ENCINITAS — City Council has taken the first step toward adopting a set of rules that would regulate and make it easier to build so-called “granny flats.”
Encinitas officials have been looking for ways to add to the city’s affordable housing stock, in an effort to comply with state law and regional housing mandates. Residents and city officials have pointed to accessory dwelling units as a tool that will help the city meet the needs while not altering the community’s suburban character.
The council unanimously approved the rules at its Feb. 14 meeting, which will allow for owners to build up to a 1,200-square-foot detached accessory dwelling unit (so long as the unit is not bigger than the main house) and — in a major shift — waives fees for homeowners, which could be as big as a $3,000 break.
“I am so excited about this ordinance,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said. “We are doing something real that will accomplish an actual result.”
Council also directed staff to return with a so-called “permit ready” program, which would allow homeowners to bypass most of the Planning Department’s discretionary review process, which residents have complained is cumbersome and time-consuming, by selecting from pre-approved building and design plans.
The council was especially enthusiastic about the fee waiver, which they said will give homeowners incentive to move forward with developing the units. Additionally, the new ordinance exempts homeowners from having to underground utility lines, which can also be very costly.
On average, residents could save $3,500 with the break in fees, Blakespear said in the meeting.
“We can make an impact in our (affordable housing) obligations in future housing cycles the more of these we build,” City Councilman Tony Kranz said. “I say we do everything we can to incentivize the construction of these units.”
The council in May 2017 directed the Planning Commission to develop an ordinance to regulate accessory and junior accessory dwelling units.
Residents will only be able to build one attached and detached unit, only one of which can be used as a rental. Leases have to be at least 30 days, which the council said would discourage the creation of additional vacation rentals.