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Vista adds new zone, waiver to ADU ordinance

VISTA — More residents will be able to construct accessory dwelling units after the City Council amended its ordinance to meet its affordable housing needs on Aug. 13.

The council voted 4-1 to include the R-1-B zone, which will add several thousand prospective lots to the inventory. However, the council did exempt the Shadowridge Master Plan and Vista Business Parks Specific Plan.

Under the old ordinance, only R-1, E-1, A-1 and O-R zones were allowed ADUs. Those zones range from lot sizes of 10,000 square feet to 2.5 acres or larger. About 8,200 lots are currently eligible in those zones, but the R-1-B would have/will add an additional 3,200. The R-1-B lots are just 6,000 square feet.

“It would allow the unit to count towards Vista’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), which is the state’s obligation to provide affordable housing,” said John Conley, Vista’s director of community development.

The new ordinance, though, has limits, as only 100 ADUs, or granny flats, over the next five years will be approved by the city. Additionally, all development impact fees for any ADU falling under affordable housing would be waived. Under the old ordinance, fees cost $14,985.40, Conley said.

Rent would vary depending on the size of the family based on the county’s area median income (AMI). They range from $1,499 per month for one person earning less than $59,950 to $2,140 for a family of four earning less than $85,600, per the staff report.

The maximum size is 50% of the size of the primary residence or 1,200 square feet, whichever is less, according to the staff report. Prior to the amendment, there were 8,200 lots available for ADUs, but now the number will likely be between 9,000 to 10,000.

As for garage units, state law prohibits the city from forcing reconstruction if it is legally converted into an ADU, according to the staff report. However, parking requirements must still be met.

Shadowridge, meanwhile, was a source of debate as Councilwoman Amanda Rigby, who voted no, challenged Franklin’s exemption for Shadowridge saying all Vista neighborhoods should fall under the same regulations regarding ADUs.

“If you want this, you should not exempt your neighborhoods,” she said. “Some of the other communities were master planned for a certain lifestyle … and we just happen to be in the yellow zones (R-1-B). I think every neighborhood in Vista was built with a vision and a lifestyle. We’re selecting places and you don’t get a choice, to me it’s just wrong.”

Regardless, Franklin, who lives in Shadowridge, said those living there bought those homes with certain expectations and abide by the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). However, he did apologize for appearing to be insensitive to the needs of other areas, noting it was a negotiation and the ordinance will have positive effects.

Councilman Joe Green said the new amendments will benefit the new zone by increasing value and said he is not treating any neighborhood any differently.

“My concern all along is people who purchased a home, it’s the biggest investment of their lifetime and they have covenants and restrictions … and protect quality of life,” Franklin said. “I remain open to any proposal for any neighborhood that this may not be good for.”

Councilwoman Corinna Contreras said adding more available lots will provide the city with the ability to increase density without altering the skyline. She also said ensuring property rights is an important issue the council and city understands.

“I want all property owners to have the same rights,” Contreras said. “It’s been a compromise. We have the capacity to increase more affordable units in a very passive way and let the free market take care of it.”