ADU ordinance pushed for further review

The council delayed an ordinance regulating the building of accessory dwelling units, or back houses, amid concerns about size limits and the review process.

The ordinance is an overhaul of the city’s existing back house laws—under the proposed plan, a home owner in Claremont with a property more than 6,000 square feet can build a back house, provided it meets city criteria.

New state law is meant to chip away at the state’s housing crisis by making it easier for homeowners to build another smaller residence on their property to potentially rent out or house family members.

The new ordinance passed the council at its first reading on January 22. At that meeting, a primary concern among public commenters were the size limits. Under the proposed ordinance, the maximum size would vary, from 700 square feet in north Claremont to 400 square feet in south Claremont, which people felt was too small.

South Claremont resident Vivian Serbin is planning to convert her garage into a back house and live in it so she can “age in place.” Her garage is 420 square feet—20 square feet over the maximum limit for city review.

If the ordinance were adopted, Ms. Serbin would have to spend an extra $5,000 for commission review, she said. She told the council she was “so angry I want to spit nails.”

“It’s not fair, it’s extremely discriminatory,” she said. “That part, that whole thing [square foot limits] should just be eliminated.”

At one point, as architectural commission chair Mark Schoeman defended the size limits, Ms. Serbin stormed out of the council chamber, only to return again.

Mr. Calaycay was worried about “unintended consequences” of the new ordinance, and wanted to make sure the ordinance addressed the commissions’ concerns without harming someone like Ms. Serbin.

He asked Associate Planner Nikola Hlady about Ms. Serbin’s concerns, with Mr. Hlady saying her plan wasn’t illegal, “it just subjects it to a higher level of review.”

“Wow,” Mr. Calaycay responded. “Unintended consequences—20 square feet.”

Mr. Schroeder brought up the idea of a study session to take a closer look at the proposed ordinance to possibly bring it back to the planning commission for further review, to which Mr. Calaycay agreed. City Manager Tara Schultz said she would coordinate with the council to set a date for the study session.

The next city council meeting will take place on February 26.

—Matthew Bramlett


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