Four enacted pieces of legislation discussed had to do with accessory dwelling units, or granny flats. Gov. Gavin Newsom also signed the Housing Crisis Act of 2019, an omnibus (funding) bill also addressing density bonuses, according to John Conley, Vista’s director of community development. The council also addressed its Housing Element update.
Many of the new laws and regulations did not sit well with the council, especially regarding local control.
“It’s very disappointing that Sacramento wants to come in and take control,” Councilwoman Amanda Rigby said. “We should be allowed to be our city … and what we are doing in our city. To effectively to just come in and take away a city’s voice and control over its destiny is very disheartening. It makes me madder than a hornet.”
Per the new laws, cities cannot require a minimum lot size and attached ADUs are no longer limited to 1,200 square feet, but rather they may be half the size of the main unit, Conley said. In addition, the city must update its code to allow ADUs in multi-family and mixed-use zones, he added.
Parking is another issue, as the new laws prohibit requiring replacement parking for converted garages and parking within one-half mile of any bus stop.
As for approvals, the new laws allow for “ministerial” approval within 60 days for any junior ADU, which is a unit no larger than 500 square feet enclosed within the existing home. Also, no design standards are allowed to be regulated by cities, except for square footage, height and setbacks.
Development impact fees also received a facelift to the new laws, Conley said, noting the city cannot levy fees for ADUs 750 square feet or less, although monies can be collected for those greater than 750.
Homeowners associations, meanwhile, cannot restrict ADU development, although they can attach reasonable restrictions.
The Housing Crisis Act of 2019, or Senate Bill 330, limits local municipalities and their ability to regulate development. It created a new preliminary application process, expedites applications and shortens the timeframe for approval from 120 days to 90 days, among numerous other requirements.
It also restricts “redesignating” residential land to nonresidential use, requires replacement units to be demolished within a project and prohibits any moratoriums on residential development restricting residential uses. The law sunsets in 2025.
“There are five areas in the Downtown Vista Specific Plan that were downzoned in September 2018, but it will revert back to its original density (40 dwelling units per acre),” Conley said. “It’s not a huge footprint.”
The omnibus bill allocated $1.3 billion in grant funding to address homeless assistance, local planning and infrastructure programs for infill projects. It also expands the eligibility for housing programs.
As for density bonuses, AB 1763 addresses 100% affordable housing projects. Projects within one-half mile of transit have no maximum density or parking requirements, it increases development concessions and projects 80% very-low or low income and at least 20% moderate income may receive up to 80% of current allowed density.
“It allows an automatic height allowance of three stories or 33% above the permissible height,” Conley said. “ I want the council to understand, though, that 100% affordable projects are typically subsidized by the city. For the most part, I don’t think this will have a major impact on us.”