Other Voices: City's accessory dwelling unit claims contradict facts

City of Los Altos Community Development Director Jon Biggs, in his column “Nothing misleading about city’s revised ADU regulations” (“Other Voices,” Nov. 14), claims the recent ordinance changes proposed by city staff and approved by the city council were “in response to recently adopted state legislation” and “followed several public meetings held by the city council.” That is completely contrary to the facts and the city’s own records and transcripts.

First, Mr. Biggs asserts “the state has taken away some of the city’s ability to regulate” accessory dwelling units. A reading of the state law would confirm that is false. If it were true, would not all cities in the state also be required to amend their code as Los Altos did? None of them did. Mr. Biggs’ misrepresentation is all the more egregious because the state law explicitly mandates that cities, in regulating ADUs within their jurisdiction, may impose their own standards concerning lot sizes, lot coverage, setbacks, etc.

I challenge Mr. Biggs to show us where the state “requires” or “has taken away,” as he has claimed, a city’s ability to regulate ADUs.

Residents would be shocked to learn this city’s staff, attorney and (former) mayor, citing those state law changes (which were only concerned with ADUs), significantly amended under false pretext the code regulating accessory structures, too. The new code permits 12-foot-tall accessory structures in the side setback area, that is, potentially on the side property line screened from neighbors by fences “at least as tall.”

Such structures can then be converted to ADUs. Both the main residence and ADU can be rented out.

Welcome to the “double-talk ordinances” that are a bonanza for real estate professionals, who can buy residential properties in the city, build accessory structures on side property lines with 12-foot fences for “privacy and screening,” convert them to ADUs and rent out the main residence and ADUs. Because the code does not require parking for the ADUs, you’d have the tenants’ cars parked on the streets. Imagine what that would do to the neighborly feel that is central to Los Altos’ character, the “village” atmosphere, the privacy between adjacent lots and the quality of life in our city!

How did this come to pass? City records show city staff, the mayor and the city attorney worked in concert to misrepresent to mislead and misinform us residents and our elected representatives, the city council. They claimed “State law requires us ...,” “State law has tied our hands ...” as false pretext to push through the above changes. Council members, relying on those misrepresentations and misinformation, approved the ordinances. To my knowledge, no other city in California considered, let alone approved, the amendments this city approved under false cover.

Council members have failed to respond to requests for a public discussion and independent investigation. Their silence in the face of evidence (all from the city’s records) given the deceit, fraud and bad faith perpetrated on them and us is deeply troubling and raises serious questions of their own complicity in this fraud.

Paul Boetius is a Los Altos resident.

Editor’s note: Biggs, shown the above column for response, stands by his initial Nov. 14 comments.

“The last comments we provided were factual and seemed to me to address the points (Boetius) seems to be disagreeing with us on,” Biggs said.

For the city’s side of the issue, read Biggs’ column by visiting losaltosonline.com and typing “ADU” in the search box.

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