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.