FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Media Contact: Colleen Farrell | SBCCOG | 424-271-4681 | [email protected]
SOUTH BAY CITIES COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS TO STUDY ACCESSORY DWELLING UNITS (AKA “GRANNY FLATS”) AS AFFORDABLE HOUSING SOLUTION FOR THE SOUTH BAY
TORRANCE, CALIF., August 17, 2022 – The South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG) will examine through a survey of South Bay homeowners and renters the positive and negative aspects of building and living in accessory dwelling units (ADUs), nicknamed “granny flats.” The study, to be conducted by engineering firm Black & Veatch, a contractor of the SBCCOG, is the first tier of the state funded ADU Acceleration Project to examine “backyard housing” as an affordable housing opportunity for the South Bay.
“ADUs have been historically perceived as ‘urban blight’ or ‘backyard guest houses,’ depending on whether they were in an urban or more affluent areas,” Jonathan Pacheco Bell, senior project manager, SBCCOG, said. “But negative stereotypes are shifting. ADUs are now being envisioned as an affordable way to build new housing where it already exists—as infill in the neighborhood—instead of adding the more controversial high-density, multifamily housing. They are seen as a more palatable and affordable housing option in the South Bay and the SBCCOG study will explore that assumption.”
In 2020, the SBCCOG applied for and received $604,171 in Regional Early Action Planning (REAP) State of California funding to support the 15 South Bay cities for housing planning activities through 2023. This is in part to meet its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) requirements to further the state’s economic, fair housing and environmental objectives and to spur affordable housing production. Through the funding the SBCCOG will implement a variety of projects, including an ADU Acceleration Project to help South Bay cities explore the option to increase its affordable housing inventory.
The first tier will be a survey mailed to approximately 500 South Bay homes in late August. It will target property owners who have built or obtained permits for ADUs, as well as people who live in them. For homeowners, the objective is to learn what went well, and what hurdles they faced in obtaining permits to build their ADU. It also seeks to learn how the ADU is being used—whether for an elder who is aging in place, or a child who is a college student. It will ask whether the ADU is being offered as free housing or bringing in rent.
The survey will ask tenants whether an ADU compelled them to move to the South Bay, and if so, whether they moved from near or far, and, among other questions, the positive and negative aspects of living in an ADU. It will also help generate a geographic information system (GIS) mapping layer to reveal where in the South Bay ADUs are most common.
According to Bell, who conducted zoning enforcement for the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning prior to his work for the SBCCCOG, current statewide laws have eased most of the obstacles built into prior zoning codes that restricted new—or required the demolition of existing—ADU construction, including changes to property-line spacing requirements and garage conversions.
“The new laws now give you a pathway to build a new ADU, or keep and legalize one already built without permits, after the fact,” he said. But while a possible housing solution, Bell points out the survey could also reveal potential pitfalls. “ADUs might not be as affordable as people think they are. They might be used as profit-driven housing in your backyard, and not really provide an affordable option,” he said. “Part of this study is trying to understand where we are in the South Bay with ADUs. We’re going to learn from this and we’re going to share this with the whole subregion.”
ADU Calculator Helps Homeowners Calculate ADU Feasibility
To assist homeowners in their assessment of actual costs—from permit to construction—of adding an ADU, the SBCCOG recently added an ADU Calculator to its website. Access to the calculator, which originated in Northern California, was expanded to the South Bay through funding provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Current cities utilizing the ADU Calculator are Torrance, Inglewood, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Rolling Hills Estates and Rolling Hills. The South Bay ADU calculator is available in English, Spanish and Chinese at https://southbaycities.org/programs/housing.
Additional Study and Projects
The SBCCOG will also work with Black & Veatch to study the potential impacts of backyard housing on South Bay infrastructure, including possible strain to water, electricity and sewer systems, as well as parking.
Additional projects under the REAP funding include a project to identify under-performing commercial segments for potential conversion into affordable housing, conducting a housing education and training series for South Bay cities, and preserving existing affordable housing by providing a supplemental form for developers to track and replace dwellings subject to demolition.
ABOUT SOUTH BAY CITIES COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS:
The South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG) is a joint powers government agency of 16 cities and the County of Los Angeles which share the goal of maximizing the quality of life and productivity of the subregion. Within this structure, cities and Los Angeles County maintain the qualities and characteristics that make them unique and independent, while also coming together collectively to address issues of common interest for a greater good of the communities through partnership, persuasion, performance and advocacy. For more information about the SBCCOG visit http://southbaycities.org.