Granny flats: More popular than ever, but still mired in bureaucracy 

This year, Megan Kellogg’s mother moved into a new in-law unit in her own backyard, freeing up the main house for Kellogg’s family of three. Building it was the easy part. Getting the blessing from a Bay Area city was another story.

“It was horrific,” said Kellogg. “The worst part of the entire process was dealing with the city. It took us almost a year to get the permit. It was awful.”

As sky-high rents and home prices leave people scrambling to find housing they can afford, the development of small, relatively inexpensive homes — known as granny flats or accessory dwelling units — has swelled in popularity with the promise of extra cash or separate living quarters for relatives priced out of the housing market. In California last year, the number of permits issued for granny flats soared by 63 percent compared to the year before, according to an ATTOM Data Solutions analysis of Equifax data published this spring.

But bureaucratic headaches abound, homeowners say, despite new laws that took effect last year to ease local restrictions and shore up the supply of granny flats amid a severe shortage of housing that poor and middle-income Californians can afford.

From lot sizes to parking, cities are “all over the map” with their rules, fees and interpretations of the new state laws governing in-law units, said Karen Chapple, a professor of city and regional planning at UC Berkeley who has a pilot project to grade local governments on their policies.

For homeowners eager to build, the wide-ranging and evolving rules can be a recipe for confusion and unpleasant surprises.

Last year, Francis Schumacher, a retired engineer, bought a house on a large lot in San Jose with a granny-flat project — and his 20-something children — in mind. As he began planning a backyard unit, the city informed him that fire sprinklers were required, despite a new state law exempting granny flats at older homes that don’t have such systems, because of a local rule on any addition of its size. For the sprinklers to work properly, he had to connect them to a water main. The safety feature added $20,000 to the project, on top of $15,000 in other city fees.

“These things kind of really get you,” said Schumacher, who lives in Palo Alto. “That was a surprise to me.”

A sweeping proposal to further slash local fees and regulations on granny flats, Senate

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle


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