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Newport may expand the reach of 'granny flats'

Newport may expand the reach of 'granny flats'
Newport Beach is working to relax zoning restrictions for “granny flats,” like this one in Glendale. (File Photo)

Newport Beach may further relax regulations on accessory dwelling units, also known as “granny flats,” by allowing them to be built in any residential zoning district.

An accessory dwelling unit is a small, complete home that is attached or unattached to or within a larger single-family home. Such units can include backyard cottages or apartments built in basements or above garages.

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In Newport Beach, the units currently are allowed only in residential districts zoned strictly for single-family homes. A proposed change would allow them to accompany single-family homes in any residential zoning district, including those that also allow duplexes or multi-unit complexes.

The city Planning Commission unanimously agreed Thursday to recommend that the City Council approve the looser zoning restrictions.

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The proposed change comes after an update to the state granny flat law, which allows accessory dwelling units to be added to the interior of single-family houses in any residential district.

The Newport amendment would take the recent state zoning update a step further by allowing the units to accompany single-family houses as unattached dwellings or as attached units with a separate exterior entrance, also in any residential district.

Planning staff said applying the same set of regulations to both types of accessory units would be easier to implement and for the public to understand.

It wouldn’t necessarily mean significantly more of the units around town, though.

Planning staff said the 5,000-square-foot minimum lot size requirement would mean the units still would be generally prohibited in the waterfront neighborhoods that typically have both a high concentration of duplex and multifamily zoning and a dearth of on-street parking, such as the Balboa Peninsula, Balboa Island and Corona del Mar. Lots in those neighborhoods are typically smaller than 5,000 square feet. Only those larger than 5,000 square feet could have an accessory unit.

Also, the units could be secondary only to a single-family home, not a duplex or an apartment.

The units would be limited to one parking space, also following a change in state law that reduces the parking requirement for all types and sizes of granny flats.

Other previously established general restrictions apply, including a 750-square-foot floor area maximum, owner occupancy of either the primary or accessory unit, and a prohibition on being used as a short-term rental.

City planner Jaime Murillo told the commission the city has received eight applications to build accessory units since the state law relaxing regulations went into effect last year, forcing Newport to overturn its policies that generally banned the add-ons except for people 55 and older.

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