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Thread: Design/approach/review of accessory dwelling units ("granny flats")

  1. #1
    Oct 2005

    Design/approach/review of accessory dwelling units ("granny flats")

    I work for a developed, first-ring suburb that is discussing issues related to Accessory Dwelling Units – many already exist and we’re trying to create a process that will make it easy for homeowners to create such units and at the same time (hopefully) increase our supply of affordable housing. Are there any other northern-climate cities that have established successful policies and/or codes dealing with these units (especially policies dealing with review and approval)? Any pitfalls I should be careful to avoid?
    Last edited by Planderella; 20 Oct 2005 at 11:59 AM. Reason: Clarified title

  2. #2
    Oct 2005
    broke down
    A new neo-traditional development in Chaska called Clover Ridge has these 'flats' or carriage houses on top of the garages to help create more affordable housing. The land is also owned by a land trust and the houses are leased for 99 years. When the owners want to sell they can get the equity out of thier house but not the land, thus keeping the neighborhood affordable for decades. Supposedly.

    If you want to build these flats over the garage, get rid of the height restrictions. We had to rebuild our garage wall by wall to keep the height, and the space over the garage. I don't how many grannies would be able to use the second floor space but free loader, returned from college and haven't moved out kids could.

  3. #3
    Member Wulf9's avatar
    May 2003
    Near the Geysers
    Santa Cruz CA has a program for second units, which includes typical designs and expedited processing. Most cities won't want to be that aggressive, but it's worth looking it up as a well developed program.

  4. #4


    Santa Cruz and Davis, CA are good starting points. Washington Muncipal Research Services also has a good publication as well.

  5. #5

    Oct 2001
    Solano County, California
    The State of California now prohibits requiring conditional use permits/special use permits for second units. (Top-down planning mandates!)

    Our approach is to define up front what we need/want from a second unit. Our code details minimum lot size (5,000 square feet), unit size, required parking and location of that parking, basic design standards, etc. We also provide a "discount" on our standard residential unit fees.

    A homeowner can simply apply for a building permit. The Duty Planner will then check the plans to make sure they comply with the requirements of the code. It is thus a ministerial approval, with no public hearings required.

    We also allow the homeowner to avoid paying school impact fees if the homeowner records a covenant on the property limiting occupancy to adults.

    You can check our wesbsite at www.ci.fairfield.ca.us-look under "City Code, Chapter 25-Zoning Ordinance-Second Units.

  6. #6
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
    Apr 1996
    New Hampshire
    Here's our regs: Accessory Apartments
    To increase housing alternatives while maintaining neighborhood aesthetics and quality, one accessory apartment within a detached single family dwelling shall be permitted provided the following conditions are met: Maximum of one (1) accessory apartment per lot. The property owner must occupy one of the two units. The exterior appearance and entrances of the dwelling shall be consistent with a single-family residence. Only one (1) bedroom is permitted in the accessory apartment and to qualify as an accessory apartment under this section, the apartment may not exceed 750 sq. ft. of floor space. Where municipal sewer is not provided, the total number of bedrooms shall not exceed the capacity of the septic system Off-street parking shall be provided for at least four (4) vehicles. Garage and “piggy-back” parking is encouraged. The structure and lot shall not be converted to a condominium or any other form of legal ownership distinct from the ownership of the existing single-family dwelling. Accessory apartment use shall be recorded by Deed Addendum. Accessory apartments shall not be permitted in conjunction with variances from any requirements of this Section. Variances from this Section shall be contrary to the spirit and intent of this Ordinance. The accessory apartment shall be allowed only within an existing building which has been Certified for Occupancy for at least three (3) calendar years prior to date of application.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  7. #7
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
    Aug 2001
    For north of the border...

    North Vancouver has a huge percentage of ADUs/granny flats and actively encourages them for affordable housing purposes..

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