HomeCity Government NewsCouncil Streamlines ADU Standards

Council Streamlines ADU Standards

In accordance with the county and state’s intentions to build and create more housing, Burbank homeowners will now also be able to add a second housing unit more easily on their parcel.

The Burbank City Council adopted a zoning ordinance Tuesday ensuring that local standards for accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, conform with the latest state laws aimed at combating California’s housing shortage.

Senate Bill 897— which requires Burbank to approve ADUs that meet the city’s design standards — is the state’s most recent attempt to streamline housing production. The state aims to increase housing inventory by requiring cities to approve ADUs that meet these basic standards.

The city may only deny an ADU if it does not meet objective standards such as height, setback and other design factors.

While new legislation makes it easier than ever for small homeowners to expand their real estate portfolios, local critics say that such laws, not unlike Senate Bills 9 and 35, eliminate the City Council’s ability to control the context of a neighborhood.

The ordinance Council passed on Tuesday is to ensure that local zoning standards do not conflict with new state requirements for ADUs, a routine measure taken to avoid litigation.

Under the ordinance:

• Two-story ADUs are now permitted.

• Front yard ADUs are now permitted when applicants prove that construction is not feasible in their backyard.

• Owners who provide an additional parking space onsite will be eligible for an additional 120 square feet to their ADU.

The city’s housing element lays out plans to bring 12,000 new housing units to Burbank over the next 15 years. One way the Council hopes to do this is through the streamlining of the ADU design and approval process.

The city’s goals set at the beginning of the year specifically outline the Council’s intent to expand Burbank’s housing inventory via streamlined ADU approval and design. City planners say this ordinance, and other existing city resources, will help chip away at the city’s lofty housing goals.

“Owners are afforded flexibility in ADU design,” said Fatima Benitez, assistant planner for the city. “Additionally, the city currently has 12 pre-approved ADU plans that can be accessed via our city website and there is an ongoing effort to take in pre-approved ADU plans as long as they comply with the state and local building codes.”

Additionally, ADUs built under AB 897 are exempt from environmental assessment by state regulators, another protection for owners to simplify the design process.

Public opinion was split on the new ordinance, with about half of the speakers denouncing the law and the other half endorsing it.

“Accessory dwelling units are destroying our residential neighborhoods. They are increasing street parking, decreasing privacy, decreasing views and decreasing daylight,” said Jim Casey, who called into the City Council public hearing to speak during the public comment period on Tuesday.

“[The ordinance] is compliant, brings the city up to code and I think that it works. There are examples of ADUs everywhere in the city, and they are effective,” said David Donahue, Burbank resident and founder of ADU University, an education platform aimed at educating homeowners on ADUs.

The motion to introduce the ordinance was approved 5-0 by the City Council.

First published in the October 21 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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