Granny Flats Unhinged

by on October 14, 2020 · 6 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

On Tuesday, granny flats in San Diego became unhinged. They will no longer require any parking – none, zilch, nada, nunca.

Up to now, granny flats – or “accessory dwelling units” as San Diego calls them – were required to have one parking space per unit. Unless it is smaller than 500 square feet, in a historical area, within a residential parking district, or the granny flat is near a transit line or ride-sharing station.

The San Diego City Council Tuesday unanimously approved the new rules as part of a package of reforms to boost housing construction. Another new regulation allows property owners to construct extra – or “bonus” – granny flats if they agree to rent restrictions on at least one of them.

For granny flats within a half-mile of an existing or planned transit line, the number of bonus units is unlimited. For granny flats not near transit lines, a maximum of one bonus unit is allowed.

Granny flats are popular these days. Over the last couple of years, many have been approved, for instance, by the Ocean Beach Planning Board. And if they were near a bus line, no parking was required. Much to the chagrin of neighbors in heavily-impacted parking areas.

But more housing is good, right, especially if it’s affordable.

The drawbacks of less parking spaces are obvious. In neighborhoods where residents have trouble finding parking now – it could get worse.

Enforcement will also be a challenge. How will the City keep track of the “15-year” rule?

Another challenge to the community will be the enticement of property owners to turn their granny flat into a short-term vacation rental. How will that be enforced?

The granny flat “unhinged” new rules were just part of the reforms that city officials hope will encourage construction of new units and more affordable housing. The Council is also encouraging the building of more “micro” units – or “tiny houses” by adding to the 2018 city legislation that allowed developers to double the number of units in a project if they made the units smaller than usual – 400 square feet maximum.

The change approved Tuesday will create additional incentives based on height of the building and distance from the property line. City officials said the change would allow more projects to take advantage of the city’s micro unit incentives.

It was on July 22, this year, when the San Diego City Council unanimously approved an amendment to the land development code allowing moveable “tiny houses” to be permitted in the city as companion or junior units. The amendment allows residents to increase housing supply in space already zoned for residential use.

“Micro” units or “tiny houses” are usually one-story, less than 100-square-foot dwellings with living, sleeping and cooking areas. Movable tiny homes are built on a towable chassis and not a concrete foundation.

For more, go to today’s San Diego Union-Tribune here.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Sam October 14, 2020 at 11:23 am

I absolutely hate this. I bought a house in a single family neighborhood because I was tired of living in multi-family neighborhoods. I get it, there isn’t enough affordable housing in San Diego, but if you can’t afford to live here then you should move along to a place you can afford. I’d like to live in La Jolla, but I can’t afford it, so naturally I live in a neighborhood that I can afford. Its not rocket science.


Chris October 14, 2020 at 3:31 pm

Not moving to La Jolla is not the same thing as being priced out of where you already live. It’s not acceptable to say “just move”.


Paul Webb October 14, 2020 at 11:36 am

Three initial thoughts. First, this is truly sucky!

Second, if you look at the standard plans for granny flats that the City has on its web site, they go up to three bedroom, two bathroom “granny” flats. That could house a lot of grannies! What we are talking about is a three bedroom home with no additional parking. A three bedroom home that could accommodate multiple adult residents, including multiple residents who own cars, with no additional parking. Oh, but there’s only no parking required if they are within one half mile of a transit line. Ignore the fact that a bus route can be changed with a majority vote of the MTS board. I’m sure that they will come back and make owners tear the homes down if the bus route is moved or eliminated.

Finally, there doesn’t appear to be an enforcement mechanism for the 15 year limit. When I worked for the coastal commission, we required binding deed restrictions that ran with the land to enforce the affordable housing requirements. Of course, enforcement, even with a deed restriction is beyond problematic. I just can’t imagine the City doing a better job than the CCC.


kh October 14, 2020 at 12:51 pm

The OB planning board has generally advocated for more affordable housing here, but not without consideration of the impacts on parking and livability.

That said, the board doesn’t have any real say in approvals of granny flats that meet the code. Especially since many of the rule changes are being driven at the state level.


FG October 15, 2020 at 9:38 pm

“For granny flats within a half-mile of an existing or planned transit line, the number of bonus units is unlimited.” What does unlimited mean? If Measure E passes, too soon that could mean over 30′ and bursting at the property line?? Ugh… Where has true vision gone for this once beautiful city?


Sam October 15, 2020 at 10:08 pm

It’s not going to be beautiful for too much longer! This is horrible policy


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