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Palo Alto plans more changes to rules on accessory dwelling units

Original post made on Jul 14, 2022

​​As ADUs proliferate throughout Palo Alto, the city is preparing to once again change the rules around the structures as it tries to balance state requirements and local desires for privacy protections.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, July 14, 2022, 9:27 AM

Comments (16)

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2022 at 11:10 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Privacy issues and light plane issues are the most likely issues that will affect adjoining properties. A neighbor who has had plenty of privacy and plenty of light will obviously not be happy and object to anything that will mean they are overlooked or miss out on sun in part of their property. It will lead to disharmony between neighbors and that can be a huge problem for all concerned.


Posted by Julia Moss
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 14, 2022 at 2:43 pm

Julia Moss is a registered user.

The city should also consider another housing option with an additional designation...Mobile Accessory Dwelling Unit (MADU).

That will allow some Palo Alto residents to rent out their vacant trailers and RVs if so desired OR allow transient RVs to pay and park in their front driveways.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jul 14, 2022 at 6:07 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

The state ADU handbook doesn't mention mobile adu's or tiny homes on wheels. This has presented conflicts in other communities where they have tried to write their own rules. The state has very specific parameters regarding what qualifies as an ADU, and units smaller than 400 sq ft. However, I am not an engineer or otherwise knowledgeable enough to say what "qualifies" as an ADU per the California legislature. What I *do* know is whatever they want to call it, it has to fit within legal specifications in order to be fit for habitation. And if I owned a house with a big back yard and somebody parked an RV up against my fence with a generator running all day and night, and the smell from their toilet pipe (after being planted in a hole big enough to fit it) started coming my way on a breezy afternoon, I would call code enforcement immediately. But, good luck getting code enforcement to make them move out. An owner of an ADU has five years to fix or demolish something that doesn't meet state specs. So, though there is much excitement about "helping humanity" or something (this is tongue-in-cheek, because I think anybody who wants to build an ADU is probably more interested in making money than making the world a better place), think long and hard before you consider renting out your RV in your driveway and call it an ADU. No matter what the size, it has to have electricity and sewer. Built in. Not an extension cord and a bucket. But I can already see many people's hands tickling themselves with glee thinking an extension cord and bucket could bring in a LOT of rental income during the five year period before the State will bulldoze it. Even if it's a health and safety code violation, there is the question of who is going to enforce this. This is the State document governing ADU's. Web Link


Posted by RPopp
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jul 14, 2022 at 7:55 pm

RPopp is a registered user.

@MyFeelz - I hardly know where to start in responding but I'll just say that in Palo Alto there is no circumstance under which you can rent space in an RV on a property zoned for low-density residential use. It's illegal and the police, not code enforcement, would appropriately deal with that.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jul 15, 2022 at 12:09 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Rpopp you could start right there. I was only going to include a weblink for the handbook but then there was this (about MHOW): "That will allow some Palo Alto residents to rent out their vacant trailers and RVs if so desired OR allow transient RVs to pay and park in their front driveways." It echoed the sentiment of residents of another community I lived in when the state legislated the ADU's and immediately everyone wanted to convert the RV in their driveway to an ADU or let someone bring their own RV and rent their driveway. That's not an ADU it's an RV and it flies in the face of all of the health and safety codes required of ADUs. But as I said, I am not an expert.


Posted by RPopp
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jul 15, 2022 at 5:55 pm

RPopp is a registered user.

Julia Moss seems to be suggesting MADUs be considered but again, until rules change, that would be completely illegal in Palo Alto. (I honestly cannot see it ever being allowed partially for the simple reasons you already described)


Posted by Chris
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 16, 2022 at 7:55 am

Chris is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Meghan Roth
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 16, 2022 at 10:48 am

Meghan Roth is a registered user.

There are already some MADUs in Palo Alto that serve to accommodate immediate family members and temporary house guests.

This endeavor is probably not illegal because no money is changing hands.


Posted by theAlex
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2022 at 10:29 pm

theAlex is a registered user.

@MyFeelz:

You must be new here. This kind of stuff hasn't, doesn't, won't, and shouldn't happen.


Posted by We Are The People
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 20, 2022 at 11:59 pm

We Are The People is a registered user.

With ALL this Traffic?
Where do You people figure it comes from??
Building ADU's & Inviting More People to move in?
Here's a short-cut. Take all those empty Offices that
were left from people that wisely decided to work from
home.Turn those into living spaces.
Thats where a lot of professionals were sleeping anyway.


Posted by RPopp
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jul 21, 2022 at 8:25 am

RPopp is a registered user.

Hi @ We Are The People -
Can you share your data sources? I'd like to understand your statement, "Thats [sic] where a lot of professionals were sleeping anyway." Was this in the past, or is this happening now? What do you mean by "a lot"? Also, which people are you? I don't think I know anyone who shares this exact viewpoint so I'm wondering if you can offer some information about which people you represent. Thanks


Posted by Jackie Brown
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 21, 2022 at 9:29 am

Jackie Brown is a registered user.

MADUs present a potential public health problem if they are not connected to a public sewer system.

On the other hand, if these mobile units are used solely for sleeping and meals, they are relatively safe though they may be viewed as a continuing eyesore to some residents.


Posted by Local news junkie
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 23, 2022 at 5:57 am

Local news junkie is a registered user.

MADUs would be a major eyesore. Bad idea.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jul 23, 2022 at 4:38 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

You're right theAlex, I only started residing a stone's throw away in San Mateo County in 1975, though I worked in PA before moving here, so what could I possibly know about MHOW encroaching into residential areas without permits, other than what I have seen with my own eyes. "Shouldn't" is the operative word in your statement. It doesn't mean it doesn't happen.


Posted by We Are The People
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 24, 2022 at 7:01 pm

We Are The People is a registered user.

@RPopp
You can google this information. They don't allow links to be posted on here.
Web Link


Posted by James
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2022 at 8:54 am

James is a registered user.

Just a side note, Berkeley is proposing to apply rent control to ADU.

Web Link


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