20190710-bc-housingprogress (copy)

In this file photo, two homes are under construction in southeast Bakersfield.

The Bakersfield City Council needs to loosen restrictions on accessory dwelling units for residential properties. The only question is if the city is going to go further than the state mandates or follow the rule changes recently signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the City Council is scheduled to debate a series of ordinance changes that will make it easier for property owners to construct so-called “mother-in-law” quarters in local neighborhoods.

The vote follows action at the state level, where Gov. Newsom signed legislation that is meant to ease California’s housing crunch by loosening restrictions on the secondary units.

The units are typically found in backyards or above detached garages and are used as small dwellings separate from a main house.

The City Council had been set to vote in September on a package of ordinance changes that would have made constructing an accessory unit easier for local residents, but delayed after several people spoke against the measures during the meeting.

The council wanted to wait to see if the governor would sign the bills passed by the legislature before they acted on the issue.

Now that the governor has, indeed, affixed his signature to the bills, the council must act, either to bring the city into compliance with state law, or to go beyond the restrictions the state has just loosened.

Neither option will please those who spoke against the weaker restrictions. The speakers in September brought up concerns that the units will lower property values and lead to the potential for slumlords.

But some action must be taken.

If the city follows the state’s bills, the existing dwelling on the property must be owner occupied, beginning in 2025. If the city chooses to go beyond the state law, both the main unit and the accessory unit could be rentals.

Also, the city’s version of the state bills would waive impact fees related to the accessory dwelling units.

In both options set before the council, accessory units will not require additional parking if they are built above a garage or are within half a mile of public transit. The state and the city will also allow the floor area of secondary units to be 50 percent as big as the primary units, as opposed to 30 percent.

Either option has the potential to change the nature of local neighborhoods, bringing more population density to the suburbs. However, the city council will be left with the choice of how far they are willing to change the status quo.

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

(5) comments

EMarie61

GetReal2, I happen to live in one of those "granny flats" and I don't think I belong in jail. For the record, I don't have a car and don't drive. I keep to myself and don't bother anyone or break any laws. So nobody has to worry about me.

I can sort of see where everyone is coming from, but please try to understand the other side of this issue. For some of us, an ADU can be a huge blessing. Not everyone can live in, or afford, a large home. Apartment buildings, especially senior and/or low-income dwellings, have a long waiting list. So-called "affordable" housing often requires your income to be twice above the rent, which means if you're on SSI or any fixed income, forget it. Section 8 is closed in Kern County, and who knows for how long?

If people want to build secondary units on their own property, as long as they make sure their tenants abide by whatever zoning (or other) laws are out there, it shouldn't be a problem. Count your own blessings and think of people who aren't as lucky.

Patricia Edna

I agree that you don’t belong in jail. But I also believe these matters should be decided by our City Council, not Sacramento. These decisions are not one-size-fits-all and they are better made by Councilmembers who know their community, have been elected by their community, and can create zoning laws more suitable to our needs. They shouldn’t be forced to do anything by lawmakers who know nothing about our city.

GetReal2

As long as there are jail beds open, why are we even debating a granny flat issue?

GaryJohns

No secondary units on any property having one or more cars up on blocks.....

Patricia Edna

Approve only what is mandated by state law. No more, no less. Sacramento shouldn’t even be impeding into local zoning matters in the first place.

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