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.