Bob Smith Councilmember, Ward 4

After claims surfaced that “mother-in-law” units would lead to lowered property values and the potential for slumlords, the Bakersfield City Council delayed changes to local ordinances that would loosen regulations on the secondary housing structures during Wednesday's meeting.

City Councilmember Bruce Freeman said at the meeting that the council should wait to see if legislation expected to pass the at the state level indeed becomes law.

“It’s frustrating that all local control has been taken away from us by the state and we’re helpless to do anything about it,” he said. “But I guess we’ll see what happens.”

The city had been working independently of state legislators for about a year to loosen Bakersfield’s accessory dwelling unit laws.

Proponents say the changes will allow the accessory dwelling units to become more affordable, and address the housing shortage in Bakersfield.

Those opposed to the looser regulations say accessory dwelling units could change the nature of single-family neighborhoods to more resemble rental districts.

Accessory dwelling units are secondary structures typically built in the backyard of a primary residence. The smaller buildings can be used to house family members or tenants while the property owner stays in the main house.

The city had hoped to reduce fees for constructing accessory dwelling units and eliminate the requirement that property owners provide a parking space off the street for residents of the structure.

Three bills at the state level would also loosen standards that had been previously established for accessory units, allowing property owners to build bigger units and eliminating the requirement that the property owner reside in the primary residence of the lot.

“This whole thing of non-owner occupying of the primary residence, when you build the ADU is crazy, that’s nutty,” John Knowlton said at the meeting. “Do you know what the investors are going to do when they come into Bakersfield from LA and San Francisco and start buying up vacant single family homes and building ADUs into them?”

Former political candidate and real estate developer Ken Mettler agreed, saying the looser standards could destroy the “pride of ownership” that goes along with owning a home.

“This proposed ordinance is totally flawed,” he said. “This will have unintended consequences.”

Councilman Bob Smith, who first proposed the changes, said he had been approached by Bakersfield residents who had asked for them.

“It doesn’t really change whether or not you can build an accessory dwelling unit, it changes the fee structure and makes it more equitable,” he said. “There’s a need for more housing in Bakersfield.”

The Home Builders Association of Kern County backed the looser regulations, saying the city’s fee structure had prevented people who wanted to build the units from starting the construction.

In a 4-3 vote, the council decided to delay the issue until the Oct. 23 meeting, giving the state enough time to pass legislation.

Smith, along with councilmembers Willie Rivera and Andrae Gonzales voted against the delay while Freeman and councilmembers Jacquie Sullivan, Chris Parlier and Ken Weir voted in favor.

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

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(7) comments


The City of Bakersfield already has pretty loose restrictions compared to the County. They should mirror the restrictions that the County has. There should be one off-street parking space for each accessory unit bedroom and the accessory unit size should be reasonable based on the size of the lot. While accessory structures are a great option, it is unreasonable to expect a one size fits all zoning ordinance that will crowd city streets and change the character of neighborhoods. In cases where lot sizes are small, it may make more sense to add to the existing structure rather build a separate accessory unit.


Hey Bob - the residents of Bakersfield DO NOT want to be more like Los Angeles. For unbuilt developments, this might be ok. But existing areas? No way. It would at least double occupancy and vehicles on the street in many places. Go down to Lost Los Angeles and take a good look around, before you tell us we should be more like them.


Freeman says local control has been taken away by the State and the headline boasts local concerns. Either way, mother-in-law units permit owners to utilize their property, within reason. Want stricter application, move into an HOA.


Let’s see extra sq footage $. Permits and inspections $ Property taxes $. What’s the problem ?? It brings up the property value of the area and your complaining. ?


It doesn't bring up the property value of the area to have 20 people living on one lot.


Once again, Bako backward thinking. Folks, look around. Bako is no longer a “burg”. KC. Half a million people. Only the wealthy are against this. Trump’s greedy-guts. It’s not like home owners are going to rush in and build hundreds or thousands of units on property cuzz of this idea. Sheez. If LA investors wanted to build there is a ton of vacant lots—cheap lots—scattered all over town. So don’t fool yourself into thinking your lil castle is listed after by the Big Bad Wolf. It’s not. Lol.

But give some folks a bone to fight over n they will tussle. Bako mentality. Heard Terry Maxwell on radio crying big tears and blaring oh no. No No. Listen nobody on 24th n Pine Area was going to race down n get permits n build. So silly. Privilege still rules some little minds. Sin if a doctor. But ended up thirsty n running a restaurant that got shut down n ultimately closed. Then talk radio. Immediately turned from guest host with moderate views to FOX Rush n Hannity regurgitated points pusher. Silly. Be independent in one’s thoughts. Not follow blindly like a sheep. Right? Private schools mentality. The cash must be tremendous or side deal made to enroll. Bako backs outta this idea cuzz a few crybabies cry. Joaquin Sullivan needs to quit n give someone else a chance Andre knows zip. Mr. Knowitall has spoken.


OMG, you were supposed to have been restricted from getting online by your retirement home care takers! I will contact them, AGAIN.

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