Costa Mesa finalizes new rules for development of 'granny flats'

Costa Mesa City Council members voted Tuesday night to finalize new local standards for developing accessory housing units, also called “granny flats.”

Under the rules — approved on a 3-2 vote, with council members Katrina Foley and John Stephens opposed — such units could be built on lots of at least 7,900 square feet in single-family residential areas. The current requirement is 8,500 square feet.


Once the new regulations go into effect Feb. 15, secondary units also will be permitted in some multifamily residential neighborhoods, where they haven’t traditionally been allowed.

In those areas, they would be permitted on lots of 6,000 to 7,260 square feet, as long as a parcel is already developed with a single home.


Those who supported the revisions said they will give more property owners the ability to develop accessory units — which can be detached structures, attached to an existing home or fashioned out of a repurposed space like a garage — while preserving neighborhood character. Officials say the new regulations are meant to bring Costa Mesa into compliance with recently passed state laws aimed at making it easier to build supplemental units that could help ease California’s housing crunch.

Under the new rules, detached and connected secondary units will be capped at 800 square feet — down from the 1,200 previously allowed. Attached units will be limited to 50% of the existing living area.

Some speakers said they feel the regulations are still too restrictive. Overall, about 18% of single-family lots in Costa Mesa could qualify for accessory dwelling units under the new 7,900-square-foot requirement, according to city staff.

Foley said she believes the adopted standards will preclude property owners in “most of our working-class neighborhoods” from being able to develop secondary units.

“I just feel like this is not going to benefit the majority of the residents and the families in our city who could really benefit from being able to use their properties this way,” she said.

Mayor Pro Tem Allan Mansoor said he was concerned that allowing accessory units on even smaller lots could create parking issues.

“We can always reduce the lot size later if it’s not a problem, but I don’t want the overdensity, overcrowding ... to continue,” he said. “It is a problem in a lot of parts of the city right now, and I don’t want to add to it, so let’s take this one step at a time.”

Animal Services Committee filled

Also on Tuesday, the council combed through a field of 30 applicants and selected nine to serve on the city’s new Animal Services Committee.

Council members voted unanimously to appoint Tracy Hughes, Dana Lavin, Jay Litvak and Christie McDaniel to two-year terms.

Marilyn Brooks, Harriet Brown and Rebecca Walls were chosen for one-year terms. Linda Kwoun and Angela Minjares will serve as alternates.

The committee is tasked with promoting pet licensing, making recommendations on how to improve city animal services, and helping to plan community events and advertise volunteer opportunities.