Restrictions loosened on second
by C.A. Gilman
Gov. Gray Davis recently signed a bill that mandates that
second units (aka granny flats) be classified ministerial rather
than discretionary as of July 1, 2003. This law, which goes into
effect on Jan. 1, also requires that local governments provide
developers of low-income housing with incentives for their projects
as long as they meet specified requirements.
Ojai now treats all second units as discretionary in order to
limit their development. The new law takes that choice away from
local government. City Manager Dan Singer said, "This takes
away local discretion for approving or not approving granny flats
which might even impact public notification and offering a public
hearing so that neighbors can be involved."
According to Matthew Sewell, the legislation on affordable housing
means that a low-income housing project that meets state guidelines
must be allowed by the local government regardless of local policies.
It also provides that developers can sue the local government
if state-qualified projects are denied due to local considerations.
Bruce Smith, who manages the General Plan section for the city
of Ventura's Planning Department, concurs with Sewall. Smith
said, "The intent of the legislation is to require local
government to be more responsible in offering affordable housing.
However, the conundrum is that the law doesn't override local
land use legislation. It is also very expensive to sue a city,
and developers fear tainting their good relationships with city
councils and planning commissions."
Ivor Benci-Woodard, president of the Citizens to Preserve the
Ojai, said, "If the state requirements for affordable housing
are such that they don't allow for environmental review of the
community, then there will be collisions with the California
Environmental Quality Act."
The complexity is further increased because of the traffic problems
that hinge on what is done on Highway 33, which is a state road.
The county general plan requires that Highway 33 be widened to
four lanes before any new projects are built. Smith said, "Right
now no housing development is allowed except for single family
dwellings on pre-existing lots because of the level of service
on highway 33. The new legislation will mean that second dwelling
units will not be affected by an environmental impact report.
The county has also asked us to look at exempting affordable
housing from the current LOS to enable affordable housing to
be built. Right now you have a catch 22: on the one hand, you
have the need for affordable housing, and not building housing
triples the occupancy of many homes, which increases traffic,
As for how this will impact Ojai, Singer said, " It's not
clear yet which of these legislations will affect us. We will
be spending more time with counsel before it goes into effect
on Jan. 1."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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