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State orders Palo Alto to revise its rules on accessory dwelling units

Original post made on Feb 24, 2022

Palo Alto will have to revise its new laws pertaining to accessory dwelling units after the California Department of Housing and Community Development determined that they are too restrictive and run afoul of state regulations.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 23, 2022, 3:38 PM

Comments (18)

Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2022 at 6:37 am

felix is a registered user.

The state is reckless to reduce side and rear setbacks to 4 feet for ADUs and to demand that daylight plane protection be ignored.

Diminishing setbacks to 4-feet will be the death of many mature trees that then will add heat to our city as more lots fill with ADUs, basements, above and below ground infrastructure.

It means more noise and less privacy for neighbors. It will make fire fighting more difficult if needed in reduced 4-foot setbacks.

No protection of daylight plane? Goodbye to adding solar, summer garden, sun in the winter to keep us sane.

There is nothing “gentle” about this, Randy Popp.

By the way, this so called “Task Force” that Popp and Resmini are in was created by them and others profiting from ADU proliferation to lobby the City. It wasn’t created by the City and has no official status though it may sound like it.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2022 at 7:47 am

Bystander is a registered user.

This is more government overreach. We had protections for all sorts of reasons. Now we have almost no protections from what may be happening in our street, in our neighborhood, outside our own fence. We are not Woodside, but we have the same desire to live in the peace of single family neighborhoods. No cares about daylight planes, trees, offstreet parking, street parking, or other neighborly issues.

Many of the new adus are not used to house low income people or teachers, police, etc. Even those that are built to house elderly relatives or grown children, will eventually change to something other than low income people. Many are now being builts as home offices for work from home!

The war on our quiet suburbs is real.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 24, 2022 at 8:48 am

Online Name is a registered user.

What a farce by the deep-pocketed self-serving lobbyists since this does nothing to increase affordable housing.

But think of the money the city could save by cutting all its promotion of solar energy, off-street parking, Palo Alto as Tree City, privacy,...

Time to redesign the city logo, guys.

Posted by Seer
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 24, 2022 at 10:10 am

Seer is a registered user.

Built an JADU in a remodel, it is actually a good deal bigger than what was allowed. So we sketched in a fictitious door. Can I erase that door now? Asking for a friend.

ADUs are still pretty expensive. I doubt you’ll be seeing enough to matter fellers. I bet 80% of them are really home offices in any case.

Posted by RPopp
a resident of Monroe Park
on Feb 24, 2022 at 10:50 am

RPopp is a registered user.

I rarely engage here because it is all so one-sided with what might be described as the NIMBY crowd complaining about any change, with little acknowledgment of the conditions that created the homes they live in, but here goes...

@felix - The ADU Task Force is a grassroots group of Architects and others who are all interested in ADUs. Your imagined lobbying has no factual basis - we generally just share ideas and communicate together to understand the regulations as a group. We have been active in working to gain alignment of City regulations with State legislation, but we have no influence over the makers of the laws. If you have some indication it is anything other than that, please share so we can all be factual here.

In all of the ADUs I am aware of, not a single mature tree has been removed or encroached on. I find no factual basis for your statement.

Oh, and let's be clear... A 4 story residential building will have a much greater impact on solar access, parking, traffic, school districts, trees, etc. than single-story ADUs in backyards. I stand by my belief that ADU development is far more gentle. Not to say we don't need both, but ADUs are a great way for us to increase the quantity of housing and I'm glad to be able to participate and support my business by doing what I believe is good.

@Bystander and @Seer - I hear the argument that ADUs are being built to just create an office but I have not seen that. (80%??) Every ADU I have been involved with is being used as either a full or part-time residence for either the owner, their family, or a renter. I do not know of any that have been built solely to create extra space through a loophole in the regulations. I expect there is some of this but in my observation, it is not as rampant as many often claim. Also, while each ADU might not be affordable, creating more housing will in time hopefully help to balance the costs and eventually lead to more opportunities and choices for those seeking homes.

Posted by M
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 24, 2022 at 11:58 am

M is a registered user.

State regulators squaring off against local regulators. Likely we will get ADUs -- otherwise known as home offices -- but not much rental housing. And developers will build more tech housing, and sue under the new state regulations to allow them to do so. Its hard to see where low cost family housing will fit into all this.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 24, 2022 at 12:21 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Facts - each property has a "value" relative to the Santa Clara County Tax Assessor. When people make changes to that property that requires permits that then triggers a number of issues:
1. The property now can be re-evaluated for the purposes of property taxes. Are you all assuming that the tax collector has no interest in what you are doing?
2. For the purposes of utility payments your property has a track record of usage. Your usage is now going to go up as a collective cost for the property. What happens when they turn off the water? Is it you - or your ADU renter who is going to suffer this problem?
Yes - you are getting rent but you are still putting in motion a tax upgrade and a utility cost upgrade. And if your renter flees the scene the tax change is not going to change. You - the owner - are on the hook for all of the upgrades that increase your tax value.

Some guy was writing into the Opinion Section of the SJM about Prop 13. Not to worry - people will keep changing all of the factors concerning their property over the life of that owner. And houses change hands now on a regular basis - and when they do the tax value gets increased to the sales price of the property. It all works out just fine. Right?

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 24, 2022 at 12:51 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Hurray! Another setback for the NIMBYs!

Posted by felix
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 24, 2022 at 1:23 pm

felix is a registered user.

@ Popp, it says here,
“Popp sits with Resmini on the ADU Task Force, a coalition of architects that has been working with the city on its ADU laws”. This sounds just like lobbying given your professional group is doing this to influence policy makers for personal gain.

To say you know of no trees lost to ADUs, or that ADUs are less a menace than tall buildings to solar is only due to our stricter regulations which you wanted changed.

ADUs are over the top expensive and it’s a fantasy to think this will change. The City recently held 2 PTC meetings desperately trying to find a way to make them more affordable. It has not found a way to do so.

Posted by Sameoldthing
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 24, 2022 at 1:54 pm

Sameoldthing is a registered user.

I agree with Jessica Resmini and the ADU Collective. Palo Alto is part of California, it is not allowed to make its own rules. We have seen how that works when municipalities are allowed to do so, you have restrictive covenants that run with the land, you have laws that don't allow same-sex marriage, and you have arbitrariness that is an anathema to the rule of law Palo Alto needs to come to grips with the fact that it is not above the law.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2022 at 2:23 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

I'm admittedly ignorant of the adu legislation. Do the rules prohibit anyone from using their ADU as a VRBO or any other type of vacation rental? Say, for instance, during a big game or an event where there could be an influx of visitors?

Posted by RPopp
a resident of Monroe Park
on Feb 24, 2022 at 2:35 pm

RPopp is a registered user.

@MyFeelz - State legislation specifically prohibits stays that are less than 30 days for what is called a Statewide Exemption ADU (800 SF or less) specifically to avoid AirBnB or VRBO short-term rentals. "A local agency shall require that a rental of the accessory dwelling unit created pursuant to this subdivision be for a term longer than 30 days."

For units larger than 800 SF, "a local agency may require... that the property be used for rentals of terms longer than 30 days." Palo Alto includes this requirement in the Municipal Code section 18.09.040, "Rental of any unit created pursuant to this section shall be for a term of 30 days or more."

Posted by RPopp
a resident of Monroe Park
on Feb 24, 2022 at 2:46 pm

RPopp is a registered user.

@ felix You have obviously made up your mind about me and my business but for others reading the comment, "This sounds just like lobbying given your professional group is doing this to influence policy makers [sic] for personal gain." - it's not. The article pretty clearly lays out that the ADU Task Force has been trying to collaborate with the City to align local regulations with State legislation. We are not attempting to change what the State requires but merely to achieve agreement. This ultimately benefits our clients which is why we do it. A great resource for anyone seeking to better understand the legislation at the State level is the Housing and Community Development Handbook on ADUs Web Link

Posted by KD
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2022 at 4:32 pm

KD is a registered user.

“Popp said he sees the creation of ADUs as an effective method to build more housing in a way that does not create major impacts to the immediate neighborhood.”

I think this is a real valid point. A few days ago I remember reading an article that city of palo alto has regional mandate to deliver 6000 houses. Between organically blended ADU’s in the neighborhood vs giant 5-story buildings popping up everywhere - I agree the former will be less destructive for the town.

Posted by [email protected]
a resident of Palo Alto Hills

on Feb 24, 2022 at 4:59 pm

[email protected] is a registered user.

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.

Posted by anon1234
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 28, 2022 at 12:48 pm

anon1234 is a registered user.

Does mr Popp have any data on how ADUs are being used and rental rates/lease agreements?
The city does not collect such data so it’s very hard to understand how to evaluate any impacts of ADUs on housing

Posted by community member
a resident of University South
on Feb 28, 2022 at 1:34 pm

community member is a registered user.

Architect RPopp says
"This ultimately benefits our clients which is why we do it."

Right. And the clients are often developers.

Posted by RPopp
a resident of Monroe Park
on Feb 28, 2022 at 1:50 pm

RPopp is a registered user.

@community member speaks with great conviction about something they clearly know little about. I am commenting here with my name visible for all to see and believe those who are hiding behind anonymous names and spouting untruths are not adding meaningfully to the conversation. I wish the Town Square rules were better at managing this since it seems to lead to such negative interaction.

Anyway, here are the FACTS - All but one of my projects have been directly for the homeowner. I just completed drawings for an ADU that is part of a renovation being done as a flip, but I would hardly define that as "often"... Maybe 2-5% of the total.

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