This article first appeared in the ColoradoBoulevard.net February 2021 print edition.
South Pasadena homeowners are increasing the city’s housing stock by building granny flats on their lots under state laws aimed at encouraging construction of so-called accessory dwelling units in single-family home neighborhoods.
By William J. Kelly
Laws enacted between 2017 and 2020 have made it easier to build the extra housing, according to Elizabeth Bar-El, South Pasadena long-range planning & economic development manager.
The units are popular both as rentals and for providing aging relatives and adult children with separate housing, she said.
In 2017, city data show just one such unit was built. However, construction has picked up since, Bar-El told about 50 residents potentially interested in building granny flats at a city forum Feb. 10. In 2018 the city saw four granny flats built, increasing to seven in 2019 and nine in 2020.
However, that may be just the tip of the iceberg, said Bar-El. The city already has issued permits for construction of an additional 20 units and more applications are expected.
Moreover, upcoming building code amendments the city hopes to adopt later this year will ease existing restrictions, according to Bar-El.
Currently, residents can build accessory dwelling units up to a maximum size of 1,200 square feet, with a maximum height of 16 feet. Units can be either attached to an existing home with a separate entrance or detached, but not built above garages. They must have no more than one bedroom and utilities, such as water, gas, and electricity, cannot be separately metered from the existing home.
Owners of existing multi-family buildings, like duplexes, can build two accessory dwelling units, including by converting non-living spaces in existing structures, such as basements or storage areas.
Changes under development, though, would soon allow homeowners to build two-bedroom accessory dwelling units on their properties. Also, building units on top of existing garages or granny flats would be allowed with the maximum height limit being lifted to 22 feet.
A further change the city is contemplating, said Bar-El, would allow units to be built not only in backyards, but also in front yards as long as the existing house is not considered historic and is located on the back third of the property.
For the most part, off-street parking requirements will be waived. Meanwhile, according to Bar-El, the city will continue to require that the units be leased to tenants for no less than 30 days to prevent rental as vacation lodging.
The first changes could be adopted by spring, with existing restrictions further removed this summer.
> This article appeared in the ColoradoBoulevard.net February 2021 print edition.
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