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Restrictions eased to align with California law changes

AUBURN, Calif. – Granny flats, in-law units or garage apartments. Whatever you call them, it’s getting even easier to build accessory dwelling units in unincorporated Placer County, with the Placer Board of Supervisors voting unanimously to ease housing code restrictions in line with recent state law changes.

The update to the county’s zoning ordinance is intended to help increase the variety and supply of local affordable housing units – the latest in a broader effort to address housing affordability challenges in Placer County.

Under state law, and county code, an accessory dwelling may be either a detached or attached unit that provides complete, independent living facilities for one or more people. Junior accessory dwellings are units that are no more than 500 square feet in size and contained entirely within a single-family residence.

From 2017 to 2019, California enacted approximately 40 new housing laws targeting housing projects, affordable housing, funding, general plan housing element annual reporting requirements and ADUs. The ordinance update makes county code consistent with the latest changes, though in practice Placer has already been complying with each new state law since it was enacted.

The approved zoning text amendment provides property owners with more flexible options to develop accessory dwelling units or junior accessory dwelling units to accommodate a family member or a potential renter.

Among the more significant changes, ADUs will now be an allowed use in zones where multifamily dwellings are allowed; including commercial planned development, general commercial, highway service and neighborhood commercial zones.

Property owners

Property owners may build both a junior ADU and either a converted ADU or a detached ADU on the same lot, and a multi-family property may have up to two detached ADUs.

Attached ADUs are no longer subject to a 1,200-square-foot size limitation, but rather are limited to 50 percent of the primary dwelling’s size.
Placer County’s zoning ordinance previously required that either the primary or secondary dwelling on the site be owner-occupied or rented on a long-term basis. The update removes this requirement but prohibits using an ADU as a short-term rental property.

Other changes include an addition clarifying that additional parking is not required for junior ADUs or ADUs that are converted from a garage, carport or other covered parking space; and reducing side and rear setback requirements for ADUs from 5 feet to 4 feet.

Housing affordability

“Housing affordability continues to be one of our community’s biggest challenges and we’re doing everything we can to give families the housing options that work best for them,” said Community Development Resource Agency Director Steve Pedretti. “If you’ve considered building an ADU but thought it was too expensive or difficult, now’s a great time to take another look.”

The board in January approved an update to Placer’s fee schedule for accessory and junior accessory dwelling units to align it with state law changes, exempting certain development impact fees for secondary units smaller than 750 square feet. That amounts to savings of about $15,000 per unit, though the fee range depends on a unit’s location.

Placer County continues to coordinate with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency about how the agencies can best cooperate to implement the new state laws in the Lake Tahoe Basin, where additional TRPA building restrictions still apply.

More information about building an ADU in unincorporated Placer County is available online.