El Dorado County updates accessory dwelling unit ordinance

Eric Jaramishian
Mountain Democrat

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CALIF. — El Dorado County’s zoning ordinance will receive an update relating to accessory dwelling units to comply with state law changes that aim to give California’s housing supply a boost.

An ADU is a smaller, independent residential dwelling unit located on the same lot as a single-family home. They can be attached, detached or contained within an existing building and are allowed either as new construction or conversion of existing permitted spaces such as a garage, workshop, barn or pool house, among others. ADUs are more commonly called granny flats, multigenerational units, in-law suites or backyard cottages.

Housing, Community and Economic Development analyst C.J. Freeland gave a report on new ADU rules in California to the Board of Supervisors Nov. 16, which prohibit local agencies from imposing strict requirements exceeding state mandates and prohibit local agencies charging impact fees for ADUs 750 square feet or smaller.

County ADU ordinance revisions include an update to the Meyers Area Plan to allow ADUs in multi-family residential and mixed-use zones, revisions to maximum square footage for new detached ADU construction per parcel size, revisions to parking requirements and owner-occupancy requirements and the addition of junior ADUs.

A junior ADU is no more than 500-square feet contained within an existing or proposed single-family dwelling, including attached garages. For JADUs, a kitchen with appliances, owner occupancy and deed restriction provisions are required. Only one JADU is allowed per lot.

Owner-occupancy is not required through January 2025 for regular ADUs.

In the Lake Tahoe Basin, development permits will be issued by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel, who acts as the county’s TRPA liaison, admitted that development rights through the agency are difficult and expensive to acquire.

“It’s always been an effort on the planning agencies to restrict development in Tahoe,” Novasel said. “We have a very restrictive processes to go through, processes you wouldn’t go through on the West Slope.”

Freeland said the agency has been receptive to the county’s requests to loosen restrictions for ADUs due to state regulations and workforce shortage.

Detached ADU setbacks of 4 feet were a major point of concern for District 4 Supervisor Lori Parlin, who worried about home-to-home ignitions.

“We watched the Camp Fire in Paradise and the home-to-home ignitions,” Parlin said. “We want some distance … this is very concerning. People can’t get insurance and we are in a high-fire severity area.”

“I have problems going too restrictive because you get to a point where if you have enough of a setback, it’s not buildable,” Novasel said.

Freeman explained that the 4-foot setback is geared toward urban areas but provisions can be made for more relaxed setbacks through the county Ag Commission. Parlin said she wants to make provisions in the ordinance more clear to prevent confusion.

Currently, Board of Forestry regulations allow a 30-foot setback for ADUs in higher fire risk areas.

During public comment El Dorado County Association of Realtors Government Affairs Director Kimberly Beal suggested the county hold a workshop with the association on ADU regulations not currently in the county ordinance or having a FAQ page put on the county’s website.

Beal also recommended increasing the ADU size potential for parcels 4 1/2 acres in size or larger.

“We are experiencing a demand for two homes on one parcel where the buyers are siblings or just friends,” Beal said. “It is no longer the traditional parents and child going back from one home to another.”

The board approved to update the ADU ordinance 4-1, with Parlin as the holdout vote.

New state law also prohibits:

— Requirements of minimum lot size

— Allowing more than 60 days to approve an ADU plan or JADU plan permit application if there is an existing single-family or multi-family dwelling on the lot

— A maximum ADU size that does not allow an ADU of at least 800 square feet and 16 feet in height

— HOAs prohibiting or unreasonably restricting construction of ADUs on single-family residential lots

— Requirements for owner-occupancy of either the primary dwelling or the ADU

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