Harmonizing Housing: Eye of the Needle

Members of the Planning Commission (PC) deliberated carefully to update Del Mar’s rules on construction of ADU’s (Accessory Dwelling Units, sometimes known as granny flats) as required by state housing law. Their task was complicated by having to weave their way through a maze consisting of requirements in state housing law, Coastal Commission requirements, our Community Plan, and our zoning regulations, as well as voices from NIMBY and YIMBY constituencies. The new word of art seems to be “harmonizing” the contradictory requirements of two state agencies and our local regs.


Guided by the expertise of Planning staff, particularly Principal Planner Amanda Lee, and the City Attorney, these five PC Commissioners represented the interests of our town with distinction, ending with approval of  draft ordinances, with recommendations to the Council for strengthening in two key areas.


First, they asked that ADU projects be required to actually serve as “dwelling” units, not for other ancillary uses such as offices or workout rooms as many are now being used. They would be deed restricted as dwellings for a specified number of years such as 30 or 55. They base their recommendation on the state’s legislative intent which clearly states that ADUs should help solve our state housing shortage.


Their second recommendation is to give priority to ADU projects on the first story in residential zones where there is buildable area over projects proposed for second-story. State law prohibits cities from subjective review for such things as view obstruction, so keeping them on first stories will accomplish some level of view protection.


Members also voted to recommend incentive and amnesty programs to encourage at least 15 low-income units.


All of these rules will be reviewed by the City Council before formal adoption. City approved regs will then be reviewed for certification  by the State Housing Development office and the Coastal Commission.