Peninsula Planners Demonstrate the Effects of New ‘Granny Flat’ Law

by on November 27, 2018 · 8 comments

in Ocean Beach

Diagram of a sample “granny flat”.

By Geoff Page

The continuing effects of Senate Bill 1069 were seen once again at the Peninsula Community Planning Board’s regular monthly meeting Thursday, November 15 at the Point Loma Library.  SB 1069 is the bill familiarly known as the “granny flat” bill that became effective on January 1, 2017.

It essentially removed almost all rules governing what are called “accessory dwelling units,” second units that can be placed on a property in any type of zoning.  The bill has de facto rezoned all single-family neighborhoods into multi-family neighborhoods.

Two home projects in neighborhoods zoned as single family came before the PCPB at the meeting.  One project was for demolition of a home and construction of a new, 3,112 square foot home plus a 516 square foot garage and a 668 square foot companion unit.

The other project was to add 1,346 square feet to an existing home, reconstructing a garage and a 744 square foot companion unit.

SB 1069 is supposed to help ease the housing crisis in California and many are touting it as a way to provide affordable housing.  But, there are no requirements to make the units affordable.

You have to wonder why a 3,000 plus square foot home needs a companion unit. When asked if they planned to rent the unit, one owner said no, it would be for family, which does not help alleviate the housing shortage.

The new law relieves the owners of parking requirements when:

  • the unit is located within a half mile of public transit;
  • the unit is located in a historic district;
  • the unit is part of the existing primary residence;
  • on-street parking permits are required but not offered to the unit occupant(s);
  • there is a car share vehicle located within one block of the unit.

The first bullet is what everyone is using to avoid the parking requirements.

The Municipal Code used to prohibit building a home and a companion unit at the same time – that is gone too.

Development impact fees are not assessed on the second units either. These extra units are proliferating at an alarming rate.

A couple in Point Loma placed a prefabricated unit on their property and are now advertising on social media how to do this easily.  What there are no plans for anywhere are upgrades to the infrastructure.  The sewer and water systems were designed and placed years ago for single family neighborhoods that will now conceivably double in density if this keeps up. To say nothing of the traffic and parking.  Having a transit station nearby does not guarantee it will be used by the granny flat renters.

The two home building projects were unanimously approved by the board.

Utility easement at Liberty Station

The only other action item was a request to approve vacating a no longer needed utility easement at Liberty Station.  It was unanimously approved.

Draft Fiscal Year 2019 Peninsula Impact Fee Study

The Draft Fiscal Year 2019 Peninsula Impact Fee Study, or IFS, was discussed.  A developer impact fee is assessed for each housing unit constructed.  The fee goes into a fund that is designed to be applied to projects within the communities where the fees are collected. The money collected would never be enough to fund any projects but would go toward the pot of money needed for those projects.

The city composed a long list of possible projects and members of the PCPB met several times to provide the city with a prioritized list.  The meetings included the city, PCPB members, and members of the public. This will be presented to city council and voted on.

Because Point Loma is essentially “built out,” the fund from these fees will never be very large.  In communities where a lot of development will take place, the fund will be much larger.

Point Loma did have a large windfall of over $800,000 from the fees collected on the old Barnard Elementary school site.  A developer placed 178 new units on the site after demolishing the old school.  This pool of money was available to Point Loma for whatever Point Loma wanted but the community never got a chance to chime in.  The entire fee was devoted to a small pocket park on Canon Street.

When this money became available, the city asked the PCPB what it thought should be done with it.  In this reporter’s dozen years of involvement with the PCPB, this had never happened and should not have happened.  Three of the board members, including the former chair, were trying to get money for this little park and because of political connections and maneuvers behind the scenes, all the money went to the park.  Two of the three board members involved both subsequently resigned from the PCPB.

What should have happened was what just happened with the IFS.  There should have been discussion of a variety of projects and the money earmarked for one or more projects selected by a representative community group.

What should have happened, but did not, were public meetings and outreach to the community for opinions on how to use this money.  This is what happens when the community does not pay attention to its planning board.  And, fleecing the community of this available money was compounded by the city adding another $400,000 from where we do not know yet.  This tiny, less than a half-acre park will cost almost $1.5 million when it’s all over.  For a park with no restrooms and no parking lot.

Board Member Resignation

There was a brief announcement of a resignation.  Board member Margaret Virissimo, elected in March 2017, resigned.  No explanation was provided. It is known that a complaint about Virissimo was delivered to the PCPB by community members.  Virissimo resigned before the November 15 meeting when the matter was to be discussed publicly.

As an aside, here is more background.

Virissimo was the subject of an election protest filed by this reporter and another candidate in the 2018 election.  The board decided not to take any action after the vice chair, an attorney, torpedoed the protest in a report that was completely flawed and biased.  The low point was when the vice chair stated in his report that the PCPB by-laws did not apply to candidates, ignoring that the requirements for being a candidate come right out of the by-laws.  Virissimo was on the election subcommittee that the vice chair headed.

This reporter warned the board that doing nothing about Virissimo’s actions was tantamount to condoning her behavior, which would only embolden her and result in the board facing a similar problem in the near future.  That warning was prescient.

Conrad Wear’s Last Report

There was sad moment for all when Conrad Wear, the representative from Council member Zapf’s office gave his last report.  Wear is losing his job because Zapf lost her council seat.  For many, the one thing Zapf did right was hire Conrad who was universally liked by the community.  Wear was always informed, personable, and a good communicator.  He was always very responsive to requests for help and information, if he did not know an answer, he would look for it and respond later.  Conrad was a trusted member of the city government and that is a rare thing to say about government people.  Hopefully, Conrad will be back in another capacity helping the community soon.

The PCPB will not be meeting in December.  Regular meetings will resume on the third Thursday in January at the Point Loma Library.



{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Webb November 28, 2018 at 9:28 am

Geoff, thanks for your thoughtful reporting on the PCPB meetings. I always appreciate your reporting and insights. I have two thoughts in response to this report.
First, the new accessory dwelling unit rules allow an “accessory” dwelling that is significantly larger than my three bedroom, two bath home. This is just not right.
Second, kudos for you for your complimentary comments regarding Conrad Wear. He was a refreshing change from the previous District 2 representatives – open, honest, communicative and forthcoming. He will be missed. Incoming Dr. Jen could do a lot worse than to hire Conrad.


Geoff Page November 28, 2018 at 10:27 am

Thanks, Paul. I agree about the size and there are many other problems with this new development. Also agree about Conrad, I’d like to see him continue too.


bobo November 29, 2018 at 6:26 am

Hi Paul, the rules for an ADU require that it not exceed 50% of the original unit (main house) and of course, all square footage under roof for the entire property still must be below the maximum FARs (floor area ratio) and sq/footage maximum for the zoning of the property.

It’s incorrect to say that an ADU can be large. There are, in fact, regulations still in place that restrict the size of ADUs and their use – in addition to the physical size of lots.


Lyle November 28, 2018 at 2:28 pm

Since loosening companion unit regulations was a move by the State (thus superceding local control), do we know how Todd Gloria and Tony Atkins voted on it ? I’m assuming Jerry Brown signed it, but please correct me if that isn’t true.

I’d like to see an op-ed from Gloria/Atkins explaining how this is a good thing for coastal San Diego.


Lyle November 28, 2018 at 4:26 pm

I just found out how easy it is to find how our representatives voted. The bill was SB1069. Both Toni Atkins and Todd Gloria voted yes. I don’t recall them asking me first, but maybe I was daydreaming at the time.


Lyle November 28, 2018 at 4:28 pm

SB 1069. Both Atkins and Gloria voted yes.


Geoff Page November 29, 2018 at 10:38 am

Bobo, I think you need to look at the new regulations. Do you consider a 1,000/SF ADU to be small?


Paul Webb December 1, 2018 at 8:58 am

Actually, I mis-read the article. I thought the floor area of the main residence was the proposed floor area of the companion unit.

Still, the limit used to be 640 square feet. This is enough area for a sitting/living room, bath and bedroom. Kitchens were not previously allowed. What we have now are actual dwelling units with kitchens, not granny flats or guest houses. Let’s just double the density without re-zoning and/or amending the community plan!


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