Glendale approves interim ordinance regulating granny flats

by Jeff Lander

A temporary process to review and approve any property owner's second-unit expansion, known as a granny flat, was approved with a 4-0 vote by City Council last week as a way to calm hasty neighborhood growth before a more comprehensive solution can be reached.

The construction of accessory-dwelling units was made less restricted by the state this past September with passage of Assembly Bill 2299. The state hopes the secondary-dwelling units will increase the number of affordable housing units as rent costs rise.

However, opponents are worried granny flats would irreversibly transform their neighborhoods.

The Planning Commission originally presented an interim ordinance for accessory-dwelling units at the end of January as a stop-gap way to address the state law.

Last week, the interim ordinance was adopted under urgency, meaning it lasts only 45 days, and city staff must prepare a report to the council on its status 10 days before its expiration, according to City Atty. Michael Garcia.

The interim ordinance can be extended two times for a maximum of two years.

Glendale residents who want to build an accessory-dwelling unit will now have to adhere to stricter standards than already allowed by the state. For example, the size of the unit is limited to 500 square feet compared to the state's 1,200-square-foot limit.

Accessory-dwelling units cannot be seen from the street in historic neighborhoods and the property owner must reside in either the main dwelling or accessory-dwelling unit, according to the interim ordinance. If the owner isn't present, the property must be rented out as a whole, with both structures leased together and not separately.

Twenty-five residents spoke during public-comment portion of the council meeting on Feb. 7, with most asking the council to adopt the interim ordinance, saying that a more conservative approach to the state law is better than no local regulation.

A few speakers also suggested officials should wait until the fifth council seat is filled in the April 4 election before adopting a more comprehensive and long-term ordinance. A council seat was left vacant after now-former councilwoman Laura Friedman was elected to the state assembly this past November.

"Once these things are built... They can't be unbuilt," said Peter Fuad, president of the Northwest Glendale Homeowners Assn. "If you try and tighten the ordinance later, there's going to be hell to pay because people will say, 'You're unfair. You let that guy build a big thing and I can't build that?'"

Before adopting the interim ordinance, Councilman Ara Najarian asked if there was a way to place an outright moratorium on accessory-dwelling units, saying he shared the same concerns about the character of Glendale neighborhoods that several residents spoke about during the meeting.

However, Garcia said the state preempts the city, and a moratorium would run the risk of being struck down, leaving Glendale with only the statewide standards from which to work.

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