Feb 10 2012

New Ordinance to Encourage Additional Second Units

Off-street parking space would not be required for new low income second units – 

The Planning Commission will continue discussions on a new second unit ordinance at its meeting on Monday, February 13.  The new law would permit a second unit on any residential parcel in Piedmont without off-street parking as long as low-income rent and size restrictions are met.  Sufficient on-street parking would be necessary in the general vicinity of the location, but not necessarily in front of the house. A variance would no longer be necessary.

The new ordinance is designed to encourage the development of more second units.  It establishes a new category of second units and “room rental.”  Many, but not all, of the modifications it includes are necessary to implement the City’s General Plan Housing Element with programs and objectives recently demanded by the State.    Modifications being discussed are:

  • Create a new code permitting rented rooms as a means of accommodating extremely low income residents.  There would be  limits on the number of tenants.  (Rooming and Boarding house use has never been a permitted use in any zone although the  City has informally allowed the renting of rooms.)
  • Establish the new category of “Extremely Low Income Household” which enjoys an exemption from parking requirements as well as almost all other requirements.
  • Recognize and exempt second units existing prior to 1930 using less restrictive Standards of Proof (i.e. without affidavits of prior owners or neighbors) and without making them subject to planning and  building codes adopted since 1930.  Sufficient evidence may include inspection by City staff to verify pre-1930 improvements, rental records, City or County records, written or verbal testimony.
  • Allow a second unit if a property has required number of parking spaces, even if one or more of the spaces does not meet the dimensional requirements (without the need for a variance).
  • Terminate rent-restrictions automatically after ten years (instead of having to request permission for termination from the Planning Commission and be granted it on a case by case basis at the end of 10 years).
  • Eliminate the current first year waiver of business taxes for rent restricted second units (to facilitate tracking).

Existing size and parking exemptions for second units will be expanded

  • Size exemption for new residences:  for new residences, second unit square footage will not be counted in the FAR up to 10% of the lot area or 700 square feet, which ever is less.
  • Additional parking exemptions:
    •  Low income:  allow 1 parking space OR non-standard parking space OR off-street parking screened from the view of the street
    •  Very Low Income:  allow on-street parking
    •  Extremely Low Income:  allow on-street parking if 2nd unit is 300 sq ft or less or if the property is already non-conforming

A parking exemption will be allowed only if there is sufficient street parking or the property is within 1/3 mile of a public transit stop.  However, the on-street parking need not be in front of the applicant’s house.  In addition, the parking must not negatively impact traffic safety or emergency vehicle access to residences, or create hazards by obstructing views to or from adjoining sidewalks, driveways and streets.

To obtain either the unit size or parking exemption, a resident will have to satisfy additional new requirements:

  • Record the 10 year rent-restriction with the County Recorder’s Office
  • File an annual rent certification during the 10 years, providing information on rent, occupancy, etc.
  • Provide access to the rent-restricted second unit from the exterior and eliminate any access from the main house

“Second Unit” means an attached or detached dwelling unit that provides complete and independent living facilities for one or more persons. All residential parcels throughout the city are permitted to have one secondary unit.

In future months draft revisions to the Residential Design Guidelines will be presented.  Three prior meetings have been held, which included staff reports.  The November 14th report provided a history of how the City’s second units evolved to the program today, the December 12th report addressed unit affordability levels, and the January 9th report addressed conflicts between rented rooms, rooming and boarding houses and second units.   February 13 Staff Report

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