The City of Los Angeles is currently updating its ordinance that regulates Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) - better known as backyard homes, granny flats, in law units, etc. We want to share our thoughts with you and invite you to be involved in the policy making process.
LA-Más has been exploring the potential of ADUs since 2014 when we began working with local Elysian Valley residents on Futuro de Frogtown. We learned that many homeowners want to preserve neighborhood character and promote housing affordability. So last summer, in our housing exhibit at the A+D Museum, we explored how policy changes could make ADUs a real housing solution. This year, we've teamed up with the Mayor's Innovation Team, Councilmember Gil Cedillo, Genesis LA, and Nous Engineering to design and build an affordable and contextual ADU for a homeowner in Highland Park as part of a demonstration project. Our hope is that ADUs becomes a real solution to our housing crisis.
As we wrap up 2016, we're excited that Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a landmark ADU legislation which takes effect January 1st, 2017 that will make it much easier for the average homeowner to convert an existing structure (e.g. garage) into an ADU or build a new ADU. The City of LA is crafting an ordinance that provides more context as it relates to size and location. While we believe this proposed ordinance is much better than the 1985 Granny Flat Ordinance, we also believe that any ADU policy should support:
Neighborhood Diversity | ADUs offer the potential for seniors to remain in their homes and have space for a caregiver, for multi-generational families to live together, for recent graduates to move back with parents (on their property, but maybe not under the same roof!) These opportunities should be available to properties in hillside neighborhoods, especially since over 25% of our single-family properties are in the hills.
Housing Affordability | A subsidized 'affordable housing unit' can cost $400K+ to build, while ADUs can cost as little as $150K. However, in order for ADUs to be economically feasible for many homeowners, they must provide more than one-bedroom. The difference in construction costs between a one-bedroom home (at 640 sq ft) vs. a two-bedroom home (at 1100 sq ft) is minimal, but the difference in market value is exponential.
With these factors in mind, we believe that the City should allow ADUs to be more than 640 sq. ft. so that a two-bedroom ADU is feasible. We also believe that allowing ADUs to be up to 50% of the primary home (up to 1200 sq. ft.) may have the unintended consequence of incentivizing the demolition of existing housing stock for larger homes. Finally, we believe that ADUs should be allowed on certain hillside properties, especially those near public transit. Whether or not you share our opinion, we encourage you to share yours. Here are two ways to do so:
1) SPEAK AT A PUBLIC HEARING | This Thursday, December 15th at 8:30 AM at the Van Nuys Civic Center, the City Planning Commission will be meeting to discuss the proposed ordinance. If you are interested in attending, please let Helen know so she can find you!
2) CONTACT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIAL | Our friends at Abundant Housing LA created a very easy to use letter template that can be personalized with your opinions and sent to our City Councilmembers. Please share your thoughts!
Thank you for ensuring that ADUs can be a solution to our housing crisis while promoting both neighborhood diversity and housing affordability.