The La Mesa City Council voted to make their Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance even more lenient than what the state mandates.
La Mesa voted to waive all parking requirements when building or converting a Accessory Dwelling Unit.
This might seem exceptionally generous, but 95% of La Mesa homes already qualified to have their parking waived.
The City Council eliminated any owner occupancy requirement. Owner occupancy is one of the worst and most discriminatory ADU laws on the books. It penalizes renters and has even been found to be unconstitutional.
Homeowners can now rent both dwellings, however, they still are not allowed to sell one unit apart from the other.
Setback requirements have also been eased. Setbacks are the minimum distance that the Accessory Dwelling Unit has to be away from streets, buildings, or the edge of the property.
Lastly, newly constructed Accessory Dwelling Units may now have a maximum building size of up to 1,200 square feet.
Why This Matters
While SB1069 has been very advantageous to homeowners, some city ordinances have hindered the ability to build Accessory Dwelling Units because they are too restrictive or challenging to comply with.
By easing regulations, La Mesa is effectively encouraging more Accessory Dwelling Unit construction to ultimately meet the goals of affordable housing and the climate change action plans.
Governor Gavin Newsom has put a big emphasis on supplying the state with more affordable housing units. His goals are focused on the local and regional scale. Possible consequences for not meeting the proposed goals include the state withholding transportation funds from cities.
With a more lenient Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance, La Mesa is making it easier on itself to meet these affordable housing stock goals.
California and its cities have also developed a climate action plan to battle climate change over the next century. By allowing more lenient regulations in the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units, cities develop characteristics that make them more conscientious and sustainable.
Densities will rise in neighborhoods with the presence of more dwellings. Sustainable, ecological cities call for an end to sprawled out, far-reaching development and an increase in centralized density.
This is because when people are more centralized, they have to travel shorter distances to reach the things they need, like work and services.
When people are centralized, other less polluting forms of transportation are available to them. They can walk or bike.
Public transportation also runs more efficiently when there are higher densities. When more people are using those systems in smaller areas, fewer stops must be made.
In addition to decreasing pollution and increasing efficiency, public transit and affordable Accessory Dwelling Units also play important roles in social equity, by providing a more affordable cost of living to California residents.
Some concerns voiced by homeowners coming out of this City Council vote include the more lenient owner occupancy regulations.
They are worried that if homeowners do not have to be present on the property, developers or others will take advantage and lease out properties constantly to Airbnbers.
Currently, La Mesa has 55 Airbnb rentals and City Council member Colin Parent mentioned that in his two years of serving La Mesa no one has ever voiced Airbnb as a problem.
Airbnb & Their Role in the Housing Crisis
For cities that have (legitimate) Airbnb concerns that impact affordability, it is recommended passing an ordinance that restricts ALL Airbnb rentals, not just ADUs, which make up a tiny segment of the market.
Many other cities have adopted this to ensure that Airbnb and short term rentals are not having negative and unintended consequences on their neighborhoods.
Some homeowners also have expressed concern that allowing more people in their neighborhoods will ruin the charm and characteristics that drew them there in the first place.
This is an excellent example of NIMBYism. NIMBY is planning jargon that stands for “Not In My Backyard”. People are often supportive of positive environmental and social necessities, just not when it directly affects them.
In all honesty, NIMBYism is not conducive to a united, forward-thinking community. To truly bring California to the forefront of affordable housing, residents will need to come to accept what will benefit the collective good and adapt our shared resources accordingly.
The La Mesa City Council has recognized this and we applaud their efforts to bring a bottom-up, decentralized, incremental, and adaptable approach to urban growth and affordability.