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Tightening laws on granny flats

Laura Sturza

While a law reviewed by the City Council at its Tuesday meeting aims

to prevent mini-cities from developing in the backyards of

residential neighborhoods, the changes proposed could still prove

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unwelcome.

“The only reason I will support this ... amendment is because I

have no other choice,” Mayor David Laurell said of the ruling that

the council considered because of changes required by California

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Assembly Bill 1866.

The state law, which goes into effect July 1, requires that cities

approve applications for second units without going through a

discretionary review process. Burbank applicants are currently

reviewed by the Planning Board.

If Burbank adopts a change to its law, which it will decide at a

future meeting, it will be on the forefront of cities responding to

the state’s mandate.

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“Other cities are waiting to see what’s going to happen,” City

Planner Art Bashmakian said. “We are taking the lead. We wanted to

address this before July 1 came around.”

The bill will have “negative consequences on parking and traffic

... and has virtually done away with R-1 zoning,” which are

neighborhoods made up of single-family homes, Laurell said. To

provide protection for such neighborhoods, the city will require

stricter codes before issuing permits.

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“By restricting detached second-dwelling units to one story in

height ... that will minimize impacts to adjacent residences,

[especially in terms of] privacy,” Bashmakian said.

Aesthetic protections would also be implemented. These include

requiring a minimum separation between second-dwelling units and the

main house, and that their exteriors must match, Bashmakian said.

While the change in state law is intended to increase the state’s

affordable housing supply, Laurell said “it’s their way of saying we

have a housing crisis, so let’s solve the housing crisis on the backs

of municipalities. I think it’s a cheap fix.”

Burbank has about 45 “granny flats,” and receives about three

applications to build new units each year, Bashmakian said.

Laurell is concerned that the change would encourage developers to

build more than one unit on single lots, so that “the overall density

of the city, for all intents and purposes, can double.”

Council members weighed how to limit the number of units that

could be built per block, and asked city staff to return with options

that the City Council will vote on in the next 30 days.


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