Los Altos faces a rewrite of its regulations governing accessory dwelling units, thanks to recent state legislation. 

The city’s Planning Commission April 16 began surveying the work ahead, as city staff outlined the impacts of three bills passed in the State Senate and Assembly.

Planning services manager Guido Persicone offered commissioners amendments to the city’s original ADU ordinance aimed at bringing the code into compliance. The commission is scheduled to further discuss the potential changes at its May 7 meeting.

Some of the major changes now required by legislation under Assembly Bill 881, Assembly Bill 68 and Senate Bill 13 include:

• Cities are required to allow junior ADUs (up to 500 square feet in size). Los Altos previously had no language addressing specific types of ADUs.

• Certain types of ADUs require a building permit, including “interior space conversions” in both single-family and multi-family dwellings, and detached units up to 800 square feet in size and 16 feet in height with minimum 4-foot side- and rear-yard setbacks.

• Owner-occupancy restrictions on standard ADUs are invalidated until 2025.

• Cities can no longer mandate replacement parking when a garage or carport is razed to make way for an ADU. No off-street parking is required for an ADU.

• Cities must act on applications within 60 days of the application being deemed complete.

• Separate utility connections and similar fees cannot be charged to junior ADUs or standard ADUs converted from existing interior space, unless the ADU is proposed as part of a new single-family dwelling.

• Owners of existing ADUs may ask for a five-year delay in enforcement of building codes.

Commissioners suggested language changes, prompting city staff to consult with the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development. Many of the suggested changes centered on a proposed section on daylight planes, which drew opposition from commissioners and residents alike. The proposal, modeled after other cities’ ordinances, recommended starting the plane height at 7 feet at the property line and continuing inward at a 5:12 slope to a distance of 10 feet from the side and rear property lines.

“It will have a negative impact on the functionality and appearance of new ADUs, and thus become a barrier to building ADUs by making them impractical and/or unattractive,” resident Gary Hedden wrote to the commission.

Goldbar Builders LLC manager Greg Popovich agreed, asking for parameters to create a more “buildable, livable and aesthetically pleasing ADU design.”

Both Hedden and Popovich suggested starting the plane height at 8 feet at the property line, which commissioners agreed would suit the ordinance better.

For more information on ADUs, visit bit.ly/2xD2C1H.