By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief
In January, California and the city of Los Angeles, seeking to ease the housing shortage, abandoned most planning controls over “accessory dwelling units,” also known as “granny flats.”
Now, unlike most other building enterprises, you can build any extension you like—almost.
And Palisadians are wondering whether these adjoining apartments, which can fill up a backyard or transform a small house into a duplex, are going to change the town.
The issue dominated the second meeting of the recently established Land Use Committee, which reports to the Pacific Palisades Community Council, and has prompted much earnest discussion among Realtors, local architects and developers.
The city and state have swept away a forest of rules that, until now, ensured that building an extension for your grandmother to live in—or to rent out on Airbnb—meant that only a dozen granny flats were approved per year.
Now there could be a flood.
The demand is there: A county engineer told the Palisadian-Post there could have been an estimated 5,000 illegally converted apartments since 2013.
Now, unless they are deathtraps, many of these “bootleg” apartments can be legalized and improve the value of the property—giving the city both a moral glow by tackling homelessness and a tax boost.
Some of the rule changes are technical, LUC chair Howard Robinson explained, such as eliminating the need for a clear, 10-foot wide passageway from the street to the granny flat door.
Even the California Coastal Commission, which is both praised and criticized for limiting development near beaches, is relaxing some rules: It will require granny flats to have only one rather than two parking spots.
LUC member Rick Mills asked whether a homeowner could now turn an average house into a duplex?
Yes, you can, replied Robinson, add a separate kitchen to a recreation room and create a duplex, which could be home for a “failure to launch” offspring or a high-paying renter. Rules governing Airbnb occupations are still under review.
“At least it would be less intrusive than a monster home,” Mills said.
More positively, granny flats could allow aging “property-rich, cash-poor” Palisadians to stay in town for a while longer.
“The cost of assisted living is higher than the cost of remodeling,” one commentator said.
There was a division on LUC about how many Palisadian lots might be transformed like this.
Chris Spitz, PPCC chair emeritus, said she did not believe it would be many.
Reza Akef, a house builder, warned that once other developers realized the granny flat rule was a way around existing building restrictions, they would be descending en masse to areas such as the Alphabet Streets—again.
“It is a Trojan Horse for bigger homes,” he said.
But there was one consensus on the issue: As the city considers new rules to deal with the consequences of deregulation, the time to influence such decisions is now.
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