego City Council to approve restrictions that made it nearly impossible to actually build granny flats in the city. To get a building permit, for example, a person’s property had to be at least twice as large as the size of a typical single-family home parcel, effectively ruling out granny flats in many core neighborhoods because most parcels are not much larger than the minimum required size.

But a law change approved by the city’s Planning Commission last week would eliminate many of the restrictions if it’s ultimately approved by the City Council, making it easier for property-owners in many city neighborhoods to build granny flats as large as 700 square feet.

The proposed change is one among dozens the city’s Development Services Department is proposing as it updates its zoning laws.

The amendments would remove the double lot size requirement, and also allow a granny flat — formally known as a companion unit — to be built at the same time as a primary residence, which is not currently allowed. It would leave in place some rules, like a requirement that one off-street parking space be available for each bedroom in the unit.

At the Planning Commission’s Thursday meeting, commission Chairman Eric Naslund said the restrictions implemented under Murphy were “just crazy.”

“The notion of a companion unit is essentially to sort of create these situations for extended families, rentals, and so on,” he said. He added that the double-lot size requirement made no sense, because at that point a property owner would be allowed to subdivide a parcel and build a second house.

City planners believe the law change would benefit low-income residential neighborhoods like Barrio Logan where extended families often live together, and could help satisfy the neighborhood’s need for affordable housing.

Several members of the public, including development consultants and architects, told the Planning Commission they supported the law changes Thursday.

But others, including representatives from the College Area near San Diego State University, opposed them, citing concerns about higher density in single-family neighborhoods. Homeowners in the College Area have long been opposed to similar housing arrangements called mini dorms, which cater to SDSU students.

The Planning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend the code amendments to the City Council, which will soon take the proposed changes under consideration.

Please contact Adrian Florido directly at adrian.florido@voiceofsandiego.org or at 619.325.0528 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adrianflorido.

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13 comments
Catherine Darragh
Catherine Darragh subscriber

Speaking of state-required quotas, think of all the thousands of illegal "granny flats" which could actually be counted to give a more realistic picture of San Diego's housing affordability quotient.

cdarragh
cdarragh

Speaking of state-required quotas, think of all the thousands of illegal "granny flats" which could actually be counted to give a more realistic picture of San Diego's housing affordability quotient.

Kathryn Rodolico
Kathryn Rodolico subscriber

And the parking requirements are extreme to say the least - the street wall requirement will eliminate most applicants for companion unit permits. Go to page 52 of the linked planning department proposal to see what the requirements are/will be.

ucgal
ucgal

And the parking requirements are extreme to say the least - the street wall requirement will eliminate most applicants for companion unit permits. Go to page 52 of the linked planning department proposal to see what the requirements are/will be.

Kathryn Rodolico
Kathryn Rodolico subscriber

For our family, it was totally worth it. And yes - my kids grandparents live in the companion unit. It kept my father in law out of a nursing home when he became wheelchair bound. If the rule changes make it a little easier for families like ours - this is a good thing.

ucgal
ucgal

For our family, it was totally worth it. And yes - my kids grandparents live in the companion unit. It kept my father in law out of a nursing home when he became wheelchair bound. If the rule changes make it a little easier for families like ours - this is a good thing.

christine mann
christine mann subscriber

make no mistake, this means more Huffman condos in cute intact neighborhoods like South Park and Barrio Logan except now they dont even have to provide parking. This is not about granny or low income residents, this is about developers and $$$$$ and the fact that you guys dont see that is astounding. This is about mini-dorms as well. People better wake up and call their council members fast.

cma52572
cma52572

make no mistake, this means more Huffman condos in cute intact neighborhoods like South Park and Barrio Logan except now they dont even have to provide parking. This is not about granny or low income residents, this is about developers and $$$$$ and the fact that you guys dont see that is astounding. This is about mini-dorms as well. People better wake up and call their council members fast.

christine mann
christine mann subscriber

and 700 sq ft!!! that is huge for granny. That is easily a 2-bedroom not a studio for granny.

cma52572
cma52572

and 700 sq ft!!! that is huge for granny. That is easily a 2-bedroom not a studio for granny.

christine mann
christine mann subscriber

VOSD, are you guys really that gullible or are you working for the developers? This was a very very tricky way of basically allowing condos in neighborhoods like South Park. The KEY words in that ordinance they passed are "at the same time"...that means demolitions in order to build 2 units on 1 lot. If it was really about granny flats it would be a flat in addition to the existing already built unit.

cma52572
cma52572

VOSD, are you guys really that gullible or are you working for the developers? This was a very very tricky way of basically allowing condos in neighborhoods like South Park. The KEY words in that ordinance they passed are "at the same time"...that means demolitions in order to build 2 units on 1 lot. If it was really about granny flats it would be a flat in addition to the existing already built unit.

Frances O'Neill Zimmerman
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman

Just what San Diego needs: permission to build "granny flats" in the already-tiny backyards of single-family homes. If there were a rule that only blood-relative grannies could occupy such units, that would be one thing, but this proposal will mean more renters in residential neighborhoods, the likelihood of more than one person per unit and many more cars parked on nearby streets. It is a windfall for developers and absentee landlords.