Tiny homes talk tabled: Officials want more information before deciding

Andra Belknap, Ojai Valley News reporter
Ojai's Planning Commission spent more than three hours May 16 discussing a draft ordinance that would permit tiny homes as accessory dwelling units in the city.
Commission members voted 5 to 1 to table the issue for additional study. The matter is tentatively scheduled to come back to the Commission during its 6 p.m. regular meeting June 20.
The draft ordinance presents tiny homes as a potential affordable-housing option, though Community Development Director Luke Connolly clarified the homes are merely “affordable by design” due to their small size.
See also: “Ojai City Council sends tiny-home ordinance back for ‘refinement’" Ojai Valley News, March 28, 2018.
See also: “Council supports applying for tiny home village grant,” Ojai Valley News, March 1, 2018.
Tiny homes, as defined in the ordinance, would be required to be “architecturally distinct” from motor homes and recreational vehicles. The structures would be required to be towable and could not move under their own power. 
Tiny homes would be required to be licensed and registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and required to meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) building standards.
The draft ordinance provides the option for tiny homes to be “off-grid and not connected to one or more utility systems.”
The ordinance also places some limits on tiny homes within the city: no city parcel would be allowed to host more than one tiny home in a 12-month period. 
After discussing the matter and hearing testimony from locals, the Commission gave Connolly three topics for additional research.
He will return to the Commission in June with additional information about the difference between the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards that would theoretically govern tiny homes in Ojai and the city's traditional building regulations, how tiny homes would connect to the local utility systems and a consideration to allow tiny homes to take legal residence on city parcels for longer than the 12-month period imagined in the ordinance.
Commissioner Ray Powers raised some concerns about the ordinance language, which he said was vague in places, particularly the requirement that tiny homes look like a “conventional building structure” and use “conventional building materials.”
“If I wanted to build a green dragon with wood shingles, with a tail and a head that's the loft, and wheel it in and live in it as my tiny home, am I going to be allowed?” he asked Connolly.
“The green dragon idea, I'm not so sure about,” Connolly said. He clarified that his intention was to ensure tiny homes fit in with the style of the residential neighborhood in which they are placed.
Commissioner Steve Quilici raised the issue of utility hook-ups and inquired if an exterior faucet on a primary dwelling unit, coupled with a hose that stretches to a tiny house would meet the “criteria of adequate, safe and sanitary provision of water.”
“No, that would not,” Connolly answered. He will further address required utility hook-ups during the Commission's June session.
The public was characteristically split on the issue, with some residents supportive of tiny homes as a potential solution to the city's affordable housing needs. 
Others were concerned the addition of such structures to Ojai's neighborhoods would prove problematic.
“It's very, very hard to find an affordable house in Ojai,” said valley resident Anita Hendricks. “We are in a housing crisis. This is very serious.”
“We have no land for this,” countered Wendy Hilgers. “The advocates are pressuring the city to get them into the only place we have, and that's our residential neighborhoods. They cannot fit there.”
The Planning Commission will next discuss tiny homes June 20 at 6 p.m. in Ojai City Hall Council Chambers at 401 S. Ventura St.
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