Glendale braces for state laws that will allow more granny flats in single-family neighborhoods


Glendale officials are rushing to get ahead of several state housing laws that will loosen the city’s restrictions on building accessory-dwelling units, or ADUs. State lawmakers have billed the legislation package as a tool to combat California’s housing shortage.

On Tuesday, Glendale City Council members introduced a temporary emergency ordinance that will allow the city to enforce some of its ADU regulations — including maximum unit sizes — even as the laws going into effect Jan. 1 will supersede or negate many others. A vote on the ordinance is scheduled for Dec. 10.

“This is going to create a huge issue for us,” Councilman Vartan Gharpetian said during the meeting, as he and his council colleagues reckoned with the impact of the laws. Burbank is also weighing how to go forward in light of the new legislation, with an emergency ordinance expected to be presented to its planning board on Dec. 9.

ADUs are self-contained housing units, often called granny flats, that can be attached to existing properties or stand alone.

They were banned in Glendale until a 2016 state law overturned the blanket prohibition. Under recently adopted legislation — Assembly bills 68 and 881 and Senate Bill 13 — the city must allow them in all residential areas, including in single-family and multifamily housing zones.

It will be possible to build two ADUs on single-family lots once the laws go into effect.

The new laws will eliminate parking requirements for many ADUs and shorten the review time for each ADU application from 120 days to 60 days. ADUs that meet certain specifications require mandatory approval.

Additionally, an ADU cannot be prohibited if its square footage puts the property over its floor-area ratio limit. Studio and one-bedroom granny flats can be up to 850 square feet, and ADUs that have two bedrooms can be up to 1,000 square feet.

Until 2025, owners will not have to live in either the main property or ADU — a requirement Glendale previously enforced.

Glendale’s proposed ordinance would buy the city time as it grapples with the best way to address the bevy of new requirements written into the state laws for the long term, according to Glendale City Atty. Mike Garcia.

If adopted, the ordinance will be valid for 45 days but can be extended for up to a year, Garcia said.

Garcia said the state moved the goal post just as the city was catching up to the other legislation.

“That’s the frustrating thing to deal with on a local level,” he said.

Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), a former member of the Glendale City Council, co-authored AB 68 and supported the other new legislation, touting it as a means to alleviate the statewide shortage of affordable housing.

“We need to be creative and look for innovative strategies that keep everyone involved at the table, and I believe ADUs are a great option that allows us to do just that,” Friedman said in a prepared statement, adding that she believes the housing crisis needs to be addressed both quickly and with care.

If the city does not act, it risks invalidation of all of its entire ordinance governing ADUs, Garcia said, citing language in the new laws.

Since Glendale began allowing ADUs in 2017, 83 have been permitted, constructed and presumably have tenants, while another 83 have had their permits approved but may not have been constructed yet, Garcia said. There are an additional 115 permits pending approval, he added.

A handful of public speakers showed up to the meeting to express their dissatisfaction with the state mandate.

“[State legislators] want to turn quiet streets of single-family homes into [teeming], low-rise tenements lined with double parked cars,” Mike Mohill, a Glendale homeowner, said during the recent meeting.

Cathy Jurca, also a Glendale resident, called the coming changes “really distressing because they threaten to upend the city’s ordinance, which she said residents were happy with.

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