Accessory Dwelling Units – Oakland Update

ADUs

As previously reported, a slate of new California State laws became effective on January 1, 2020, that encourage the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (“ADUs”). State law holds that until a city adopts an ordinance that complies with State law, a city’s existing ADU regulations are null and void and only State standards may be applied. Currently, the City of Oakland’s ADU regulations are not in line with State law. In response to this inconsistency, Planning Department staff is proposing amendments to its ADU regulations to bring them in line with State law.

Below are some of the key changes to Oakland’s ADU regulations:

  • ADU permit approval within 60 days of application submittal.
  • Ministerial approval for one interior, attached, or detached ADU and one Junior ADU (“JADU”), which are a type of ADU no more than 500 sf with an efficiency kitchen, but do not require a private bathroom, per single-family lot.
  • Ministerial approval of a detached ADU, provided it is up to 800 sf, 16 feet in height, and maintains 4-feet rear and side setbacks.
  • Ministerial approval of at least one interior ADU on multifamily lots, up to a number equal to 25% of the existing units, that involves conversion of non-habitable space, and no more than two detached ADUs.
  • Conversion of existing accessory structures, such as carports and garages, into ADUs without requiring off-street parking replacement if the parcel is within half a mile walking distance of public transit.
  • Continued prohibition on all new ADUs and JADUs within the S-9 Fire Safety Protection Combining Zone Overlay (basically, the Oakland Hills) and now on streets with a width less than 20 feet or cul-de-sacs greater than 600 feet in length, due to the limited space for cars to escape in an emergency, such as a fire, natural disaster, or a health crisis.
  • Consultation with Historic Preservation Staff is required for ADUs proposed on a Local or California Register property visible from the public right-of-way. Placement of an ADU in front of a main building on a Local or California Register property is only allowed if the lot conditions or requirements preclude an ADU of minimum allowed size anywhere else on the lot.

In addition, the proposed Planning Code amendments introduce objective development standards consistent with State law:

  • Same roof pitch, visually similar exterior wall material, and predominant door and window trim, sill, recess and style as the primary dwelling structure for ADUs located in front of a primary structure, attached to it, or visible from the public right-of-way. Applicants may pursue approval of different finishes or styles through the Small Project Design Review process.
  • Regulation of balconies, decks, or rooftop terraces per established standards of the underlying zone.
  • Requiring at least one tree per every 500 sf of new ADU floor area, with tree(s) allowed anywhere on the lot or within the public right-of-way in front of the site.
  • ADUs that do not comply with the objective standards may go through the Small Project Design Review process.

These proposed Planning Code amendments are anticipated to be reviewed and considered by the Planning Commission later this spring with adoption by the City Council this summer. We will continue to monitor this proposed legislation and keep you updated.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Justin A. Zucker.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

Size Restrictions Proposed on San Francisco Homes

size

San Francisco policy-makers continue to scrutinize the size of dwellings in an attempt to manage affordability and housing stock.  Merits aside, policy-makers have expressed a consistent concern about demolitions, expansions, and new large-home construction.  The latest measure is an ordinance introduced last month by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman (District 8), whose district includes the Castro, Noe Valley, Glen Park, and Bernal Heights.

Planning Code Section 317 already requires a conditional use authorization for residential demolitions, mergers, and removals.  Supervisor Mandelman’s proposal would discourage residential units over 2,500 square feet by requiring, with some limited exceptions, a conditional use for them in RH (residential, house) zoning districts:

Expansions

  • On a developed lot where no existing dwelling unit exceeds 2,500 square feet of gross floor area, expansion of the residential use that would result in an increase of more than 50% of gross floor area to any dwelling unit or would result in a dwelling unit exceeding 2,500 square feet of gross floor area, except where the total increase of gross floor area of any existing dwelling unit is not more than 10%.
  • On a developed lot where any existing dwelling unit exceeds 2,500 square feet of gross floor area, expansion of the residential use that would result in an increase of more than 10% of gross floor area of any dwelling unit.

New Construction

  • Residential development on a vacant lot, or demolition and new construction, where the development would result in only one dwelling unit on the lot or would result in any dwelling unit with a gross floor area exceeding 2,500 square feet.

New Conditional Use Criteria

In addition to the standard conditional use criteria, the Planning Commission must consider the following new criteria:

  • the property’s historic preservation status;
  • whether additional dwelling units are added;
  • whether the proposed development preserves or enhances the existing neighborhood character by retaining existing design elements;
  • whether the development proposes to remove more than 50% of the existing front façade; and
  • whether the project removes rent control units.

Exceptions

The legislation would except developments from the new conditional use authorization requirement where a complete development application was submitted before February 2, 2021. The legislation would also except developments that increase the number of dwelling units on the lot provided that no dwelling unit exceeds 2,500 square feet of gross floor area as a result of the development, no proposed dwelling unit is less than one third the gross floor area of the largest dwelling unit resulting on the lot, and that neither the property or any existing structure on the property: (i) is listed on or formally eligible for listing in the California Register of Historic Resources; (ii) has been adopted as a local landmark or a contributor to a local historic district under Articles 10 or 11 of the Planning Code; or (iii) has been determined to appear eligible for listing in the California Register of Historic Resources.

The legislation has been referred to the Planning Department for review and consideration by the Planning Commission.  To date, there is no estimate of how many projects would be affected by this requirement in a typical year, how many hours of staff time it would take to process them, or how the volume of new conditional uses would affect backlogs for all projects. No hearing date has been set for the Commission to consider the legislation, but we will continue to monitor and keep readers informed.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Thomas P. Tunny.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

Central SoMa Clean Up Legislation Moves Forward

SoMa

Last week, the San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of legislation that would “clean up” parts of the Administrative and Planning Code that were previously amended in connection with the Central SoMa Area Plan.

The Central SoMa Area Plan was the result of a multi-year planning effort which rezoned much of a 230-acre area adjacent to downtown and surrounding the future Central Subway extension along 4th Street, which is scheduled to begin operating in 2021.  The Plan is anticipated to generate nearly 16 million square feet of new housing and commercial space, and over $2 billion dollars in public benefits.

As described in the Planning Department’s staff report, this “clean up” legislation would correct “grammatical and syntactical errors, un-intentional cross-references and accidental additions and deletions,” associated with the original Plan legislation adopted in 2018.  However, there are also a few substantive amendments proposed, along with clean-up items that have the potential to affect pending and future development throughout the Plan area.

Among other things, the legislation would:

  • Require an operations and maintenance strategy for all required Privately Owned Public Open Spaces (POPOS) in the Plan area. This strategy would need to be approved by the Director of Planning prior to approval of a site or building permit for the associated project;
  • Provide that the Central SoMa PDR requirement applies to projects that increase a building’s square footage by 20% and result in 50,000 gsf of office space along with new construction projects that result in 50,000 gsf of office space;
  • Revise lot coverage requirements for residential uses in the Central SoMa SUD to reflect that all floor levels with residential space (including accessory residential spaces such as common rooms) would be limited to 80% lot coverage, except for floors whose only “residential” space is common lobbies and circulation. 100% lot coverage would be permitted at floors where residential units are located within 40 feet of a street-facing property line.  Further, projects with applications submitted on or prior to July 1, 2020 would be grandfathered from the proposed lot coverage amendments;
  • Clarify and correct which sides of narrow streets in Central SoMa are subject to solar plane setback and bulk reduction sky plane requirements;
  • Provide that buildings that are taller than would otherwise be allowed in a given height district are to follow the sky plane bulk reduction requirements of the height district that is most aligned with the height of the building;
  • Require that funds collected through the BMR in-lieu fee from Central SoMa projects be spent in the greater SoMa area;
  • Clarify that payment of an in-lieu fee for modifications or exceptions from open space requirements is only applicable where the exception or modification is granted to reduce the amount of open space provided, but not in cases where the exception is only related to design standards of the open space;
  • Provide that funds collected through the Central SoMa Community Facilities fee can be spent in the greater SoMa area, and not limited to the Central SoMa Special Use District;
  • Expand the types of infrastructure projects that can be funded through the Central SoMa Infrastructure Fee;
  • Allow project sponsors to meet part of their usable open space requirements off-site at a greater distance from the principal projects than initially proposed, particularly by enabling projects to build open space under and around the I-80 freeway within the Central SoMa Special Use District; and
  • Provide an exception allowing for certain retail to be provided in lieu of a portion of the PDR requirement in connection with development of a Key Site at the northeast corner of 5th and Brannan Streets.

An additional amendment was initially proposed that would have expanded application of certain development impact fees in Central SoMa.  However, that amendment was removed from the legislation at the request of the Commission.

This Central SoMa legislation will be introduced to the Board of Supervisors within the next few weeks.  It will then be held for 30 days before assignment to the Board’s Land Use and Transportation Committee for review and possible amendments, before it’s presented to the full Board for approval.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Melinda Sarjapur.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.