New rules OKd by Newport planners would allow more ‘granny flats’

Accessory dwelling units — also known as “granny flats,” “in-law apartments,” guesthouses or casitas — would be allowed in areas marked in purple and yellow under new rules approved by the Newport Beach Planning Commission.
(Courtesy of city of Newport Beach)

Newport Beach is set to allow more secondary homes to be built on the same lots as single-family houses.

A secondary unit — also known as a “granny flat,” an “in-law apartment,” a guesthouse or a casita — is a small, complete home accompanying a larger single-family home. Such homes, called accessory dwelling units in planning parlance, can be attached, unattached or within the larger home and can include backyard cottages or apartments built in basements or above garages.

The city Planning Commission approved relaxed rules for secondary homes on a 4-1 vote Thursday night, with two members absent and Commissioner Bill Dunlap dissenting. He raised concerns about fire sprinklers not being required if not required for the main home.

The rules are tentatively set to go before the City Council for final approval in July.

The change comes in the wake of a new state law intended to expand affordable housing stock by making accessory units easier to build. State law previously gave cities wide latitude on local restrictions, and Newport Beach generally banned such add-ons, except for people 55 and older.

Almost 19,000 Newport Beach home sites could be eligible for an accessory unit, city staff said.

Staff proposed that lots be at least 5,000 square feet to have a secondary unit — the minimum for new construction in most areas of the city zoned for single-family homes. That would generally exclude older parts of town with small lots and chronic parking issues, such as Newport Shores, Bayshores, the Balboa Peninsula and Corona del Mar.

The new state law allows cities continued discretion on zoning, lot and unit size and aesthetics. But provided the units meet the basic standards, they could be approved without a public hearing.

The law does not restrict homeowners associations from prohibiting accessory units in their own regulations.

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