The Laguna Beach City Council held off an approving the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday night designed to facilitate housing growth in the city, saying the proposed law was too complicated to tackle in one sitting.
After hearing commentary on the so-called "granny flats" ordinance, council members opted for city staff to bring the law back for its first reading at a future date.
Under the currently proposed ordinance, Laguna property owners may be able to more easily receive permission to create new rental housing through methods like converting garages into apartments or creating new stand-alone buildings on existing housing lots that can be rented out.
The law, which is part of a statewide initiative, aims to create more affordable housing options for seniors, students, the disabled and in-home care providers.
Though the ordinance is being praised for giving property owners more ways to generate income and, in some cases, continue being able to afford living in Laguna Beach, others are worried that more housing would ruin the character of neighborhoods and exacerbate difficult parking conditions.
Some council members noted that City Hall doesn't have an enforcement plan in place to ensure that landlords who receive permission to create affordable housing, particularly for seniors, keep it that way in the years to come.
"People are going to game the system," said Councilman Steve Dicterow. "We're going to need more staff to be able to monitor this properly and enforce it."
Councilman Rob Zur Schmiede said the city could consider excluding new granny-flat style housing for properties that already are difficult for public safety vehicles, like fire trucks, to navigate.
The granny flats ordinance was vetted by the Planning Commission last year and Laguna Beach Seniors.
The commission suggested increasing the maximum size of a new unit — also called an "accessory dwelling unit," in city parlance — from 640 square feet to 750 square feet. The panel also recommended allowing the units to be placed in more areas of the city than they are permitted now.
Christopher Quilter, a former president of Laguna Beach Seniors, called the ordinance "an opportunity" to help boost Laguna's tight housing supply, "not an attack on our way of life."
He called it the "least impactful" way of providing affordable housing.
"We have to do something," Quilter added. "This would be the right thing to do, even if the state did not require it of us."