Accessory dwelling law proceeds in Encinitas


Encinitas property owners will have more leeway in adding small homes on their land as a result of City Council action Wednesday, Oct. 10, as well as passage of legislation last week in Sacramento.

The council voted 5-0 to give initial approval to a municipal ordinance that loosens restrictions on the ability to add auxiliary homes, sometimes known as “granny flats,” within or next to already established residences.

Though the council had previously endorsed a similar ordinance, the California Coastal Commission declined to approve it.

The state agency, which has land-use oversight in coastal areas, recommended the city make changes to the proposed regulations so they ensured that accessory development would not infringe on coastal wetlands and erosive shoreline bluffs.

The council’s decision Wednesday incorporated the commission’s recommendations, setting the stage for the council’s final approval on Oct. 24, followed by Coastal Commission action in November.

Then, Encinitas Associate Planner Geoffrey Plagemann said, the law will take effect within the city.

“We’ve been working on it for over a year now,” he said in an interview after Wednesday’s action. “It’s really good for the city and really good for residents. There’s much interest. A lot of people want to take advantage of it.”

The goal of the ordinance, Plagemann said, is to expand housing and give landowners more flexibility. The city is waiving fees for such units and streamlining the system of obtaining permits for them.

To ensure the homes are not used by short-term vacationers, the ordinance requires a 30-day minimum rental of the units.

“It increases housing availability and gives another market type for people to access,” Plagemann said. “We need more options. (Encinitas) is a desirable place, and people are still coming.”

The city also was instrumental in creating further flexibility statewide for landowners with existing accessory structures on their property, when Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1226 last week.

The bill was crafted by Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear and state Senator Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, who carried it in the Legislature.

As a result of the law, the owners of unauthorized accessory units or those with out-of-date approvals can now get them legally permitted based on local building codes that were in place when the structures were built.

The bill ensures property owners can legalize granny flats, providing greater safety and protection of community character, Blakespear and Bates said in an opinion piece published July 5 in The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“We want to bring ‘granny flats’ out of the shadows and make their creation and permitting easier,” the authors said.

In the aftermath of the state legislation and forthcoming enactment of Encinitas’ accessory dwelling ordinance, the city plans a workshop for property owners on the new regulations and processes in January.

“I just want to make sure that we stick to that deadline of January where we have our permit-ready plans and we have our fees that we’re waiving and we have a brochure and we have a process (and) we have a link on our website, so all that is rolled out in January,” Blakespear said in concluding Wednesday’s council discussion of the issue.