Built-out La Cañada must open doors for accessory dwelling units, state says

Accessory dwelling unit
The LCF City Council will discuss an urgency ordinance to bring the city into compliance with state laws regarding accessory dwelling units that take effect Jan. 1.
(File photo)

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council will consider Tuesday an ordinance allowing for the wholesale construction of ADUs on single-family lots, although they don’t have much choice.

Cities like La Cañada Flintridge will be forced in 2020 to throw open the doors for the construction and proliferation of accessory dwelling units, when several new state measures overriding municipal limitations on the structures take effect Jan. 1.

On Tuesday, the La Cañada Flintridge City Council will consider an urgency ordinance to repeal the city’s previous regulations regarding ADUs and vote on new legislation that complies with the state mandates, drafted to respond to California’s housing crisis.

For the record:
2:36 PM, Dec. 16, 2019 Authored by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), AB 587 specifies that an accessory dwelling unit may only be sold separate from the primary residence when the property was built by a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation that has received a welfare exemption to sell to certain low-income families.

If no action is taken, municipal regulations will become null and void in the new year.

The new rules require cities to approve ADUs of 800 square feet and up to 16 feet in height, even on properties with maxed out floor-area ratios, and permit up to two additional dwellings on a homeowner’s single-family lot.


Side and rear setbacks for the new dwelling units would shrink to 4 feet from the property line, and permission would be largely ministerial, requiring only staff sign-off as opposed to full commission review.

The law allows ADUs to be sold separately from the primary residence — effectively undoing regulations regarding the subdivision of lots — but makes no provision for the independent units being assigned a unique address.

The city Planning Commission reluctantly vetted the change in a regular meeting Tuesday, conveying concern over the unintended consequences the mandate could bring.

For example, the new laws allow for ADUs to be sold as standalone properties but make no restrictions to keep the people who buy them from then applying for and building their own ADUs.


Commissioners nevertheless agreed Tuesday city officials’ hands are tied.

Adding some regulations for units built on hillside properties, still permitted under the state laws, and a provision allowing homeowners to create separate utility accounts for ADUs on their properties, they passed a positive recommendation to the council.

“This seems, for lack of a better word, dictatorial,” said Planning Commission Chair Mike Hazin, expressing doubt a La Cañada resident’s selling an ADU at market value would aid the housing crisis.

Assistant City Atty. Elena Gerli said state legislators would likely have issues to address as the laws were applied locally.

“A lot of these laws got drafted and passed quickly,” she said. “These types of kinks are just going to have to be worked out in future amendments.”

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council meets Tuesday at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 1 Civic Center Drive. For more information, call (818) 790-8880 or visit

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