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Burbank planning officials weigh in on new granny-flat laws

Burbank City Hall
The Burbank Planning Board discussed a proposed amendment to the city’s laws dealing with accessory-dwelling units, known as granny flats.
(File Photo)

Members of the Burbank Planning Board are doing what they can to avoid new state laws from destroying single-family neighborhoods in the city.

Board members voted 3-1 Monday to recommend to the City Council approval of an amendment to the city’s existing ordinance regulating accessory dwelling units, known as ADUs or granny flats, to better align with new state regulations but also to try to restrict where the units can be constructed.

Board member Nazafarin Hadian was absent.

Christopher Rizzotti, the board’s vice chair, amended planning staff’s recommended changes to the ADU ordinance in order to provide additional protections to homes in fire zones and in the R-1-H-zoned area of the city, which is the Rancho District, where homeowners can stable horses.

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Rizzotti also tweaked the proposed changes in a way that lets city officials determine where ADUs can be built.

He said he fears the infrastructure of the city’s single-family neighborhoods won’t be able to withstand the additional units.

“[The new state laws] will absolutely destroy our [single-family] neighborhoods,” Rizzotti said. “All of us bought properties on the pretense that they were single-family neighborhoods, and to turn them into multi-residential neighborhoods is not fair [and] not consistent with our zoning.”

The legislation regarding ADUs — Assembly bills 68 and 881 and Senate Bill 13 — will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

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The goal of the new laws is to make it less restrictive for those who want to build an ADU on their property.

According to the new regulations, an ADU cannot be prohibited if its square footage puts the property over its floor-area ratio.

The laws also allow for studios and one-bedroom granny flats to be up to 850 square feet, and two-bedroom ADUs can be up to 1,000 square feet.

Burbank’s current ADU ordinance restricts units to be no larger than 500 square feet, and the additional unit cannot put the property over its floor-area ratio limit, which for most properties in the city is 40% of the lot size.

The new state laws also require local governments to process applications for granny flats faster than before. City planners will have 60 days instead of 120 days to review an ADU application.

Board member Matt Gamboa, who cast the lone vote against recommending the new ordinance, said there is a housing shortage in the region, and he thinks the state laws won’t destroy single-family neighborhoods.

Rizzotti rebutted, telling Gamboa, who is not a homeowner, that he didn’t “have enough skin in the game” and that Burbank’s neighborhoods need to be protected.

“If you want to go somewhere else where you can build and build, go to Glendale,” Rizzotti said. “We made a choice in Burbank … that [we] wanted a certain kind of city [we] want to live in.”

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