Norwalk Looks at Ways to Tighten ‘Granny Flat’ Law
Concerned that this city’s single-family neighborhoods could gradually become more crowded and less desirable, officials want to make it harder for homeowners to add rental units to their lots.
The Planning Commission is discussing various restrictions that could be added to the ordinance governing the construction of so-called “granny-flat” units. Although planners say they do not think they can entirely prohibit the second units, they want to discourage their spread through Norwalk neighborhoods.
“We just feel it’s a real threat to the integrity” of R-1, the zoning designation for single-family neighborhoods,” Planning Commissioner Herb Williams said, arguing that proliferating rental units would slowly subvert an area’s zoning.
The ordinance allowing second units was adopted in 1984 in response to a state law that bars local governments from completely prohibiting second units unless it is determined that they would adversely affect public health, safety and welfare. Since then, only nine units have been approved in Norwalk, often on appeal to the City Council.
But the council--which would have to approve any ordinance revisions--also believes that tighter restrictions are merited, Community Development Director Jeffrey A. Bruyn said.
Although he said the state law was primarily designed to allow families to add an apartment for a relative, the second units in Norwalk are being rented out to non-family members. Most, if not all, of the applications for second units have come from people who illegally converted their garages into apartments, Bruyn said. Often, neighbors have protested the back-lot apartments, but the issue has not stirred communitywide opposition.