Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are secondary dwelling units that provide complete independent living facilities for one or more persons on the same lot as a primary dwelling unit. Previously, this type of dwelling unit had been defined by state law first as “granny flats” and then as second dwelling units. In 2004, consistent with state requirements at the time, the City Council adopted Ordinance No. 163 to establish regulations governing the permissible locations and development standards for second dwelling units. The Ordinance allowed second dwelling units by right, similar to single-family dwelling units, and established regulations governing the development of these units. According to the City’s building permit records, approximately four building permits were issued for the construction of second dwelling units through November 2017.
In 2016, the State of California enacted Senate Bill (SB) 1069 and Assembly Bill (AB) 2299 to encourage and facilitate the development of ADUs in residential zoning districts. These bills amended state law to require the ministerial approval of ADUs within a single-family residential zone, while further limiting the regulations and standards that local agencies could impose on these uses and structures. The provisions of the City’s previously adopted Ordinance No. 163 addressing second dwelling units did not conform to the new provisions in state law and became null and void as of January 1, 2017, the effective date of the bills.
On November 28, 2017, the City Council adopted Ordinance No. 321, which established regulations and procedures for the development of ADUs within the City. From the adoption of the ordinance and through the end of 2019, the City received three applications for the construction of ADUs, but no building permits were issued for ADUs during that time frame.
In 2019, the state enacted six statutes pertaining to the permitting and regulation of ADUs, including: Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bills 68, 587, 670, 671, and 881. (SB 13, AB 68 and AB 881 amended some of the same provisions and overlapped, so only certain sections in each became law.) These statutes created further limitations on the ability of local jurisdictions to impose regulatory requirements on ADUs. Any provisions in the City’s current regulations that do not conform to the amended state law became null and void as of January 1, 2020. As of this report, the City has received thirteen plan check applications and issued three building permits for ADUs and Junior ADUs in 2020.
Assembly Bill 671 requires local agencies to include a plan in the Housing Element that incentivizes and promotes the development of ADUs that can be offered at affordable rent for very low-, low-, and moderate-income households. Upon the receipt of the City’s Final 6th Cycle Regional Housing Needs Assessment allocation, City staff will initiate the preparation of the updated Housing Element. As part of this process, staff will explore potential incentives and programs that both promote the development of ADUs and promote ADUs to be offered at affordable rents. Staff has identified some potential incentives that will be evaluated for inclusion as part of the Housing Element update, including:
- Pre-approved accessory dwelling unit design plans;
- Assigning staff to prioritize the review of accessory dwelling unit applications;
- Creating a webpage to serve as a clearinghouse for accessory dwelling unit requirements, applications, and information; and
- Plan check and building permit fee reductions.
REVIEW BY THE PLANNING COMMISSION
On May 5, 2020, the Planning Commission (Commission) held a public workshop to review changes in state law pertaining to the regulation of ADUs. Staff presented a summary of the changes to state law and outlined amendments that would need to be made to the Chino Hills Municipal Code (CHMC) to bring the City’s ADU regulations into conformance with the amended state law. To facilitate the preparation of the amendment to the CHMC, staff sought input from the Planning Commission regarding the prospective regulations.
There were two public speakers that provided comments during the workshop. Both speakers encouraged the City to consider provisions that would allow property owners greater flexibility in the design and construction of ADUs.
The Commission discussed the changes in state law and the potential amendments to the City’s current regulations, including:
- Simplifying the minimum and maximum size standards;
- Exploring whether any limitations should be imposed on the development of ADUs in Carbon Canyon and/or the Fire Hazard Overlay District due to safety concerns;
- Establishing a maximum height standard that considers the location and potential impacts to neighboring properties;
- Exploring potential incentives for the construction of income-restricted ADUs that would be eligible for inclusion in the City’s efforts to satisfy is Regional Housing Needs Allocation; and
- Developing objective aesthetic standards that protect the adjacent properties without unduly limiting the ability of property owners to design and develop an ADU.
The Commission directed staff to propose potential standards providing a balance between the desire for flexibility with the duty to protect the adjacent properties and the quality of neighborhood aesthetics. Noting the need for input from the Chino Valley Fire District (Fire District) regarding the potential need for limitations on ADUs in the Fire Hazard Overlay District, the Commission requested a representative of the Fire District participate in the next workshop as suggested by the Community Development Director. The Commission also directed staff to provide a summary of recently adopted ADU regulations in neighboring cities.
Second Public Workshop
On June 16, 2020, the Planning Commission held a second public workshop to consider updates to the City’s ADU regulations in response to changes in state law. Staff presented potential amendments to the ADU regulations based upon the changes in state law and input received from the Planning Commission in the prior workshop. The Commission was also presented with a summary of the recently adopted ordinances of surrounding jurisdictions. Representatives from the Chino Valley Fire District provided an overview of their concerns with the potential development of ADUs within the Fire Hazard Overlay District. To facilitate the preparation of the amendment to the Chino Hills Municipal Code, staff sought input from the Planning Commission regarding the proposed regulations.
There was one public speaker that provided comments during the workshop. The speaker discussed his desire to convert an existing guest room into an ADU, his support for a larger maximum size and retaining parking requirements, and his concern about the costs involved in requiring separate utilities.
The Commission discussed the potential development standards, including:
- Incorporating additional requirements and standards for ADUs located within areas of concern as identified by the Chino Valley Fire District;
- Finding a balance between providing flexibility to the property owners interested in developing an ADU on their property and minimizing impacts to surrounding properties and uses;
- The exemptions to parking requirements granted in state law, especially for properties in proximity to public transit;
- Potentially allowing an increased maximum size for ADUs beyond the maximum size floors established in state law; and
- Allowing second-story ADUs for projects meeting additional criteria, such as being located outside of the setbacks applicable to the primary dwelling.
The Commission provided input regarding the potential development standards and directed that staff continue to work with the Chino Valley Fire District to identify areas of potential concern and develop strategies to mitigate the potential fire hazards in these areas. Reiterating that the code should be flexible for the applicant, protective of the neighborhoods, and legally permissible under state law, the Commission directed staff to continue the preparation of a draft ordinance to amend City’s code pertaining to ADUs.
Third Public Workshop
On October 6, 2020, the Planning Commission held a third public workshop to consider updates to the City’s ADU regulations in response to changes in state law. Staff presented a draft ordinance to update the ADU regulations based upon the changes in state law and input received from the Planning Commission in the prior workshops. Information was also presented regarding the recommendation from the Chino Valley Fire District that ADUs be disallowed within the Sleepy Hollow and Canon Lane (south of Carbon Canyon Road) communities due to public safety concerns (as further discussed in this report). Potential incentives for the development of affordable ADUs were also addressed.
There were four public speakers that provided comments during the workshop. The speakers discussed the separate utility requirement, applicability of the owner occupancy requirement, maximum size, manufactured ADUs and pre-approved design plans, fire hazard mitigation, and the requirement for a deed restriction.
The Commission discussed the potential development standards, including:
- The Chino Valley Fire District’s recommendation that ADUs be disallowed within the Sleepy Hollow and Canon Lane (south of Carbon Canyon Road) communities due to public safety concerns;
- The minimum required rental or lease period for ADUs;
- The rationale for requiring separate utilities for ADUs and the associated costs;
- The applicability and cost of the California Energy Code requirements to ADUs; and
- The requirement for deed restrictions.
The Commission provided input regarding the development standards proposed in the draft ordinance and directed staff to schedule a public hearing to consider the ordinance to amend City’s code pertaining to ADUs.
On October 20, 2020, the Planning Commission held a duly noticed public hearing to consider the proposed ordinance and receive public testimony. Notice of the public hearing was published in the Chino Hills Champion and sent by email to interested parties having requested such notice. Additionally, as recommended by the Planning Commission during the October 6, 2020 public workshop, staff mailed notice of the public hearing to homeowners associations throughout the City and property owners within the Sleepy Hollow and Canon Lane (south of Carbon Canyon Road) communities. The Commission discussed the regulations in the proposed ordinance, including:
- The limitation on the City’s authority to require fire sprinklers for ADUs in instances where fire sprinklers were not required for the primary dwelling units;
- The elimination of the owner occupancy requirement for ADUs built between 2020 and 2025 and the restoration of that requirement as of January 1, 2025;
- Parking requirements for ADUs and limitations on the City’s ability to require replacement parking when an existing garage is converted into an ADU or demolished to construct an ADU; and
- The requirement of separate utility connections and meters for detached and attached ADUs.
There were five written comments read into the record and four public speakers who provided comments regarding the proposed ordinance during the public hearing. The speakers discussed opposition to the restriction of ADUs in the Sleepy Hollow and Canon Lane communities, excluding attached ADUs from the separate utility requirement, the distinction between attached and detached ADUs, the proposed maximum ADU floor area, and adjustments to water allocations in the City’s tiered water billing rate system as a result of the construction of an ADU.
The Commission stated its support for the Chino Valley Fire District’s recommendation to restrict ADUs in the Sleepy Hollow and Cannon Lane communities. (Reference “Chino Valley Fire District Recommendations” below.) Also, after further discussion regarding the separate utility connection requirement, the Commission revised the proposed ordinance to eliminate the requirement of separate utilities for attached ADUs subject to the City Building Official’s determination of adequate sewer and water capacity, while retaining the requirement for the detached ADUs. With this revision, the Planning Commission adopted a resolution recommending that the City Council adopt the proposed ordinance implementing Municipal Code Amendment 20MCA01 by a unanimous vote, 5-0.
PROPOSED ORDINANCE UPDATING THE CITY’S ADU REGULATIONS
Based on the input received from the Commission during the public workshops, staff has prepared a proposed ordinance (Attachment 2) updating the City’s ADU regulations for consideration by the City Council. These provisions would replace the existing Municipal Code sections relative to ADUs in their entirety. Staff has also prepared the attached strikethrough comparison of the existing and proposed regulations (Attachment 3).
The proposed ADU regulations would establish development standards applicable to ADUs, including setbacks, lot coverage, maximum height, building separation, minimum and maximum sizes, required parking, design standards, and separate utility requirements. As further discussed in the next section of this report, the regulations would also require conformance with standards of the City’s Fire Hazard Overlay District for properties located within the overlay district and would disallow the development of ADUs in the Sleepy Hollow and Canon Lane (south of Carbon Canyon Road) communities due to public safety concerns. Consistent with state law, the proposed regulations also identify types of ADUs exempt from most development standards and allow the development of ADUs on properties developed with multi-family residential structures.
During the public hearing held by the Planning Commission to consider the proposed ordinance, one of the public speakers inquired whether the proposed ordinance would be applied to ADUs that were submitted prior to the effective date. To provide clarity about the applicability of the proposed ordinance to projects submitted for plan check review, staff added the following provision as Section 12 of the proposed ordinance subsequent to the public hearing held by the Planning Commission:
Applications for the construction of an accessory dwelling unit or junior accessory dwelling unit submitted prior to the effective date of this ordinance shall be subject to the accessory dwelling unit provisions of the Chino Hills Municipal Code in effect at the time of the application’s submission.
The proposed ADU regulations are intended to provide flexibility for the applicant and protection for the quality and character of residential neighborhoods, while conforming to the provisions of state law.
Chino Valley Fire District Recommendations
The Sleepy Hollow and Canon Lane communities are the only areas of the City located in both the City’s Small Lot Overlay District (CHMC Chapter 16.32) and the Fire Hazard Overlay District (CHMC Chapter 16.22). The purpose of the Small Lot Overlay District is “to provide special development standards for subdivisions where substandard lots have been created through previous subdivision activity. The special standards are designed to ensure that the overall development intensity in areas where small lots exist does not exceed the ability of the City and other agencies to provide adequate services and facilities.” (CHMC Section 16.32.010.) The Fire Hazard Overlay area applies to high fire hazard areas of the City and was established to mitigate against the threat of wildland fires. (Chino Hills General Plan, Land Use Element, page 1-5; CHMC Section 16.22.010.) The combination of small lots and high fire hazard, combined with hilly terrain and steep and narrow streets, and one road for access, places people at risk of fire in an emergency situation. The roadways in these neighborhoods range from 10 to 16 feet in width, with most of the roads being 10 to 12 feet in width. These roadway widths are insufficient to support two-way traffic, especially when emergency vehicles are utilizing the roads and/or vehicles are parked on the streets. The Chino Valley Fire District records indicate that these communities contain approximately 159 single-family dwelling units and vacant properties that can be developed with additional single-family dwelling units. City staff estimates that on average there are two cars per household, particularly in Chino Hills where there is limited public transportation. There is only one road out of the Sleepy Hollow and Canon Lane communities, and that is onto Carbon Canyon Road. Further, Carbon Canyon Road is a state highway used by commuters, so it is heavily congested in the morning and evening hours. If a fast-moving fire arose nearby to these communities, there are already a number of challenges to safely evacuate all of the residents. The development of ADUs in these areas would introduce additional residents and vehicles into the neighborhoods, thereby placing more individuals at risk in an emergency situation and increasing the number of vehicles that would need to evacuate the area in the event of a wildfire. These factors would exacerbate the existing access and emergency response constraints; thus, the Chino Valley Fire District and City staff recommend prohibiting ADUs in these areas.
The Chino Valley Fire District also recommends that ADUs located within the Fire Hazard Overlay District be subject to the requirements and standards stipulated in Chapter 16.22 of the Chino Hills Municipal Code. ADUs constructed within the Fire Hazard Overly District would be required to conform to Chapter 7A of the California Building Code just as primary dwelling units are required to do. This code specifies the materials and construction methods to be utilized for structures exposed to wildfire. Additionally, ADUs built within the Fire Hazard Overly District would be subject to the 30-foot separation requirement from structures on adjacent properties in addition to the 10-foot onsite building separation.
As required under Government Code § 65860, staff recommends that the City Council find that Chino Hills Municipal Code amendments proposed in Municipal Code Amendment 20MCA01 are consistent with the Chino Hills General Plan as follows:
a. The proposed amendment to the Chino Hills Municipal Code conforms to General Plan Goals LU-3, LU-4, H-1, H-2, and H-5, which require the maintenance and promotion of the character, integrity, and excellence of design of the City’s neighborhoods, while providing a broad range of housing types to meet the existing and future needs of all social and economic segments of the community. The proposed amendment would update the applicable ADU development standards within the Municipal Code to ensure compliance with state law, provide opportunity for development of additional housing types, and minimize ADU impacts to the character and integrity of the City’s neighborhoods.
In accordance with Chino Hills Municipal Code § 16.62.040, staff recommends the City Council makes the following findings of fact:
a. FINDING: That the proposed Municipal Code Amendment is consistent with the goals, policies and objectives of the General Plan.
FACT: The proposed amendment to the Chino Hills Municipal Code conforms to General Plan Goals LU-3, LU-4, H-1, H-2, and H-5, which require the maintenance and promotion of the character, integrity, and excellence of design of the City’s neighborhoods, while providing a broad range of housing types to meet the existing and future needs of all social and economic segments of the community. The proposed amendment would update the applicable ADU development standards within the Municipal Code to ensure compliance with state law, provide opportunity for development of additional housing types, and minimize ADU impacts to the character and integrity of the City’s neighborhoods.
b. FINDING: That the proposed Municipal Code Amendment will not adversely affect surrounding properties.
FACT: That proposed Municipal Code Amendment would be effective in single-family and multi-family residential zoning districts throughout the City. The Municipal Code Amendment establishes reasonable standards to regulate the size and location of ADUs to preserve the health, safety, and welfare of the community and ensure surrounding properties are not adversely affected.
Notice of the public hearing was published in the Chino Hills Champion on October 31, 2020. Individuals requesting notification of public hearings for this matter were emailed a notice of the public hearing on October 29, 2020. As of the writing of this report, staff has not received any public comments concerning the proposed Municipal Code Amendment.