Planners recommend Seal Beach adopt state-mandated rules for ‘granny flats’

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The Planning Commission formally recommended that the city adopt a Zoning Text amendment that would make city rules for accessory dwelling units (commonly called “granny flats”) consistent with state law.

The vote was 4 to 1. District Four Commissioner Patty Campbell cast her vote as a protest.

The changes were made necessary by multiple state laws that basically rendered Seal Beach’s current rules for accessory dwelling units out-of-date.

The City Council has the authority to change the zoning code, so the matter will move to a council agenda in the near future.

“With regard to permissible locations for ADUs in the City, and consistent with State law, ADUs will now be permitted in all zones which allow residential uses. Importantly, ADUs will now be permitted in Old Town and Surfside,” according to the staff report by Acting Senior Planner Barry Curtis and Community Development Director Les Johnson.

Acting Senior Planner Curtis gave the verbal presentation to the Planning Commission. Curtis said Seal Beach must allow garage conversions. He later said that the city can’t require the replacement of parking for garages or carports converted into dwelling units.

Commissioner Campbell said someone could take a two-story house in College Park East and convert it into a two-family home.

Curtis said that was correct. Curtis said someone could add an ADU and a junior ADU and turn the property into a three-family dwelling. (A junior ADU, to oversimplify, is a smaller version of an ADU.)

“This is terrible,” Campbell said.

She said the state had eliminated single-family zoning and made a free-for-all.

“I’m going to vote no—a protest vote,” Campbell said.

Curtis told the commission that under Assembly Bill 3182, ADUs that were not approved within 60 days were “deemed” approved.

According to Community Development Director Les Johnson, the California Coastal Commission was essentially allowing ADUs.

(The Coastal Commission on Wednesday, May 12, approved a request to build a two-story house with a detached ADU and a two-car garage on Fourth Street. The request was moved to the Coastal Commission Consent Calendar before it was approved.) According to Curtis, since 2016, Seal Beach had approved one ADU and three were in the approval process.

“The City can continue to designate areas where ADUs [accessory dwelling units] are permitted, but a prohibition on ADUs must be justified by express findings,” according to report.

“State law mandates differing maximum allowed ADU sizes based on the number of bedrooms and requires that local agencies allow for an ADU of at least 850 square feet in area (studio and one-bedroom units) or 1,000 square feet for ADUs with more than one bedroom,” according to the report.

“Staff recommends a simplified approach of a maximum of 1,000 square feet unless at least one parking space is provided for the ADU, in which case 1,200 square feet is permitted. Note: The City currently allows ADUs up to 1,200 square feet in gross floor area,” according to the report.

Since Jan. 1,2020, cities aren’t allowed to require parking for an ADU that is within a half-mile of public transportation, such as a bus stop, according to the report.

“The proposed amendments in the attached Ordinance are proposed to reflect the changes that resulted from State legislation that took effect in 2020 and 2021,” according to the report.